Questions about The Canopy:
C.J. asked: I’ve noticed too how hard scenes can be to write when there are more than three characters. Do you have any suggestions/tips from writing Canopy on how best to accomplish this? Is the answer to avoid scenes with more than three?
Answer: In a word, yes. Whenever possible, limit conversation klatches to groups of two or three–that’s the way it works in real life, anyway. You get ten people at a table and RARELY are they going to hold a single conversation.
Sally said: Okay, I know I’m early! Angela, that negative response was really negative. Ouch! But what do you think of what they said about portraying non-Christians as unhappy, cranky, evil people? I haven’t read The Canopy (plan to), but do you think that is a problem in mainstream Christian fiction?I agree with the comment in general to a point–just because a person does not know Christ doesn’t mean they’re evil or unkind, just not on their way to heaven! Hm, made me, another writer, think about how I portray unsaved in my work. How do you handle that?
And Saun said: When a critic pans something I’ve created I have to ask myself:1)Is this true?2) Does it matter to me?If “yes” is the answer to both I have some work to do?So, Angela, what say you? Yes or no?
To be honest, my reaction to both of these comments was YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING. Then I remembered that Saun and Sally hadn’t read the book under discussion. And I’ve a hunch that they’ve heard talk about how poorly written Christian fiction is (an opinion held by many people who haven’t read it) and that negative review seems to bolster those prejudices.
Well. I’m glad they raised the questions about quality, so I can address this openly.
Of course, when I receive criticism, I always consider it . . . prayerfully. And 1) if my conscience remains clear, and 2) if the criticism is not reinforced but in fact countermanded by several other people, then 3) I consider the source. And it’s a given that people who would not endorse the faith aspect of a story will not approve of it and may violently disagree with it.
Look at what the Pharisees said about Jesus–they called him all sorts of names, from demon-possessed to “winebibber.” People who don’t “get it” can turn . . . unpleasant.
With that said, no, the non-Christians in the book (and there was only one believer, as I recall) were not all cranky or evil–some of them were pretty wonderful. (I was rather fond of Baklanov, the Russian, and I’m sure that comes through). And the single Christian character made some mistakes. I go to great lengths to make sure my characters are real–that they have strengths and flaws.
Yes, there was one “girlfriend” on the trip, and I killed her off quickly. Not because she was immoral, but because she was a whiner. She would have slowed the expedition down. 🙂
If that negative Amazon review had merit, would The Canopy have earned second place in a contest sponsored by a secular trade magazine? I think it’s more likely that the story pushed that particular reader’s buttons–as some stories will do. One reason I chose that review was because it was so far removed from all the other comments. (And remember, these are not professional reviewers–these are ordinary people posting on Amazon.)
Do I think shallow characters are a problem in mainstream Christian fiction? Not at all. My contemporaries–Bell, Hoff, Mackel, Collins, Gansky, Cavanaugh, Hickman, Myers, Higgs, Samson, Dickson, and dozens of others I haven’t room to name–create wonderful, deep, compelling characters who walk both in spiritual light and darkness.
One more late-arriving question from Kristine: BTW, is The Proposal still available to buy new? That’s one that I’ve been wanting to get, but haven’t had a chance yet. Yes, Kristine–there is an edition on Amazon.com that sells new, and a couple of editions where you could probably find a used copy. Thanks!
I think that was all the questions, so tomorrow we’ll go back to our regularly scheduled blog. Thanks for coming along!