November 10, 2013

Our Christian Heritage Inspires Story by Sharon Espeseth

The art of Christian fiction began with the parables Jesus used to instruct his disciples, followers, and even those who were skeptical or opposed to his teaching. These stories of the woman who lost her coin, the story of the sower, the lost sheep, the talents, the mustard seed, the wise and foolish virgins, and many others have stood the test of time. We read these vignettes in our Bibles and in devotional books. Ministers of the gospel and inspirational speakers expand on the lessons in these "simple" stories.

A parable, according to Gage Canadian Dictionary, is a short, simple story used to teach some truth or moral lesson." The lexicon goes on to refer to the parables of Jesus as one example of a parable. Christ's stories are short and pointed, but not, in my opinion, always easy to grasp. Some readers even wonder if the parables were used to hide the truth.

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus begins his story with "Listen!" He then reminds us how the seed, or his words, might be picked up by birds, fall on rocky soil, be scorched by mid-day sun, choked out by thorns, or fall on fertile soil. Christ ends by saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Jesus knows that not all of us will listen with the right heart. Not all of us will learn the lessons he gives. Not all of us will make the changes in our lives that true listening requires.

I love Christ's stories, although I admit that The Prodigal Son tests my sense of fairness, when really I know it demonstrates the Father's unconditional love. I enjoy reading fiction in general, including the good writing of Christians like Francine Rivers, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, John Grisham and lesser known works that are well-written by our own crew at InScribe. As much as I appreciate a novel by Marcia Laycock or Linda Hall, when it comes to writing fiction, I am out of my comfort zone. Either I have no imagination or I just don't know where to begin.

Instead I lean toward creative non-fiction. This genre uses fictional methods, like imagery, figures of speech, and dialogue to help readers feel like they are observing the action or situation from a front-row seat. I try to write so my readers can feel for my characters--love them or hate them,  empathize with my characters, or watch my characters grow in their personal lives.

I want my memoirs, devotionals, and essays to ring true, just as fiction must ring true to life. For me to write fiction, I would have to try something like historical fiction. Francine Rivers for me is one of the best in this field. Naturally, I wouldn't start at her level, and I would need something real to get me started. This could be a newspaper article, a real incident, a story my great uncle told, or. . .

At this point I'm stuck, and this is not fiction! I still feel called to continue the non-fiction writing that comes more naturally for me, but to do it more faithfully and more skillfully by writing more regularly. I will occasionally try a writing exercise that is fiction-oriented and I will keep an open mind. I will read fiction, because I enjoy it and because I can learn about writing through fiction. But until I feel God encouraging me in this direction, I will leave fiction writing to the rest of you.

Prayer: May God continue to direct and inspire us in our writing and use our words to bless, comfort, and help others.


  1. Sharon, I so enjoyed your thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

    I don't know if I've ever thought about the stories Jesus told as the beginnings of Christian fiction. Cool.

    Could certainly relate to your comment about The Prodigal Son story testing one's sense of fairness. My hand used to go on my hips with a 'humphhh', so thinking that was hardly fair myself.

    But then I began hearing the other side of the story, including the beautiful rendering through Henri Nouwen's book The Prodigal Son.

    It helped me see such an amazing bigger picture. In truth, I've been more the elder son than the Prodigal as I've never strayed far from my faith roots. The elder son never got it that everything the father had was already his.

    Lots of food for thought on several levels, Sharon. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. The book you mention by Henri Nouwen sounds interesting. As for being the elder son, I think I've been there too, priding myself on being responsible.
    Much to learn, eh?

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. I can relate so well to what you say here. I lean toward non-fiction writing as well, but something in my heart is pulling me toward fiction because that is my favourite form of reading material. I can spend hours and hours in someone else's fictional world.

    It's a bit scary to get out of the comfort zone, isn't it? I think that's a great idea to try dipping your toe in now and again, though - good for you!

  4. I like your description of readers having a "front row seat" when reading your creative non-fiction. That certainly puts life into the facts. Thanks.

  5. Thanks for the encouragement to dip my toes in the water now and again, Marcia.

    And Shirley, I'm not saying I always give my readers a "front-row view," but I do strive for it.

  6. thanks for this thought provoking post, Sharon

  7. A cute post, Sharon :) You just keep doing what you do best, dear!


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