How Do We Writers “Say God?”

Posted: June 8, 2017 in World On The Edge

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Before I wrote fiction, for nearly twenty years of my life I ran an advertising agency pushing all sorts of products, from-geographical areas wanting more business, to car dealers, to political movements. I had to know the product and analyze who needed it in order to advertise it.

Now, I’m a writer of fiction and want to sell my books, but even with my experience in marketing for other people, it is hard to do. I’m so grateful to my small Catholic publishers, so happy to have some books in print. But there’s much more to it than just the satisfaction of holding a book in one’s hand.

Unless your piece of writing is a secret diary, the very point in creating it is to have somebody read it, and hopefully be affected by it. To get an audience, you must market your book. If you’re a Catholic fiction writer, to whom do you market?

If your audience is strictly Catholic, my humble opinion is that there are two different Catholic fiction audiences: One is concerned only with ‘all things Catholic,’ and the other, with sort of an elevated intellectualism. Neither market compliments the other because neither wants to truly understand the other. Market One will not accept reading about the up-close and personal particulars of sin. Market Two sometimes gives sin “a break” in that it doesn’t clarify, but only intellectualizes Catholicism.

Both markets are valid. People will read what they want to read. And there are good Catholic fiction authors for both.

But shouldn’t we address a third, larger market? An audience ‘in-between’ black and white Catholicism and intellectualized Catholicism? I believe that audience is out there, and I believe we can access it.

There are some best-selling authors who write from what we call “a catholic world view—Catholic with a small c, meaning universal. And some of those authors are not even Catholic. So what does this say to a Catholic writer of fiction?

In advertising, if you have a product to sell, you discover the need for it and look for the most universal market for that need. The easiest product to market is one that appeals to a particular need in everyone. Bottled water, for example, is universal. Everyone needs water.

As far as marketing Catholic fiction—the universal need is God. Everyone needs God, whether they actually use the word God, or not. Or whether they even believe in God, or not.

Our Catholic faith basically tells us that we are all created by God, in his image, to live on earth, and eventually return to Him. Of course, many do not share our beliefs. However, every human being, religious or not, innately knows that he/she has some specific things in common. These are intangible things, such as individual memories, particular imaginings, and the choices we make, which come from our free will.

As human beings, in one way or another, all of us love, and will sometimes suffer for that love—whether or not we see ourselves on a personal road to Calvary. And every person realizes that he/she can choose how he reacts to love or suffering in relationships and everyday problems. When we look for the need in the larger, ‘in-between’ market for Catholic fiction, we will surely see these common attributes as human striving, and that,, in very human terms, is a theme for a story that is Trying to Say God .

Except in Trying to Say God, we come upon an even bigger problem. If we want to be published by a publishing house with the means to market, we will soon realize that today’s environment leans toward political correctness–and writers of Catholic fiction are often not politically correct. In order to overcome this, we must strive to be as good as the best writers we know. We cannot expect a big publishing house to produce something less than the best. Naturally, like any other business, they are after a profit.

Sadly, Christians are not held in high esteem today. There is much hatred toward us because we challenge certain behaviors that are the opposite of our beliefs about what is sinful. And there are voices on our opposite side who are no longer fearful about putting out fiction without regard to any moral standard. Many publishing houses tend toward these voices as trendy, and profitable.

But this, too, can be utilized in our fiction. In our Christian belief, no matter a person’s behavior, he/she is still madly loved by God. This does not mean that we go along with wrong behavior in our writing. Instead, we must be fearless, too, and point higher, to God’s infinite love. Maybe this is done through a loving character set against one filled with hate, or maybe in an overall theme of conflict between a character and himself, between what he is pulled toward; good or evil. Our characters should be human beings just like we are, each with a significant life story, of sorrows, struggles and joys, as we have. And each shown as related to us, our brothers and sisters, created by the same Father. We only have to look around us to see them, to see their common needs, and then write about them in beautiful and empathetic ways.

In doing this, we are not looking backward to old mores and religious beliefs. Instead we are shining a fresh light on humanity as it was in the beginning, is now, and always will be. We are affirming the Almighty’s presence in the world by fearlessly using our talent and initiative. We are indeed Trying to Say God.

The University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts Presents:
TRYING TO SAY ‘GOD’. Re-enchanting Catholic Literature.

A LITERARY GATHERING
June 22-24, 2017
University of Notre Dame

 

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