Novel ideas


Jared of Mysterium Tremendum is retiring from the blogosphere for a time to finish his novel. His final entries focus on the art of writing -- a collection of links to his best pieces on writing and literature, a quote from C. S. Lewis on the importance of consistency and discipline in writing stories, and writing tips from Lewis.

I especially liked an entry called "The Primacy of Artistry in Christian Art." There's an excerpt from a conversation between C. S. Lewis, Kingsley Amis, and Brian Aldiss, in which Lewis explains that in writing Perelandra he did not build the story around what became the central theme:

Lewis: The starting point of . . . Perelandra was my mental picture of the floating islands. The whole of the rest of my labours in a sense consisted of building up a world in which floating islands could exist. And then of course the story about an averted fall developed. This is because, as you know, having got your people to this exciting country, something must happen.

Later in the conversation:

Lewis: . . . I’ve never started from a message or a moral, have you?

Amis: No, never. You get interested in the situation.

Lewis: The story itself should force its moral upon you. You find out what the moral is by writing the story.

Jared says that most of the books you find in the Christian fiction section were written in the opposite direction -- the author started with a topic or a moral and then tried to construct a story around it.

We have plenty of Christian medical/legal/military/crime thrillers, but the problem with so many of them is not that they are a type of story but that the story itself seems only tangentially important to their purpose. ...

Christian Writers, just write good stories, let the story take over. If you let the story tell itself, your faith will out.

The same thing could be said about Christians working in drama, music, or any other art form. Christians have too often excused mediocrity, as if it were impossible for a follower of Christ to create something beautiful and excellent, as if sincerity relieved an artist of striving for excellence. Your creation is going to reflect your worldview, and if you make it excellent, you will glorify the Lord, and you will draw others who come for the beauty hear the message between the lines.

Indeed, beauty and excellence in the work of a Christian artist is itself a message: That the artist serves a Lord who is worthy of nothing less than his finest efforts.

UPDATE: Joe Carter of the Evangelical Outpost has been writing along similar lines, asking whether Christians can save the visual arts:

For Christians to be able to save the visual arts we must first stop treating “Christian art” as a distinctive genre, as if the value of an artwork depended on whether it fell on the “correct” side of the sacred/secular divide. Art must have an intrinsic dignity as a work of art. What makes it worthy of the modifier “Christian” is not a matter of theme or content but that it is produced for the pleasure of our Lord. We create because we are made in the image of our Father and, like our own children, we should honor him with the gifts of our creativity.

Carter has been running a series called "The Gallery," posting a work of art each Sunday. Easter Sunday's post was Bouguereau's "Les saintes femmes au tombeau" ("The holy women at the tomb").

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 6, 2005 10:09 PM.

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