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Posts Tagged ‘BRMCWC’

Christian suspense author Mike Dellosso gave a talk of the same name at the 2011 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference (BRMCWC): Is Christian Fiction an Oxymoron?

Well, is it?

It’s a difficult thing to define but you’ll find my answer at the bottom of this post. My answer in turn is based on another slippery definition: What does it mean for a story to be Christian?

I posit that Christian stories contain an element of redemption. No more, and no less. Examples:

  • When a high school basketball star becomes pregnant during her Junior year, she must choose between a future with the child, adoption, or abortion.
  • After an inner-city detective discovers his partner has been taking payoffs, he must choose between friendship and duty.

Now, what is redemption? What does this quality look like in fiction? I think of it as an opportunity, a choice presented to a character to do the right thing – or not. This is often a choice between bad and worse rather than good and evil, an agonizing decision colored in smoke and shades of gray.

So if being Christian means there exists an element of redemption, what of horror?

Most people would define horror as being that which elicits fear in the reader. But suspense often induces fear too so I find this definition lacking. I tend to separate horror from suspense along the lines of hope and meaning. In horror, there is a general lack of hope or expectation of meaning behind whatever is going on. However in suspense, there is generally a very good reason why the bad guy is doing bad guy things which is revealed by the end. Plus, the good guy is expected to be triumphant at the end of the story. Not so with the horror.

By the way, these should not be confused with Thrillers where we get to watch the villainy happen as it were over the antagonist’s shoulder. Someone on The Kill Zone Blog defined Thrillers as mysteries in reverse: Mysteries start with a crime and thereafter follow the detective working through clues to determine whodunit. By contrast, thrillers often begin with a credible threat and then follow the protagonist questing to prevent it from being executed.

So, is Christian Horror an oxymoron? Can something with a redemptive quality lack meaning? Yes, by having the chooser make the wrong decision, especially the wrong eternal decision. What’s more frightening to a Christian than a sinner rejecting the offer of salvation?  This dooms them to hell, a very frightening thought.

Attribution:
Image from http://www.mixcloud.com/black-buddah/literature-mystery-thriller-horror/

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Venn Diagram for Books

Source: Writer’s Chat with Alton Gansky: An Interview with Chip MacGregor

In part II of the chat at index 4:14, Chip MacGregor talks about a Venn Diagram for books. He describes three essential areas that make a book successful: The Bigness of the Idea, The Quality of the Writing, and the Size of the Author’s Platform.

As Chip puts it, “[Publishers] will sometimes settle for two… but they really want all three”.

Part I

Part II

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You should already know to avoid adverbs throughout your writing, but did you know there are some sneaky ones that don’t end in ‘ly’? For examply, the word “this” can function as an adverb. (See: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/this)

Everybody go ‘Boo! Hiss!’.

So here are three grammar rules for first lines that I’ve gleaned from my sources and distilled for your reading pleasure.

Rule #1: Don’t use adverbs in your writing. If it can be said with an adverb, it can be said stronger another way since the only function of adverbs is to strengthen weak verbs.

Again, everybody go ‘Boo! Hiss!’.

Rule #2: Use pronouns sparingly in your first lines. Generally, the more specific your language is the better.

Lets look at an example:

  • He gathered up this strange coat into his arms.

-OR-

  • Ronald gathered up the strange, patchwork coat into his arms.

Which example do you think is stronger?

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Consider the following:

  • On February 24th, 2005 he remembered that his daughter’s boyfriend was coming over at about 6:15 that night and decided to get his gun out for cleaning.

-OR-

  • Today Samuel remembered that April’s boyfriend was coming over this evening and decided to get his gun out for cleaning.

Again, which is stronger?

Rule #3: Stronger verbs mean a stronger emotional response in the reader. Robert Frost has a great quote on this: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”

So, how about this next example:

  • I watched when this thing bearing teeth came out of the hole.

-OR-

  • I recoiled as a creature bearing teeth came out of the hole.

Which comes across as stronger?

Note: The ‘Boo! Hiss!’ line came from a workshop presented by Angela Hunt at the 2009 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. She doesn’t like adverbs either.

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I had a fabulous time attending the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC) this year! I met a lot of other great writers and made some great contacts in the industry. It was well worth my time and money.

Me with Angie Hunt

Angie Hunt and Me

I definitely have to take more photos next year, but at least I got this one with Angela Hunt. She’s a great writer who’s well published across a variety of genres. And she was a great mentor for my first writing conference. I learned a great deal from attending her sessions and recommend them to future conference attendees.

The conference is held each year in late May at the Ridgecrest Conference Center in the western mountains of North Carolina. Information about this conference (and some great tips on writing) can be found at the following links:

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