by Phyllis Freeman
“Your writing isn’t just about your story, it’s about the reader. How does your story touch the reader?” I’ve often heard this statement at a writer’s conference. I get it. I do continually ask myself that question to keep me focused.
Then the next question I consider is: How can I share my story in a way that will call attention to the Lord or to faith? If our life is all about Christ then why not seek ways to include faith in my writing?
We, as writers, form our message in our own unique style. Each article, book, or devotion expresses our individual voice. As Christian writers, the pieces we write can also articulate some dimension of our faith or our life values if we devise ways to make it happen.
How can we interweave faith into our writing? Here are some ideas on how to do it:
• Evaluate Your Topic: Is your topic serious, challenging, humorous, or informational? Does the theme lend itself naturally to an expression of faith or life values? If not, can I find a way to include them without being offensive to the reader? In the editorial section of our local newspaper I wrote about my experiences with my old blue Buick that continually broke down and I included my thanks to kind drivers as they stopped to help. On a Friday afternoon a young man spent a half hour fixing the problem and finally got the car running again. I discovered he was a master mechanic and in the slightly humorous article I stated, “Thanks, God, You ‘cared enough to send the very best.’” A simple statement and a touch of faith.
• Consider Slant: Decide the angle needed for your article. Some markets are openly religious and favorable to issues of faith but others will accept them only in certain circumstances. While interviewing, sometimes the writer can slant the interview to illicit a response on how the faith of the one you’re interviewing figures into the issue at hand. You can use their quote when you cannot say it yourself. For an article I wrote for the Knoxville News Sentinel, I asked the owner of a bed and breakfast in Wears Valley, TN why they decided to open their establishment. The lady said, “I love serving people. I consider this a ministry, and God opened the door for us to be here.” Thus, I used her statement in the story. Again, a broad stroke of faith.
• Recognize An Opportunity: We can’t always include our own opinion or religious views in our article. There are times though, when we can include a statement referring to someone embracing their faith. We focus our piece on the main issues, but stay alert for such opportunities. In a community newspaper my profile article on a 79 year old man who could crochet just about anything he saw (without a pattern) included statements that he and his wife took special interest in the “children in their church. Watkins advises younger folk to seek the Lord for salvation and His guidance for their life.” In sharing Watkins’ variety of interests, I included “Papaw Watkins picks up his Word Search book, which lies next to his Bible.” You see, it isn’t difficult to watch for an occasion to draw attention to faith when we are vigilant about it.
• Remember The Reader: When we care about the topic we present in our writing, we do our best to offer a quality- rendition of the material. When we do it well, we touch our readers through their mind and emotions. Why not try to touch their spirit as well? An article about the local Adopt-a-Meal Program in Cincinnati, OH told of the rewards of delivering meals to the elderly. “When serving lunch to one special lady,” Sweet said, “she told me that I’d reap my reward in Heaven…it is food for their soul, not just for their stomachs. It is food for my soul too.”
• Keep Our Lord In Mind: Good writing is vital. Anything we do in the Lord’s name calls for excellence. That means skillful handling of our material, integrity with facts and how we present them, and a reflection of the Lord of the universe. In an article about an ALS (Lou Gehrig’s) patient, I showed how he participates in life by helping others through encouragement, even though he couldn’t move any part of his body. I included, “His mother telephones him every morning to read to him a chapter from the Bible and an inspirational story.”
Writers are creative people. Christian writers can become innovative with ways to touch the spirits of their readers.