Shifting Perspectives

Editing Honest Conversation is like going to a high school reunion.  Everyone is older, and just different enough that it takes a moment to recognize them.  “Hey, didn’t you used to…?”  But then the night wears on and like flipping a switch suddenly you realize that under the extra twenty pounds and new career somewhere in there is the same person, the same likes and fears, the same old problems.  It’s amazing how much time changes, and how much never seems to change with time.

I’ve decided to shift perspectives.  Not in the sense that I’m changing the purpose of the story or why I wrote it, but in that I’m trying to dig way deeper and write a story that is less linear in it’s execution.  Less, shall we say, pointed.  As I was editing the hard copy I kept writing in the margins “What is John thinking?  Why isn’t he ever really allowed to TALK?”

And then I realized something; you see, when I first wrote the story I was Zoe.  I didn’t really care what anyone else had to say because I was furious and disappointed that no one was really listening to me.  I wrote the story from first person to really go into what Zoe was thinking and feeling, and at the same time that choice blocked out all other voices.  John and Zoe would be having a conversation and it was almost completely one sided.  If I’d cared to, I could have shown Zoe wanting to understand her friend and pastor more, but at the time I was on a tear.  I only had one thing, one goal, that I was reaching towards.

This time around I really want to showcase all points of view.  The television show Law and Order, every so many seasons, has an episode where you see everyone’s perspectives but the truth behind the story can be almost impossible to understand, and when the credits roll you as a viewer have to decide how you feel about the final verdict.  This time around I want Honest Conversation to be like that.  I want people to identify with all of the characters, even the ones I happen to disagree with.  I want people to feel safe putting themselves in the story and asking, “in this tale, who would I be?”  It’s less about getting people into my head, this time, and more about getting into theirs.

So, after already having done a tremendous amount of editing, I changed my mind about some things.  I started over, going line by line.  Shifting the perspective from first to third person.  Filling in the other side of the conversation, showing the other characters, their little tics and foibles, their thoughts and fears.  Letting the reader decide who they identify with, and why.

It’s a process that has literally exploded the story, sometimes adding five pages to one page of original text.  But it is oh so worth it.  Let me show you with this section from the original:

John walked in and smiled at me.  I smiled back and motioned to the empty and sat down, immediately opening his briefcase and smacking his Bible down on the table between us.  “You didn’t bring yours?”

“I know well enough to bring a gun to a gunfight,” I replied.  “It’s in my purse.”

Compare that to this passage, from the revision:

Something caught the corner of Zoe’s eye, and she saw John walking around the corner with a leather satchel over his hunched shoulders.  A bright yellow umbrella contrasted with his dark blue trench coat. His hair was mussed and there was a distracted look on his face. If Abigail had been there she would have sent him to the bathroom to straighten up with a single glance. The door jingled as John walked in and he glanced around, looking past Zoe twice before he saw her. Zoe smiled weakly, gesturing at the empty seat in front of her. She was sitting at one of the larger tables, her pen and notebook already open to a page full of grim doodles. John walked over and left his satchel on the seat, shrugging his way out of his coat and propping the yellow umbrella precariously up against a table leg. “Let me go order something,” he said.

“Sure,” Zoe replied, her mouth already halfway buried in another long sip. A moment later John returned to the table, rummaging around to lay out his own notebook as well as his Bible.

“Where’s yours?” John asked, his fingers stroking the battered blue cover of his own Bible, so used to wear that the once silver lettering had faded to a shadow. 

“It’s in my purse,” Zoe replied. “I know well enough to always bring a gun to a gunfight.”

The difference ends up being not only in other characters having a voice, but also in showing Zoe in more of a fair light.  You get to see her confusion, her distraction, and even her pain more wholly.  I hope that at the end of the day that change makes her a more sympathetic character for the readers who thought she was close to unhinged the first time around.  Hopefully it makes the story more engaging as well, since the reader can get more of a feeling for the setting by experiencing it through more than one biased voice.

In any case, I’m loving the process, but also having to accept the fact that it may take far longer than I’d once envisioned.  My month of revisions may end up being six months or more.

But it will be oh so worth it!

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Honest Conversations: Revised, Expanded, and being GIVEN AWAY!

“There is a love that is so deep it surpasses understanding. It is so enormous and boundless it could utterly destroy you with its force. It is a love like the ocean. In the shallows it looks harmless, but caught in the undertow it will drag you away from everything you know and enjoy and bury you in a world you’d never imagined.”

“This is God.”

Honest Conversation.  As I wrote yesterday, revising it has been a strange journey for me.  I came across the above passage this morning and it was one of those moments where I forgot having written something that still grips at my chest now.  Passages like that remind me of the importance of this book just as much as the passages about being a gay Christian do.  Why?  Because there’s a side of God that many people in the Church too easily overlook, the violently affectionate God who longs for all of his children, even the ones we’d rather not have be a part of the family.  This is why I wrote that book, and it’s why I still believe in it and want it to be successful.  I want to share a taste of the God who changed my heart and my life and brought me back alive when I was dead in my life, the God who dragged me out to sea like the undertow and brought me back to shore a wholly new person.  The God whose love in me has allowed me to see and experience things I would have never been able to in my own power.

So I’m going to be doing a giveaway of Honest Conversation.  The giveaway will be twofold:  first, I’ll randomly give away copies to two people who review becoming. on Amazon or Goodreads before January 10th (the prospective release date for Honest Conversation).  People who review it on both sites (copy and paste, y’all) will get entered twice.  People who also paste a link of it being reviewed on their blog to my author fan page on Facebook will get entered THREE times.  I’ll also be giving free copies of Honest Conversation to trustworthy reviewers.  So if you know someone who book-blogs and would be interested in reading Honest Conversation, please send them the link to this post.

One of the additional blessings of my Kickstarter campaign having gone so well is that I’ve got enough money to be able to afford this giveaway- so a big THANK YOU to everyone who contributed.

Plus as an additional happy part of the giveaway, I’ll be adding in some as of now unnamed goodies, so stay tuned!

***(Anyone who already has Honest Conversation coming to them as a part of the Kickstarter campaign can request another book of their choice.)

GUEST POST: Lee Goff reviews Honest Conversation

(A review of my novella Honest Conversation by Lee Goff, author of the Thunder Trilogy books)

Honest Conversation’ is a novella that wastes no time getting directly to one of the most controversial issues of our day, homosexuality in the church. The story opens with Zoe, an associate pastor in a local church, agonizing over the congregation’s reaction towards a recent addition to their church, two gay men, Kyle and Evan. Kyle is a long time believer, Evan is not. Enter John, the lead pastor for the church, bearing the burden of leading a church in the way he feels Christ would, which at the moment seems to be in opposition to the feelings of the membership.

Zoe, for her own personal reasons that are revealed in the book, champions both kyle and Evan, to the point of threatening resignation if they are not treated as she feels they should be. John, the one called to shepherd the church, tries to find the path that pleases everyone, especially the influential members that strongly oppose the gay couple.

Kay has chosen her characters nicely and writes in a style comfortable and easy flowing. She gratefully skips the ’feel what I feel’ format and leaves the reaction up to the reader. There is not a deep development of the characters, but that is typical in a novella. I confess some disappointment here, but it is a compliment rather than a criticism, as she has given us enough of John and Zoe to want more. In John, we are shown a pastor, the shepherd, as opposed to a preacher. He is more interested in the spiritual health of his flock than he is the potential loss of members, and make no mistake about it, this threat is a real one in our churches today. This is refreshing, and likely contradictory to the reality of many churches. Just my opinion, but his character could serve as an example of how a challenged pastor might handle this situation in their own church.

Zoe, on the other hand, irritated me beyond description. I give kudos to the author in being able to achieve this, since I rarely get this personally involved with characters. Zoe is non-compromising, bull-headed, and seems to ignore the pain her pastor and friend is going through during this time. It is in this view I have of the characters that might just be the most accurate mirror of our church society today. Sides are chosen; an ‘all or nothing’ attitude developed, and because of that, the ability to compromise is gone. Here is where the author makes a difference, and by doing so, sets this book apart from those with a singular agenda owned by the author, and the intent of pushing that agenda on the reader.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but it shocked me. I expected a neatly wrapped up story with a bow designed by the author and her self-imposed agenda of accepting gays into the church without any thought to the sin that the others feel accompanies the lifestyle. The author, through the wisdom of john, the pastor, gives us what just might be the best way for a church to address this issue. It is not a compromise, it is not a victory for one side only. It is possibly just the way a man that walked 2000 years ago would have handled it.

I do not recommend this book to someone with a closed mind; unwilling to learn. I do, however, recommend it to anyone open to learning something about this issue, and willing to look at it as Christ Himself might have.

One more thing…that criticism. It’s too short. The characters and their personalities leave us wanting more of them. They are who they are due to their past, and I wanted more of that. And in the world of authors, this criticism is perhaps the best thing one could hear.

–Lee Goff

SciFi Sat, er, FRIDAY!

My daughter’s birthday part is tomorrow, so due to poor planning this weeks SciFi Saturday is happening today.  I know, right?  This totally ruins everyone’s weekend.  <——-(self-aware sarcasm, that is.  Because no one but me probably remembered that SciFi Saturdays were even coming back into existence, right?)

So today’s SciFi day is going to be all about me, because I was being *totally* deadpan serious when I threatened to try to turn superhero fiction on it’s covertly misogynistic head.

If you want to follow Charis on her incredible journey from being the daughter of a whore and a murderer to being the light of Sun City, head on over to The Unkindness of Ravens and read the prologue.  There will be discussion posts in future weeks as well, because this is also going to be a little bit of a group experiment.  I want to know what my readers think of some of the tired old things in SciFi and what it is that everyone has been hungry for.  (Other than a female superhero without all of that weird, sexist, predictable baggage.)

And that’s the post for today.  Next week I promise to try harder!