Several years ago at an InScribe Fall Conference, guest speaker Nancy Rue challenged attendees to think long and hard about their work and try to distill each piece into one word. While a novel can have multiple themes or "moral lessons", this one word should be the driving force behind the story. I felt inspired by the exercise and it is a practice that I have maintained since.
With more than twenty books and plays in print, my list has grown a bit since then. It includes: TRUTH, REDEMPTION, GRACE, ACCEPTANCE, TRUST, ADAPTATION, SURRENDER, FRIENDSHIP, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, TENACITY, and HOPE. (Okay, so 'unconditional love' is two words...!)
When looking over this list, the element that I think is the most encompassing is GRACE. God's amazing grace to mere human sinners is at the heart of my writing, especially my fiction. There is always at least one person who comes to know Christ, so readers journey with that character through some rough spots. As well, characters who are already believers don't always act in Christ-like ways, but God's GRACE is there, no matter how badly they fall.
I suppose I keep coming back to this theme because to me it is true to life. I did not come to know Christ until I was a young adult, so I know what it's like to live on the 'other side', so to speak. It has helped me to see the world from a different perspective and perhaps have a bit more empathy and understanding for folks living a secular life. I still have a lot of friends, acquaintances, and family members who are not saved - and I'm not afraid to hang out with them! My husband also grew up in a non-believing home and had a much rougher background than I did. In our time in ministry we've seen many examples of God's GRACE at work in both the church and outside of it. We're used to dealing with drug addicts, street people, and victims of poverty and abuse. Strangely (or maybe not so strange) we've also seen a fair bit of hypocrisy within the body. Just because a person is saved, attends church regularly, or lives an outwardly 'clean' life does not mean they don't sin. But God extends His GRACE when true repentance occurs.
My desire is that readers sense the all encompassing GRACE of God in my writing and turn to Him without fear of judgement from others. He is the only one we need fear when it comes to judgement, and fortunately, His GRACE is made perfect in our weakness. It is greatly fulfilling to hear from readers who were impacted by one of my stories, and often it is the unconditional acceptance - this GRACE of God - that is mentioned.
As a side note...
Please take the time to read this exquisite post from InScribe member Brenda Leyland, which was the inspiration for this month's theme: https://inscribewritersonline.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-gift-of-beautiful-words-in-troubled.html
-fiction on the edge without crossing the line-