Every inspirational fiction writer faces the challenges of weaving spiritual themes and messages into stories without coming across as sounding "preachy."
While I don't want my stories to come across as "preachy," I also don't want to neglect a spiritual message since I desire for God to touch lives through my stories. Finding that balance between preachy and heart-touching is always difficult.
During the planning stages of a novel, I always try to give my characters real spiritual struggles. In fact, I prayerfully consider those struggles, asking God to make clear what issues he wants me to tackle. Then I attempt to have my characters wrestle through those issues in meaningful ways that hopefully readers can relate to.
Often I intertwine the spiritual growth with their character arc growth (also known as the internal plot). The two are usually building upon each other, because in real life as we grow in spiritual awareness, we put ourselves in a place where God can change our character so that we become more trusting, less anxious, more forgiving, etc.
In Captured by Love, both of the main characters (Angelique and Pierre) have unique spiritual/character struggles.
The heroine, Angelique, struggles with the instability of her past. Since her father was a fur trapper and gone for long periods of the year, she desires the safety and steadiness of a permanent home on the island. Mackinac Island has become the bedrock of her life.
My hope is that readers, like Angelique, will learn that only God can be the steady foundation. Everything else in our lives is like sand. It shifts, blows away, and leaves us dry and empty. God longs for us to stand on Him, the Solid Rock, that never moves and never forsakes us no matter where we go or what we experience. If we plant our feet on Him, He'll see us through our most difficult days.
The hero, Pierre, struggles with living for himself and his own pleasures without thinking about the consequences to others. He's the prodigal son who's returned to his home after years of wild living. He claims to be a changed man, but quickly realizes that he has a long way to go. Little by little, he begins to understand what it means to sacrifice for those he loves -- until in the end he's willing to sacrifice the thing that matters the most.
My hope is that readers too will learn what it means to do the right thing no matter the personal cost. And I also pray that readers experiencing the hardship of prodigal children will draw encouragement to never stop praying like Miriam, Pierre's mother.
My own mother is a prayer warrior, like Miriam, and I dedicated the book to her, because I'm deeply grateful for all of her prayers over the years. Here's what I wrote:
"To my wonderful mother, Your solution to every problem has always been prayer and plenty of it. Thank you for praying without ceasing for me and for all your family. We couldn't ask for a greater gift."
What about you? Do you like books to contain a spiritual message? When does the message become "preachy" to you? And are there times when you thought the message was too skimpy?
Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling books, The Preacher's Bride, Unending Devotion, and A Noble Groom. She received a bachelor's degree from Taylor University and a master's from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Connect with her on her website, Facebook page, Twitter, or email.
Lindsay here: See below for details on how to enter Jody's Captured by Love giveaway! I adored the book -- like all of Jody's writing -- and I know you will too! The giveaway ends at midnight on Saturday, July 26 and is only open to U.S. residents.
a Rafflecopter giveaway