Tuesday, December 19, 2006

RLH: Affirmation

With some frequency, secular reviews of Christian fiction include a line that says something about an “obligatory CBA conversion scene” (either its inclusion or its absence).

The interesting thing to me is that I’ve written 18 novels for five CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) publishers thus far, and never once has an editor asked me to include a conversion scene. When it happens in one of my books, it’s a natural outgrowth of the characters and plot, not for any obligatory or gratuitous reason. And I feel confident in saying that I don’t know any CBA authors who put obligatory/gratuitous conversion scenes in their books either.

Having said that, why do said conversion scenes appear with regularity in Christian novels? After all, the readership of CBA fiction is made up primarily of people who are already “converted” to the faith we write about. Perhaps the appeal is because evangelical Christians love to see the regeneration of lives, even in our fictional characters. It’s an important aspect of our faith. It’s part of the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20).

As a reader of Christian fiction, I’m reminded by a well-written conversion scene of what Christ did in my life when He drew me to Himself. It gives me hope that the people I love who don’t know the Lord will discover His saving grace for themselves. It gives me courage to persevere in my own faith-walk because the flawed condition in which I find myself today is not permanent; God will continue to refine and change and mature me as I walk with Him.

Readers of fiction are drawn to stories that entertain them, but they also look for stories that will affirm their beliefs. Readers of romance want their belief in two people finding lasting love to be affirmed. Readers of mysteries want their belief that justice will be done to be affirmed. And readers of Christian fiction want the truths of their faith to be affirmed. Conversion scenes are a natural part of that affirmation.

Next time you come across a conversion scene in a novel (or next time you write one in your work-in-progress), stop a moment and reflect on the miracle of new life it represents. I think you’ll be blessed because of it.

Robin Lee Hatcher is the best-selling author of The Victory Club and Loving Libby
Web site: http://www.robinleehatcher.com/
Blog: http://robinlee.typepad.com/


At 8:28 AM, Blogger C.J. Darlington said...

I appreciate your saying this, Robin. I enjoy reading conversion scenes myself, but your post helped me understand why.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Great post. I think of the conversion scene as marriage at the end of a romance novel. That's really what it is. When we accept Christ's gift of salvation, we are forever married to Him.

Sometimes marriage is the natural outcome of the romantic pursuit from God and sometimes it isn't.

In my first novel, if their was no conversion scene, it wouldn't have worked. Like the hero and heroin saying, "see ya later" at the end of the book instead of falling into each other's arms.

Those that think CBA novels all shove in a conversion scene for status quo don't really get it.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Nice entry.

I would like to know what's the difference between and "obligatory CBA conversion scene" and one that is not obligatory CBA? What does that mean, since all christian fiction writers do not write CBA titles.

At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Dee.

First of all, the CBA does not "require" a conversion scene. I have written for six CBA publishers now, and none of them have required a conversion scene be in any of my books. Thus, when a reviewer says that the book includes an "obligatory CBA conversion scene," they are either misinformed or they believe that just because a book has one, it must be required, i.e. obligatory. A reviewer would not say this, with or without a conversion scene, on a book published in the ABA (general market) because the whole point of the comment is that the CBA requires it.

Whether a Christian writer writes for the CBA or the ABA, anything "gratuitous" (stuck in because the writer thinks it is required) is poor writing. That goes for a conversion scene or a love scene or a murder scene or whatever. Every scene in a novel must move the story forward or it should not be there.

I hope that answers your question.


At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice, Robin. I think the conversion scenes used to be way more prominent in Christian fiction (I'm thinking prarie romances mostly) and the scene would be delivered via a preacher and a sermon. I like it when the conversion takes place of course, but when it takes place because there is no other viable option for the character it makes the conversion all the more powerful. And, how much more can the reader identify when the conversion happens so naturally!

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Paula said...

Good post, Robin. Thanks for writing about this important issue.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

thanks, Robin, for the clarification.

At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would also suggest that because a secular reviewer is reviewing a Christian novel, to that reviewer he/she figures it will "always" contain a conversion scene because, after all, it's "Christian fiction", much like a film critic will assume a movie directed by Scorcese or Tarantino ("Pulp Fiction", "Kill Bill") will include violence, not necessarily implying it's required but rather that those particular directors choose to include violence in their films.
I would guess not too many secular reviewers actually read that much Christian fiction but simply assume a Christian author will include the conversion scene as more of a personal obligation, clearly not understanding the inspiration or the motive of the author and ignoring the significance or the logic of the life-changing event within the story.

At 9:35 AM, Blogger Heather said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Heather said...

Technically speaking, you'd be hard pressed to find any book, Christian or otherwise, without a "conversion" scene (using "conversion" in the broad sense of the word). If you look at Campbell's hero myth, there is always some sort of "resurrection." It's just a matter of the nature of the conversion/resurrection.

At 12:46 PM, Blogger ~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Robin, thanks so much for this post.

Are you seeing the "obligatory" phrase recently? Seems to me this kind of thing was prominent a few years ago, but I've seen it less lately. (I'd like to think that's the case, anyway.)

Reviewers need to understand that while secular fiction deals with the physical and emotional character, Christian fiction (whether written for CBA or ABA) also includes the spiritual side of the character. Therefore the character arc will deal with the character's response to an inviting God. A "yes," "no," "maybe"--something.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Great post, Robin. Thanks.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger lisa said...

Nicole wrote:

I would guess not too many secular reviewers actually read that much Christian fiction . . .

This isn't necessarily true. I think, though, I could be wrong, magazines and newspapers try to pair writers with certain reviewers who they know get the genre enough to post an intelligent review. It's not in the periodical's best interest to publish a review of a book poorly understood by the reviewer him/herself. They want to their readers to keep coming back too!

At 5:39 PM, Blogger ~michelle pendergrass said...

"Whether a Christian writer writes for the CBA or the ABA, anything "gratuitous" (stuck in because the writer thinks it is required) is poor writing."

So how does that fit in when an author is required to stick in (say) a wedding scene? Is that poor writing?


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