Monday, February 12, 2007

The Faith Element

Join me in welcoming guest blogger, Jane Myers Perrine. Jane has written for Avalon and now Steeple Hill Love Inspired. I met Jane via a contest in which I was coordinating the Inspirational category. We discussed how often times the faith element is lacking in these entries for various reasons. Today, Jane will be addressing that very topic. Take it away Jane. . .



As most of you who read or write inspirational novels know, there are three elements in each book: the plot element, the romance element and the faith element. However, as I’ve judged contests, I realize many new writers don’t know how to work the faith element into and through the story.

Editors at Steeple Hill Love Inspired stress that an inspirational novel is more than a sweet romance in which the heroine attends church. The faith of both the hero and the heroine is intrinsic to the story, must be part of the plot, not attached as an afterthought. An inspirational cannot be only a love story between to religious people but must include how their faith impacts and changes each and how it strengthens their relationship.

Often, there is no mention of faith in either the first twenty-some pages I’m judging or the synopsis. So, how can I tell this is an inspirational novel? It can’t be just because it was entered in this category or sent to an editor at a certain house. The reader has to know that early in the book. The stage has to be set almost from the beginning.

In my first book, THE PATH TO LOVE, this was easy. I hadn’t even thought about introducing the faith element early. It just happened because Francie Calhoun, the heroine, enters a church in paragraph four—page one--and discovers the Lord. From the one, the entire book was about how she grappled with faith and how it changed her life. I didn’t have to think about introducing the faith element because it was right there.

In LOVE’S HEALING TOUCH, my second book for Love Inspired, the hero is Francie’s cousin Mike. He was happy at the end of THE PATH TO LOVE: he was engaged, went to church, and was accepted into medical school. To write the sequel requested by my editor, I had to destroy his life: he quit med school, his fiancéeé broke up with him, and he lost his faith. Poor guy. But I forgot to mention his faith—even as a negative. So my editor gently said, “Jane, we need a prayer by page eight.”

That’s what I write on every entry I judge when the faith element is missing. My confession may be giving away the fact that I judged your entry, but I do that because it’s very important for the new writer to know that. This can come over as a conversation, and observation, a prayer, the setting--many things

If you use a prayer, it can be positive or negative. The hero or heroine can say, “Oh, Lord, why me?” That’s showing faith, even as the character is aware the he or she has lost the faith—but not completely or that prayer wouldn’t be whispered or shouted. In a novel I’m working on now, a secondary character prays and the heroine reflects on that.

I believe there are two reasons for the lack of the faith element in the entries I read.

The first is that, in my opinion, there is still little respect for the inspirational lines. Writers of other genres believe they can get their entry before a judge easily because the writing of inspirationals is not of high standard—an opinion I really disagree with! So, the writer takes her short contemporary, writes in the synopsis that the heroine teaches Sunday school and submits. I may be too suspicious or cynical, but that’s the only explanation I can come up with for some of the entries I’ve judged. They are NOT inspirationals no matter how many solos the heroine sings in church.

The other reason is that writers either just don’t know how to do this or, perhaps, that they are supposed to. As writers of inspirationals, we’re communicating our faith. If we weren’t religious people, we wouldn’t be writing this type of book. Don’t be shy! Witness! And remember the author needs to make the faith element—in the synopsis, cover letter, and first ten pages—obvious, part of the story lines, as important a component of the novel as the romance and the plot.

If you have any questions, concerns, please let me know.

Jane Myers Perrine
jane@janemyersperrine.com


Look for Jane's new release, Love's Healing Touch in September 2007. You can check out Jane's website at www.janemyersperrine.com

4 comments:

  1. I feel compelled to harrass you, Jane, but maybe I should behave myself on a faith-based blog.... ;-D

    I love reading inspirationals for that faith element--besides being uplifting, I love the technical aspect of seeing how authors are going to weave the faith element into their plots.

    I think authors can go the other way, too, in that they get so carried away with witnessing, they sacrifice plot and character to bonk their readers over the head with the message. But thankfully, the books I've read like that are few and far between--most inspirationals I've read, including The Path to Love, have pulled off the mix you describe beautifully.

    P.S. I love the "we need a prayer by page 8" quote!

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  2. Jane,
    Your message today is such a blessing for me. I've been struggling with the revision of my completed secular manuscript that I am changing for the Christian market. My reason for changing it is because I've changed and my writing will reflect the change in me, even though I'm writing stories totally separated from my personal life. Anyway, I felt like you were speaking directly to me, so thank you for the message - And, thanks to Mindy for recruiting you!

    Christy

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  3. Very good points, Jane! I'm about to receive my first revision letter, and I'm pretty sure that's one item I'll be working on. :)

    Thanks so much for joining us on our blog!

    Missy

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  4. Jane,j
    Thanks for blogging with us. Tracy, nice to see you here.
    And great advice Jane. I agree. We shouldn't be shy.
    Witness--that's our motto, right?
    Hope to have you back blogging soon.

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