I have a confession to make: I don't tend to read classics for fun. I may be an English major, but in spite of this (or perhaps--in part--because of this) I generally only read classics under compulsion. My first love is Christian fiction, and that's what I prefer to read. And yet, I've been finding recently that some classics really aren't that bad. (Maybe I just needed to grow up a little!)
There's a reason certain books become classics--they have a lasting appeal that extends beyond the time in which they were written. Right now I'm reading Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) for my 19th-20th Century English Literature class. And even though it was written over a century ago, I actually am enjoying it. ;)
As I've discussed with my grandpa (who's been talking to me about Dracula and/or Frankenstein for years), Dracula is a very descriptive book, starting out with a beautiful, haunting, vivid setting. And the characters! Dracula is both an intriguing and almost comical (in a creepy sort of way) character, and Jonathan Harker's intelligence endears him to the reader even as the reader sympathizes with his entrapment and doom.
(If you've read the whole book already, please don't tell me what happens! I've only read a few chapters so far...)
So what is it that we love so much about Christian fiction? (I'm assuming at this point that most of you who are reading this post also enjoy Christian fiction.) ;)
Let's look at a specific example. The book I'm reading right now is Surrender the Night by MaryLu Tyndall, and I am loving it! Tyndall is a fabulous author. One of the best things about her work, and about Christian fiction in general for the most part, is that each book is meant to glorify God and encourage the readers' faith. Each book is hopeful while still being real, showing the evil that is now in the world but also the hope that believers have in Christ.
But as far as Tyndall's work and Christian romance goes, there's also another element to the reading experience. For us ladies, we just love to read about a strong, heroic man protecting his woman and cherishing her. We love those scenes where the hero gently caresses the heroine's cheek, holds her close and kisses her. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong in this assumption. I should also add that in Christian fiction these scenes are tactfully written and clean!)
Also, we want those happy endings, don't we? (I haven't finished Surrender the Night, but I'm guessing the ending is happy!)
So where am I going with all of this? Well, I think the more we read the more we realize (even if we don't ever exactly voice it) what it is we want to read. We want stories with heart--stories with characters that are real and understandable. We want stories with soul--stories that speak to us and convey truth and something we can apply to our lives. We want stories that are beautifully written and excitingly told (which I think both Dracula and Surrender the Night are).
And yet how easy it is to forget our readers when we're writing! Perhaps we don't forget them totally, but I think sometimes it might be beneficial to consider a couple of things as we're writing:
- What do my readers need?
- What do my readers want?
Don't get caught in either extreme. We should strive to write both meaningful and enjoyable stories to engage and encourage our readers.
When you write, do you occasionally consider what you as a reader would want to see in the story? What kinds of books do you most enjoy reading, and how can you incorporate the elements that make reading powerful to you into your own writing?