Establishing Trust

Yesterday I was reminded of an important principle in relationships — establishing trust. Author and apologist Ravi Zacharias aired an interview on his radio broadcast with his son about a trip he took to India. He’d been invited to discuss […]
on Jun 27, 2011 · No comments

Yesterday I was reminded of an important principle in relationships — establishing trust.

Author and apologist Ravi Zacharias aired an interview on his radio broadcast with his son about a trip he took to India. He’d been invited to discuss a somewhat limited topic in a secular setting — which he proceeded to do. Later, when asked why he didn’t launch into a discussion of what he believed about Christianity, he said that he wanted to respect the organizers of the event and to stay within the parameters of the prescribed subject.

Rather than seizing the opportunity to speak before so many unsaved people for his own purposes — godly though they were — he honored those who had invited him and spoke to their issue.

When the president of the organization heard this, he invited Ravi back for an entire week with no limits on what he could discuss. His self-restraint built trust.

Ravi’s experience got me to thinking about building trust.

Why should one friend listen to the advice of another friend? Or a writer accept the suggestions of a critique partner? Why should a congregant pay attention to what a minister says, or a non-Christian heed the message of a missionary? Why, in fact, should a reader be swayed by what a writer believes, especially by what a fiction writer believes?


Something causes one person to value the word of another person. Often that something is met expectations.

A friend recommends a certain e-reader and it turns out to be just right. Or an editor gives recommended changes, and clearly the manuscript is better by including them. A supplier promises delivery on a certain date, and he comes through on time.

For the novelist? The bottom line is creating an awesome story. When a piece of fiction delivers, a reader quickly becomes the author’s fan because readers want good stories.

We want to visit new places, or familiar haunts; we want to be surprised by what happens, or intrigued. We want our curiosity piqued, then satisfied; our hopes for the character met; our fears calmed.

And somewhere, as readers’ expectations are met, as we lose ourselves in a grand story, we come to trust the writer. We are ready, then, to hear what the story is all about.

But what the story is all about isn’t front and center. The story is front and center. The meaning of the story reveals itself subtly and perhaps after the reading, during the pondering period, when the reader closes the book after the last page.

As an author consistently meets expectations, readers are more willing to listen.

All this seems important to me as more and more Christian speculative fiction writers are looking to e-publish, self-publish, or publish with a general market house rather than with a Christian one.

In many ways, the Christian who writes for the general market is no different than the Christian athlete who plays for a state university or for a professional team. The athletes that reporters interview, that fans follow on Twitter or whose Facebook pages they like, first must earn the right to speak by playing well. Without the playing-well component, no one would care if Dallas Maverick star Jason Terry or Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow says he plays for God or because of God.

Publicist Rebeca Seitz (Glass Roads Public Relations) made a comment at the 2010 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference that, for good or ill, we live in a celebrity culture. With the growth in social networking, writers have been thrown into the celebrity mix.

Fans who once never saw any more of an author than their back-of-the-book picture and blurb or the occasional appearance at a book signing now have the opportunity to follow and friend and like.

What does that mean for Christians?

Nothing if we don’t build trust.

The same can be said about Christian speculative fiction as a whole, I think. If readers are to listen, no matter what publishing venue we might choose, we have to deliver.

What does “deliver” mean to you? What do you want to see in a speculative story that makes you trust the author? Inquiring minds, and all. 😉

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
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  1. Galadriel says:

    Intersting…something worth thinking about, definately

  2. “… he wanted to respect the organizers of the event and to stay within the parameters of the prescribed subject.”

    That’s terrific, and it’s why, when I’m on panels at SF&F conventions, I stick to the topic at hand.

    I  don’t remember the full quote (I heard it from Larry Crabb, many years ago), so I have to paraphrase, but I love the central idea: we should answer only those questions which the quality of our life prompts others to ask.


    • Gray, what an outstanding Larry Crabb thought (I’m a big fan of his writing, his thinking). Your paraphrase is powerful and succinct. Thanks for adding that to the mix.

      I think your example is excellent. You could “seize the moment” and turn every question into a reason to expound on the gospel, but the chances are the people asking the questions would  feel cheated. That’s not the way Christians should make an impression, I don’t think.


  3. Trust? Great question.

    Who do I trust?

    Why am I reading your blog post?

    Do I trust you, Rebecca?

    If so, then why do I trust you?

    First and foremost, I am a brother in Christ. I sense from your writings that you are a Christ follower. That gives us a common ground; a connection that the world cannot begin to understand. I can meet a fellow fan of, let’s say, Disney and find common ground. But, I do not TRUST that person. Just sharing a hobby or an interest does not make a person trustworthy. But, sharing a Savior? That’s totally different. For me, then the first step in establishing trustworthiness in my readers, for instance, is to make sure if they are believers they know I am a follower of Christ.

    Now, I am being naive, I know. There are those who claim to be Christ followers but who are, as George Barna labels them (Seven Faith Tribes of America) “casual Christians”. These CCs are fickle and pick and choose that part of Christianity that fits their lifestyle. They are not fully sold out to Christ. They create “boutique” religions with just enough Christianity that it doesn’t require them to alter their lifestyle. How can you “trust” someone like that? What if they decide their relationship with me or you no longer fits their ever shifting view of Christianity and they leave us in a lurch when the fancy strikes them? So, unfortunately, there is a healthy dose of skepticism and cynicism in this process. As a writer, I am particularly prone to paranoia having dealt with rejections and workshop critiques and nasty agents and demanding editors. After all, you can say something bad about me, but don’t say something bad about my kids, er, my manuscript!

    For instance, Rebecca, you and I had the same reaction to “Darkness Follows”. Loved reading the book. Couldn’t put it down. But, it was so dark and scary. Why, then, did I finish the book? How did I know to trust Mike Dellosso enough to complete the book even though it made me very uncomfortable. For one thing, Mike is a fellow author for my imprint. I have met the folks at Charisma House when I visited their headquarters and I know they are Christ followers. I know what their loves and their passions are in the publishing arena. If they trust Mike Dellosso’s writing, then I should trust it also. For another thing, I have read Mike’s blog. I was moved by his story of his battle with colon cancer and in that battle I saw a very brave man who had to rely on his family and his God to get him through this ordeal. Never did I sense bitterness or blame on his part for what he was going through at such a young age. Rather, he seemed to glorify God for the victory he has over his disease. That response makes me TRUST Mike Dellosso. And so, in spite of my reservations and in spite of the growing fear I felt as I finished “Darkness Follows” I TRUSTED Mike to be God honoring; to illuminate the darkness with the power of God’s light; to show the defeat of all things dark and evil; to celebrate the redemptive love of our Christ. And he delivered. My trust was well placed.

    Which brings me back to those casual Christians I mentioned. I want them to trust me enough to pick up one of my books. My goal in writing my upcoming book series is to gain the reader’s trust through a well told story and compelling characters. And, in gaining their trust, I am hoping they will trust the truth of my story, the Story, the Truth that will shine through the machinations of my writing and cast light into their darkness. I hope to be honest with the reader; to use drama to illustrate truth and the evidence of the Christian worldview. In apologetics, I have learned that honesty often begets trust. When someone asks, “How can a good God allow children to suffer?” Instead of launching into a lecture, I agree with them. “You are right. It is a tough question to consider. I have difficulty understanding why this world is so full of suffering. But, I have been willing to ask that question openly and honestly of God and He has shown me some answers. Can I share them with you?”

    Speculative fiction, as I am learning, is a new and exciting genre. I love science fiction and fantasy and the prospect of reading and writing stories from those genres that are steeped and soaked in a theistic worldview is so exciting to me. But, at the same time, we need to realize that speculative fiction has potential to cross boundaries and barriers between the world of the believer and the unbeliever and that is where, as you so astutely point out, we must build trust!

    • Bruce, great thoughts. Yes, I think the greatest reason for a person to trust is the mutual relationship we share with God through Christ. We are instantly family. As I read your comment, I thought of family members who aren’t Christians but who I would still trust for many things — just not spiritual matters. It’s the family tie. Which is exactly what true believers have with each other.

      Your example of Darkness Follows was excellent. I almost stopped reading it, too. But I’d read Mike’s guest post here, also read his blog posts, and then read his note to readers in the back of the book. I figured I wanted to see how he brought love and redemption to the story I had been reading, so I hung in there. All because he had my trust.

      And yes, I think we can still establish trust with non-Christians, and with Christians who are looking for a good story, by giving them exactly that. Too often in the past, I think Christian fiction writers have felt their message earned them trust — which I believe it did. But unfortunately I think it also “took them off the hook.” They didn’t need to write a stellar story because they already had an audience that trusted them, based on their beliefs.

      I think we need to go the extra mile, as it were, to make a good story top priority, if we want to earn trust from those who come to our books looking to find a good story. Otherwise we’re sort of giving them a scorpion — at least in their eyes — when they’re asking for a fish.


  4. My Facebook contact list is full of romance writers and I’m hoping to connect with some sci-fi writers so I don’t feel like a 5th wheel around here.

    I know that this is a Christian list, but I’m between religions at the moment. ^_^

    Most of my work deals in science-fiction and fantasy; some of it space opera, the other drama and some romance. I also do a little horror on the side, but I’m mostly involved in my worlds and characters–trying to find something new to explore.

    I am also open-minded, but political as well. Contentious and abrasive. But no matter what, I’m often on the look out to explore new things and meet people.

    For my books? I have many unpublished novels, some of them reaching 100,00 words, a few closing in on 400,000 and growing.

    But I’m close to self-publishing one under my own imprint, but the process is taking a little more time.

    Patience is one of my virtues and I don’t mind the wait. Or the cost. Money for me isn’t what drives me to write or succeed. I just want to be able to do things others have done.

    But I want to do them on my own time and terms. ^_^

    I can be found haunting Facebook here:



  5. Hi, Schuyler, sorry for the earlier mix up re your comment here. I hope you don’t mind, but I adjusted the formatting. When comments come with several links and are written in bold font, it has the appearance of spam. Our site administrators didn’t know I’d invited you to hunt us up. I’m glad you found the blog and hope you feel free to enter into the discussions.


    I assume you already know that you’ve given yourself quite a task trying to sell a book the length you’re talking about. Even in the days of Big Books (Gone with the Wind, Exodus, Hawaii, The Ladies of the Club) I doubt any of those were 400,000 words long. Have you considered breaking it into smaller books that tell a continuing story, a la Lord of the Rings?


    Feel free to poke around the site a bit and join in the conversations. Glad to have you.



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