Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Story Is In The Struggle

By Elaine Fraser

It’s in the struggle that the story is written. It’s the old creation, fall, and redemption story. Beginning, middle and end. How things were meant to be, what went wrong or the impediments, then the redemption and restoration phase. Our lives are made up of lots of these little stories each with the same flow. 

Some of us feel like we are in the middle at the moment, but the joy will come. You are too precious and too full of potential to not get to the re-formation of your story. Isn’t that the story of faith, of life and of writing too?

It is difficult to write about controversial issues like politics, sexuality and marriage in raw and confronting ways—especially in the Christian or Inspirational markets.

Life doesn’t always work out with happy endings and people don’t always make right choices. Characters are not real people, but they face real struggles.

As Christian writers should we create situations and make them all work out ideally? It may depend on the genre you are writing for. The readerships of inspirational romance books, for instance, expect certain things. Difficult moral or personal circumstances are wrestled with, but conclude with the characters working things out well.

The ending should be satisfying and come to a conclusion, however, that conclusion may not be perfect and to everyone’s taste.

I think we need to show the Romans Seven struggle. Everyone struggles with life and faith. That’s why we love stories of people’s journeys. How they struggled with and overcame some major life challenge and seeing how they worked it out makes for a compelling story.

If we just write the beginning and end there’s not much of a story. It’s the struggle that is the story—especially when thinking about character and plot development. There are twists and turns, conflicts and problems that keep the reader engaged.

I write for people who are exploring faith. They may not have a developed understanding of God or of Christ. They may never been to church or have read the Bible. They may not be searching for books in Christian stores so may not be reading any Christian fiction despite having an interest in faith matters.  Writing for contemporary, young readers means I have to make the stories relevant.

I also have to make faith relevant, so that the characters they read about are not that far removed from their own lives and hopefully, may become not so much a role model, but someone who understands the struggle.

Writing for those on the fringes means I have to write about situations that we may not like to discuss in church, but are happening in people’s lives. We need to be real. Does that mean I have to fill my books with swear words, sex scenes and violent acts in a graphic detail?

No. But you can’t pretend that people don’t use profanities or behave in ways some may disapprove of.
My latest young adult book is about a girl who is struggling with her sexual identity. She is on the fringes of faith and is exploring the possibility that she may be a lesbian.

This book has taken me over a year to write as I’ve struggled with how to write it. I’m writing as a character—a character who doesn’t see any problem with people’s choices about sexuality and is questioning a range of views on the issue, but it’s not an issue to her. It’s her life. 

Her struggle is a question, but it’s a spiritual, emotional and physical struggle that she is trying to wrestle with.

I don’t come to any conclusion in the book. It’s a novel, a story— not a research book about sexuality. The character comes to a point of resolution, however, it’s not the end of the story. As we all know, until it’s over, it’s not over.

I don’t find sexual identity easy to write about and I’m sure that people working through these issues don’t find it easy to contend with the range of opinions about them. So my story is about how God loves us and how we need to accept people and love them for where they are right now. I want my writing to be relevant for those who are struggling with these big issues. I don’t want to contribute to the struggles they face in ways that could turn them away from God.
My purpose as a writer right now is to create characters who wrestle and struggle with life and faith. It may not fit certain criteria, a formula for faith or give simple answers, but it will give the struggling a story they can relate to or share with someone they love. In the process their own stories might just get written with a little more grace, love and faith.

Elaine Fraser
Author of Beautiful: beauty tips for the soul


  1. Hi Elaine - I love how you say 'Life doesn’t always work out with happy endings and people don’t always make right choices. Characters are not real people, but they face real struggles.' In my stories, I like to infuse hope into the stories - but not everyone has a happy ending and not everyone reforms. While my stories often have elements of romance, they are generally not category romance (with the exception of The Herbalist's Daughter since it was in a romance anthology) - so that does give me freedom not to always have a HEA. I heartily commend your passion to write real stories that touch real people - and especially for writing about gender identity in your latest novel. It's such a topical and fraught issue. So easy to come under attack if what is said doesn't toe the party line (probably on both sides of the issue). A loving, Christian, biblical perspective is certainly needed. This is a book I want to read :)

    1. Thank you, Jeanette. I think the issue is polarising people and there needs to be third way to make sure that people aren't destroyed while a debate rages.

    2. Yes! It would be great if this is way forward is pursued. Thanks for struggling with this topic in a loving and truthful way.

  2. I love your attitude in writing, Elaine, and your heart for young people that shines through what you have said here. Well done for staying the course with your current book, which sounds as if it has been quite a challenge to write.

    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Jo-Anne. I appreciate it very much.

  3. Elaine, what an encouragement you are. And what a story the Lord has put on your heart to write. I can only imagine the struggle it is for you to write but as you say the prize is in the journey of that struggle. I often find it hard to abandon myself in my story and allow the struggle to write to overwhelm me. But we have a loving co-writer who so wants us to turn up each day so we can produce something together.

    May the Lord be glorified in the process of you writing this story.

    1. Thank you for your comment and your prayers, Ian.

  4. As Christians we seem to spend a lot of time obsessing about sex. Who's doing it, who's not, who with, and whether that's right. It's almost as though it's the unforgivable sin.

    Yet it's not. Yes, the Bible cautions against adultery and fornication, but usually as part of a list ... but we divide the list into "greater" and "lesser" sins, with the "lesser" sins generally being the ones we are guilty of (gossip, gluttony) and loudly pronounce how evil those "greater" sins are. I'm sure that's not how God sees it ... and His mercy extends to us all. Fortunately.

    Well said, Elaine.


  5. Thanks, Iola.You have a great perspective.


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