All fiction says something about life’s meaning.
“Hey, wait a minute,” I can hear you saying. “What about [insert book here]!”
Hold on. I know when we discuss message and theme, there is a variety of opinions both on whether that is good for the author to put one in there and how an author can do that well. That’s not what I’m talking about here.
As a reader, all fiction will say something to you about life, whether the author intended it to or not, and often not what the author intended.
So you might point to book X that is simply a rip, roaring fun tale, with no message or theme overtly inherent in the plot or characters. It might not mention God or religion at all, much less attempt to touch upon more literary themes and meanings.
I can guarantee you, when readers read that only-for-fun novel, they will pick up on themes and meanings. Even if those meanings are shallow, or the reader is not in agreement with what they see.
That’s happened to me. My Reality Chronicles series is decidedly Christian fiction. I’ve intentionally incorporated themes and meanings into the stories. Some people pick up on them, some don’t, some find meanings I had not considered.
Yet, my Virtual Chronicles series is just plain general market, let’s tell a fun story, book. God is not mentioned, religion plays a very minor role, and it isn’t Christian. I went into those stories with no intention to make a point or accomplish anything more than tell a good yarn.
Despite that, I noticed a theme of trust and loyalty popping up frequently. Then readers got a hold of it and reviewed it, they saw meanings I hadn’t even considered.
Any story will communicate values and meaning.
It generally isn’t a question of whether it will or not, but whether the meaning conveyed is significant to the reader. The more meaningful it is, the more it emotionally moves the reader—the more memorable the story will be.
Classics became classics not merely because it was an engaging story, but because it said something of significance to a lot of people.
Readers might not even think in those terms. They only know the story affected them deeply. It meant a lot to them because what it said about life—their life—illustrated through the story.
So often when we talk about themes and meanings, we only look at what the author intentionally or subconsciously puts into a story. That is all well and good, but it is the readers who have the final say on a story’s meaning and depth.
It is the readers who decide what is quality fiction. It is readers who decide what will be classics or not.
Increasing the quality of Christian speculative fiction is in your hands, reader, by what you read and what you talk about with friends and fans.
So go out there and vote by reading and promoting the stories that speak to you. Write a review and submit it here at SpecFaith. If enough other readers agree with you, you may have helped unveil a classic.
What stories have affected you in a good way? Tell us about it. That is how quality fiction rises to the top.