I recently read a short story where the setting was built on a declaration contrary to my belief in the character of God. It wasn’t antagonistic towards my belief, but following his tale under this premise made it difficult to suspend my disbelief. However, the story was well-written, with empathetic characters in a creative world, so I kept reading. The ending had the type of surprise you hope for in good fiction, but the statement made in its conclusion went even further against my belief system.
I like this author. In fact, I was speaking with him the other day and he said that he likes to write stories that evoke conversation and make people think. I must say he accomplished that with this story, as I have been thinking about it for like a week now. I like to do the same thing with my stories, and find it kind of playful to think that we will write stories with differing philosophical bases. As a Philosophy major, I enjoy deep conversations, so I welcome anything that engages my mind on that level. The problem is, I don’t know that I enjoy that sort of thing in my fiction. Maybe it’s just the religion thing because I spent so much time reading nonfiction and religion in seminary.
I’m fine with characters holding differing religious views, but when a belief system is portrayed as right in a way that “proves” mine isn’t, I switch from enjoying the escape of fiction to having verses and apologetic arguments popping up in my head. However, after thinking over this story, I found a unique way of looking at it that enables me to appreciate what it said. Essentially, the story portrayed Predetermination as false, and a God who is gravely repentant of what He did when His creation got out of hand and had to be wiped out.
Here’s the thing: if our past, present and future were not predetermined by a sovereign and gracious God, then I envision this author’s story as accurate both in terms of emotion evoked and portrayal of how the world might end.
Since realizing this, I’ve come to a new appreciation of his story. I’ve taken a story that said God isn’t sovereign and turned it around into a praise that says I’m so glad He is, because I’ve seen a world where He isn’t.
The next step in my enlightenment is that I now wonder if this justifies writing stories where I play around with dogmatic truths in order to show different aspects of life that are true, even if the world’s foundation is not as ours is. Since I restarted my fiction writing journey, I’ve struggled with writing something that did not represent the dogma I believe in because I didn’t want to lead anyone astray. It’s kind of funny, because it’s FICTION, but that was my conviction.
Now, I’m not so sure.
I’m a huge horror fan–to my wife’s dismay–and one of the reasons I love it is because of how it makes me glad for what I have. When I think life is tough because I have to eat dry, Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast because I forgot the milk, I think of the story I just read where a man is finally reconciled with his wife only to have her trapped in a mirror forever. Bummer, well, I guess this cereal thing isn’t that bad after all, huh?
Can you imagine a quality story that challenges the foundation of your beliefs? If we allow stories with rings that turn people invisible, or faster-than-light spacedrives and three-eyed aliens, why can’t we allow other “untruths” into our fiction?
3rd Draft Update: 22 of 30 chapters have notes as described in my last post.