Digging Deeper, Growing in Virtue Through Fiction

Contemporary authors, particularly independently-published authors or ones published by small presses, face seemingly unlimited obstacles to finding readers for their books.

Some are as simple and as critical as quality. Some fall under personal taste or prejudice. Readers have many valid reasons for rejecting a book.

For authors, it is a multifaceted  problem including everything from marketing to the widespread availability of free entertainment.

Writers in my Catholic fiction niche have additional obstacles. The secularization of society, the predominance of Evangelical Christianity in American publishing, the hunger for Catholic catechesis following what author Mara Faro calls “the Felt Banner Years,” and, finally, what I’ll call the Tolkein/O’Connor factor. (The belief that everything contemporary falls short of these Catholic literary greats and is therefore not worth reading.)

There is one objection, however, that has increasingly become a burr under my saddle, as they say.

That despite the fact that Jesus taught using parables, fiction is a waste of time. That, at best it’s frivolous and at worst, it’s harmful. Of course individual books may be both or neither of those things, but let’s just take fiction as a whole.

Why do people consider stories to be a waste of time?

  • Is it because they are not “productive?”

I can’t close the cover on a novel and scribble out a to-do list or a self-help prescription for what ails me, as author Erin McCole Cupp has said.

(In the monthly video chats she hosts, Erin McCole Cupp is using fiction of various genres and for different ages to highlight fiction’s unique humanizing quality. Sabbath Rest Book Talk highlights stories that enrich by moving our hearts in ways that nonfiction, be design, cannot.)

  • Is it because they are mere entertainment?

In a society with more competing sources of entertainment than in all of history, we haven’t satiated our need or desire to be entertained.

Fiction can and should be both productive and entertaining, but not in the same way that nonfiction is.

Good nonfiction affects the mind. The best of it (the kind that is written like fiction, I’d contend), affects the heart as well.

Good fiction affects the soul. It builds empathy in a way that nonfiction cannot by putting the reader in the place of another, allowing the reader to think and feel what another thinks and feels. To see the world through another’s eyes if only for the space of 300 pages.

I’m not saying that nonfiction has no value. It is, of course, important – from textbooks to biographies to histories to spiritual treatises and more. But it is not by its nature morally superior to fiction.

Fiction is not inherently morally inferior to nonfiction.

Fiction can enrich our lives in myriad ways. That’s why I’m so pleased to see that Virtue Works Media has introduced its Totally Feminine Genius Generations Book Club.

Totally Feminine Genius Generations Book Club “celebrates the feminine side of VIRTUE with women in every season of life: MOTHERS, daughters, SISTERS, aunts, GRANDMOTHERS, grand-daughters, COUSINS, in-laws, NEIGHBORS & friends.”

Take a topic near and dear to my heart: St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. You can hand your teen daughter the original text of the Pope’s weekday audiences on the topic for her to digest. Better yet, you can hand her a copy of several excellent books that help simplify the theology. Better still, hand her one that is aimed at teens. Best of all, pair it with a story that illustrates the principles, humanizing them through experience.

Let her get inside of the head of the young woman whose ideas about femininity and sexuality were distorted by repressive ideology. Allow her to experience the consequences of sexual sin without having to live them herself. Let her see what chaste relationships look like in comparison to unchaste ones and the challenges of both.

Fill her head with facts, yes, but fill her heart with empathy, humility, and understanding.

And most powerful of all, SHARE that experience with her. You’ll both be better for it.

I’m so pleased that Stay With Me has been included in the Totally Feminine Genius Generational Book Club Guide, which can be easily downloaded and reproduced.


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