Monday, April 18, 2011

Allegorical Frustration

So I arrived at the conclusion last night that the swift downward slope to the end of this book will go much faster if the end is already first-drafted. I've had my big finale planned from word-one but that doesn't mean conclusions are easy. I've always been terrible at beginning things and ending things both in person and on paper.

Needless to say this passage might be a bit of a spoiler.

What's killing me now is I know exactly how this is ending. I know what's going to happen, why it happens and who it happens to. It's always been religious allegory, because I believe the forgiveness story of the Bible is the greatest story ever told - the very concept that someone would endure so much pain and suffering for the love of others moves me, and I wanted to write about that kind of relationship between people. Not to give too much away, but when Threadcaster comes down to brass tacks it's still a story about overcoming the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. As a result, the beautiful ending I have planned flirts really hard with line between literary and preachy. I learned at the writers' conference that writing a novel with an underlying moral is one thing, but using a novel as a vehicle for a certain message is another. To keep to the topic of allegory, if the whole point of writing the book is to show people that "Jesus is the Way", then maybe you should be writing a book about that instead of pretending to write a novel and stapling it blatantly on the end.

This is where my christian faith is causing me trouble. Yes, I chose to write an allegory because of the faith I have, but I don't want to sound like I'm pushing my readers into feeling the same. My book explores a fictionalized version of the time between the last of the old testament phrophets and the arrival of the first new testament prophet. Hundreds of years passed in the middle of these two men where the Israelites were left to sin and warp society without being told what to do by a messenger. The result was a corrupt church, an oppressed people and enough false messiahs to turn the whole idea into a fairytale. This is the world Cat and Peter live in, so how do I fall on the mainstream side of the religious vs popular fiction debate?

Perhaps I'm thinking too much about it. I'm so scared the reader is going to check clean out of my conclusion the minute the phrase "died for your sins" is uttered that I've twisted and bent all the dialog to avoid direct eye contact. Perhaps I should just straight up write my ending and let betas decide if they feel like they've been to church or not. I mean, like any author, I already know about this story and can see all the signs. Perhaps someone reading it for the first time will see a romance story first and an allegory second? Maybe they'll see comparisons between the Lord of the Rings, Lord of the Flies, The Chronicles of Narnia or one of the other supposedly religious allegories of modern times?

Really in the end there's no escaping the suspicion of religious allegory. If you search it on google you'll get articles on everything from Harry Potter and Star Wars to Halo and Toy Story 3. The fact that mine was one on purpose only makes the cloaking harder. I'm scared my twists won't pay off, my red herrings will fail in their deception, my characters will become archetypes and my audience will groan. I wish I could turn the religious part of my brain off for right now and stop analyzing every word my characters say to excess. That would make concluding everything a whole lot easier.


  1. I think for now, you shouldn't worry too much about your dialogue and let beta readers tell you whether they feel a religious message is being forced or not. It's a lot easier to see the connections when you know they're there, while other people may just drift over them.

    At least, with my experience in readers/editing/ect this seems to be the case.

  2. Very wise. I'll take that advice. There's no way I can experience this thing for the first time, is there? I'll just have to do my best and fix the rest.

  3. I have people at my school who still don't know Harry Potter and Narnia are Christian allegories. Some people are more perceptive than others. Don't worry too much about cloaking when you haven't even written that part yet. Just my thoughts.

    I have a question for you: If a character is representing God, and the story takes place in the real world, should God God still be mentioned or not?

  4. Depends on if the people of your world know God walks among them. The big thing I learned at the conference is that every time you think of the audience (like I was doing in this post) you're wrong. The story is supposed to take place in the world with the characters and the audience is watching. If saying "Oh my God" or a priest talking about God is appropriate for the world the characters live in, that shouldn't change in light of audience knowledge.

    So I guess my answer is sure? Why not?

  5. sukikobold said it very well.

    I do think that at present you're too close to the story to see it with the fresh eyes of a beta reader. Tell the story the way it wants to be told, and worry about the whats and whys of revision later, when there's a completed draft, and others have given you critiques of it.

  6. That advice is true for everythign from here out. I write and it feels slow and emotionless, then I delete it all and write it fast paced and driven, then I regret the decision and close the document.

    It's now when in the past i'd put the thing down for a while and do something else, but i'm not letting myself do that this time. I want so desperately to get it done, I don't want to wait a couple weeks. What i need is a good solid day of work on it without having to worry about all this other crap going on. Maybe monday I'll find my way to a breadco and sit for five hours drinking tea and eating muffin tops.