July 21, 2014

Behind the Scenes of Captured by Love: What I Hope Readers Take Away From the Novel (Guest Post by Jody Hedlund)

By Jody Hedlund (@JodyHedlund)

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

23 comments:

  1. I love for books to contain some kind of spiritual message or some lessons for life. I don't like it when it becomes preachy, however -- especially when characters are created in such a way as to be able to allow preaching at some point. Always best when the lessons just shine through naturally as the story unfolds.

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    1. I totally agree with you, Cheryl! Story should always trump message -- message should be woven in so seamlessly we don't even notice.

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  2. I do like for books to contain a spiritual message. I think they get "preachy" when there is more talk about the message than there is action on it. I agree with Cheryl that the message should just unfold naturally through the story.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Loraine! Really like what you said about talking vs. action. Reminds me of the saying, "You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?" :)

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  3. I do love books with spiritual messages and often gain new insights because of this. The only thing that "bugs" me is when a scripture is over used. There are so many to draw from. :-) Thanks for the giveaway and the chance to win a book.

    Blessings,

    Tina

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    1. Yes, there are definitely a few scriptural passages that get used over and over again. I do like it when there's a fresh spin on the message, though!

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  4. I very much enjoy it when books contain a spiritual message! I like being able to read fictional books and be able to learn something from them. :) I definitely agree with the other comments how it is much nicer to see the message unfold naturally rather than obviously just stating it here or there in order to "get it in."

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    1. "I like being able to read fictional books and be able to learn something from them." Me too, Rachel. It's what separates a good story from a great one, in my mind. Thanks for hanging out here!

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  5. Thanks for sharing! I am in the process of writing my first Christian fiction novel at the moment and this issue is near and dear to my heart. While I love my characters and want my readers to fall in love with them as well, the overarching purpose of the book is to convey a Godly message - but to do so in a relatable (not preachy) way... thanks again for the tips!

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    1. It can be so easy to "get preachy." I struggle with this as well. How do you relay a message that's been laid on your heart without coming across too heavy? I think Jody does a great job of it in her books!

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    2. I'm glad you found the article helpful! I think different readers come at Christian fiction with different expectations and needs. But I agree with you that I want God to use my books and stories to touch lives. Most often he does that when readers can relate to the struggles the characters are going through and are able to see God at work in the characters' lives. It gives them hope that God can work the same in their lives.

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  6. Absolutely, I want to read a book with a strong message. Jody does not disappoint. Thanks, Lindsay.

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  7. I love inspirational fiction. Life is too short to waste time on something that is not uplifting. Thank you for blessing the Lord by using your gift of writing to bring Him Glory. May He continue to bless the works of your hands.

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  8. Thanks for sharing. I loved this story and the fact that the struggles of the main characters were similar to what we deal with everyday. Jody did an awesome job at weaving an interesting story with the biblical inspiration that she wanted to convey. This is the first book that I've read by Jody Hedlund and I will definitely be looking forward to more.

    Lori P

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    1. Thank you so much for the very kind words, Lori! I'm so glad that you enjoyed the book and will cross my fingers that you'll enjoy more of my books! :-)

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  9. I love books with a spiritual message because it brings scriptures to mind. It reminds me of real people that are going through things and it put my situation into perspectives. Sometimes I admit that I feel that the authours are not hardline on the things that God would be fully against. For instance the issue of purity. I know that mainstream romance is very explicit but I do not want Christian authors to feel that the characters can kiss and become intimate like the world before marriage. I love Christian fiction because they speak about God and we see the characters trying to be like God but I want to see more character developement before physical intimacy. You have the perfect vehicle to show the world that intimacy is more than the physical.

    Sonnetta Jones

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  10. Hi Everyone! Thank you all for stopping by Lindsay's blog today! It's been a pleasure to read your thoughts on spiritual messages in books. And a BIG thank you to Lindsay for hosting me as part of my blog tour!

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  11. After reading Christian fiction for years, you get a sense whether the author knows what she is writing about spiritually or whether she is just conveying an idea of spirituality. After reading Jody's books it is quickly apparent that she knows exactly what she is talking about. It is genuine faith. I do not like reading "fake spirituality" books, and there seem to be more creeping up lately. It is great to find authors like Jody.

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  12. I enjoy a spiritual message when it's in the character's own thoughts, because they aren't likely to preach to themselves, but rather figure things out in a natural and seeking way.

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  13. I LOVE when books contain Jesus! When He's the center of everything, then the rest just falls into place. =) And without Him, there is no hope. So no, I never feel that a book is too "preachy"- but there have been some books where I felt that God was left out when the book was marked Christian fiction.

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

    lubell1106(at)gmail(dot)com

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  14. I also like when books contain some kind of spiritual message because then I know I am reading a Christian author's book. I think they become too preachy when every page you turn has scripture quoted on it

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  15. I can't say I've ever read a fiction book that is "preachy." I enjoy spiritual messages and dialogue in books. I have read " Christian fiction" that didn't have a message at all. Those are the books in which I am more disappointed. I want clean reads with a message.

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