Monday, November 30, 2015

Scripture-Based Fiction: Finding that Happy Middle Ground

Fun Research: Maya Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Purists who love the precious word of God may frown upon anything they see as a distortion of the scriptures. Scenes that alter/enhance what they’ve already imagined may cause them concern. On the other end of the spectrum, some LDS readers may feel guilty if they spend more time enjoying fiction than studying the scriptures. Is it possible to reach a happy medium? When considering Church productions like the Book of Mormon film The Testaments, the majority would likely agree that scripture stories can be told with appropriate creative enhancement to leave an inspirational, powerful message and impact.
As a writer of scripture-based fiction, striving for that happy middle ground has been a difficult learning process. My journey began with a love for certain scripture stories and the inspiration to tell them from authors such as Chris Heimerdinger and H. B. Moore. At first I figured it easiest to stick to and wanted to stay as true to the scriptural events as possible. My critique group told me it was too boring. I couldn’t simply retell a scripture story with added characters and events, I needed characters with goals and motivations that drove them to fulfill those goals. There had to be obstacles to their goals and something at stake if they should fail. Hence, it was necessary to add creative developments within the historical framework.
Another challenge was finding that delicate balance of credibility using research. Incorporating too much research drifts the story toward non-fiction characteristics, too little shows a lack of authority and authenticity in the setting and details. The reader must be kept in the world and time frame that has been created.

Feedback alerted me that I must not over-use scriptural language either. Fiction has to flow and sound natural. It was tricky, but I loved seeing the story develop and improve. Submitting into two first chapter contests garnered two first place awards in the Historical Fiction category, telling me that my scripture-based writing was engaging.
My target audience knows that a daily dose of searching and pondering the scriptures should top their reading list. Choosing scripture-based fiction can additionally inspire readers, be a way to bring the scriptures to life—with vivid characters and description that solidifies the portrayed events in our minds, or provide wholesome entertainment. It is always a good idea to compare the scriptures so that one knows fact from fiction. For this reason, I included a scripture reference list at the end of my novel, Secrets of the King's Daughter: A Book of Mormon Romance. Look for it's release in early March 2016. I hope you will give this genre a try. Enjoy!

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