I pray for imaginary people.
Before you stamp the word “Certifiable” on my forehead, let me explain.
As a novelist, I wreak havoc in the lives of fictional characters. That’s one of the basic rules of fiction writing: Ensure things go from bad to worse to don’t-make-me-do-this disastrous.
Manipulating my characters is all about getting them to change. I use the circumstances I’ve plotted out for them to help them see how they believe – and do – the wrong thing.
And this is where God fits in.
As a writer desiring to weave biblical truth through her novels, I want God to weigh in on what’s happening in my characters’ lives. In writer-speak, we call this the “spiritual thread” of a novel – how a character changes when he or she confronts false beliefs and replaces them with God’s truth.
So, while I have to mull over a lot of things whenever I map out a novel – characters’ names, characters’ pasts, characters’ desires – I don’t have to fabricate the truth they need to discover.
And that’s where praying for imaginary people comes in.
My prayer goes something like this: God, if Kendall (my heroine in my upcoming release, Catch a Falling Star), were a real person, what would you say to her? What does she need to know about you that’s she’s forgotten or missed altogether?
Does this praying to God about a made-up heroine sound a bit silly to you? It’s not … really. Are Kendall Haynes and Griffin Walker, my two main characters in Catch a Falling Star, figments of my writer’s imagination? Yes. Are all characters in a novel made up? Absolutely.
But God is oh-so-real.
And that’s one of the reasons I write fiction.
Imaginary characters, meet the very real God.
And, along the way, I hope my very real readers run into Him too.
Share with me: What fiction novels have touched your spiritual side and left a God-shaped impact on you?
Jennifer here— I was recently very moved by the characters in Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series, specifically book two, An Echo in the Darkness. The faith of the characters truly convicted me!
Author Bio: Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.”
Her contemporary romance novel, Wish You Were Here, debuted in May 2012 (Howard Books), and Catch a Falling Star releases this May. Beth is an established magazine writer and editor, and is also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren.
You can connect with Beth via her website!
16 responses to “Imagine All the People– A Guest Post from Beth Vogt”
Easy answer. For me, it’s Constantine Shak Lin, from Nevil Shute’s “Round The Bend”, a hauntng ‘what-if’ story about God’s return to walk among us.
The way you described the process by which you move your characters through the story is interesting – and far beyond my capablilities as a writer! I start with an opening scene, and the story develops organically from there. I never know quite where it’s going to end up. I doubt I could lay out a plot to save my life!
Good morning, Andrew! Nice to run into over here at Jennifer’s blog! I’m writing down the title of the book you mention.
And even with a process — I love plotting out a novel using the Book Buddy work-text created by Susan May Warren & then fast-drafting — there is still an organic development of the story. I’m still surprised by what happens between my imaginary characters.
So great to get this peek into the inner workings of the brilliant Beth Vogt’s writing mind and heart. Thanks, Jennifer, for hosting this amazing woman who happens to be an author. Like Beth, I pray for not only my characters but the real people they represent, those who face the same aches and longings, the same desperate need for hope. Fiction is at its best when it’s real. 🙂 So every imaginary character IS someone’s wife, mother, daughter, son, husband, boss, neighbor, friend…
One of the novels that had a God-shaped impact on me was a pioneer in more ways than one. Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly came on the scene at a time when I needed the reminder that seemingly ordinary but steady, faithful men can be heroes of a life story. Janette’s Clark helped me see my husband in a new light, which spiritually impacted the strength of our marriage.
It’s so true that fiction is best when it’s real — and so often for me a conversation with a real person or reading about a real experience someone had is the catalyst for a novel. And yes, I agree with you that fictional characters have the ability to influence our everyday lives.
Love seeing you here, Beth! I have to agree with Jenny, Hadassah in Mark of the Lion left a HUGE God stamp on my soul, as do many characters I read about. I love what Rachel Hauck once said. She said when she’s writing a story, she always looks to see what’s taking place in the heavenly realm for our characters. Is it overcoming pride, fear, rejection, insecurity, etc.? And, when we narrow down what’s taking place on the spiritual level (love how you pray about that, Beth!), then we can better figure out how to weave a plot that will bring about the change the character (and possibly the reader) needs to experience.
Ooh, I forgot a big one. Havah (Eve) from Tosca Lee’s novel Havah was an imaginative interpretation of Eve, but based on extensive research. Seeing Eve through Tosca Lee’s eyes changed something in me. Where once I probably had felt pretty judgmental about Eve, I saw her as one of us. And I was moved by how one “small” act of disobedience not only changed the world, but changed Eve’s relationship with Adam. A canyon of distance between them. Such important life lessons there.
Cynthia: I need to read that book — and now I’m longing for a nice, long conversation with you! 🙂
Rachel Hauck is a master at weaving spiritual truth — and symbolism — into the novels she writes. She goes so far beyond the surface of a story and digs deep into the needs of characters, which makes her novels so compelling.
Beth – Thank you for sharing. I can’t stamp “certifiable” on your forehead without doing the same on mine! I loved Francine Rivers book, The Atonement Child. That one stays with me still.
I’ve heard from so many people how they’ve been influenced by Francine Rivers’ books. I heard her speak one time. She said: You can’t write biblical fiction if you’re not in the Word.
Beth, you do such a wonderful job here–again. Your words are keepers and help me know why I now write fiction. Would you believe I’m inspired by John Steinbeck’s turtle crossing the road in Grapes of Wrath & have a turtle pic. on my file cabinet? (Certifiable?) Addison Fitch in To Kill A Mockingbird seems like a living person I admire. And Willa Cather’s pioneer heroines. Longfellow’s Evangeline–Even I’m seeing a pattern here . . .
Oh, Dee, I love Willa Cather too! Such wonderful, inspiring characters!
Beth, Interesting to see how your mind works. God speaks to me about my characters’ struggles often while I’m listening to sermons. I guess that’s okay since I’m often learning as much as my characters.
Roxanne: Isn’t it interesting to think, “Oh, they need to hear this” — and then realize you’re thinking of an imaginary person? 🙂
I’d have to agree with Jenny here. I can’t think of a single book, aside from the Bible, which of course isn’t at all fictitious, that has inspired my faith like those in the Mark of the Lion series.
Great post, Beth!!!!
Thanks for stopping by, Amy! I am now adding that series to my ever-increasing TBR pile.