Friday, February 16, 2018

Questions as a Starting Point


Photo Credit: ©Elaina Burdo    

Questions are always a good place to start a writing project, and to keep it going.

When I first started writing, my questions lined up with the five standard “W” questions (and one “H”). Who is the main character of the story? What is the conflict? Where does the story take place? When does it take place? Why is this story different? How am I going to structure the story? Many stories start with a simple “What if . . . ?” question. See if you can identify these stories:

What if a man was accidentally marooned on Mars?
What if a boy and girl from feuding families fell in love?
What if a girl fell down a rabbit hole and ended up in a strange world?
What if books were outlawed and firemen started fires rather than putting them out?
What if the captain of a whaler becomes obsessed with hunting down and killing one specific whale?

The first book I wrote after becoming a Christian was Redeeming Love, and it didn’t come from a question. It came from the life of a prophet, Hosea, and how God used him to show how deep God’s love for His people is. I had been writing steamy historical romances set in California between the 1840s and the 1880s. God’s love for each of us was so different from the love I had been writing about. His love is patient, passionate, persistent. He pursues us. I wanted readers who had followed my career to know what real love is. The book of Hosea laid out the entire story, but a question could have started it. What does real love look like?

I thought Redeeming Love would be the last novel I ever wrote, but questions kept coming up about what it means to walk by faith. And the best way I could think to answer them was by studying Scripture daily and writing a story with a cast of characters who play out all the possible answers—with one person clinging to the teachings of Jesus.



How do I share my faith when people don’t want to read the Bible or hear the name of Jesus? This question launched A Voice in the Wind. Hadassah, a Jewish-Christian girl with weak faith, finds herself the sole survivor of her family after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The cast of characters live out their ideas of hedonism, tradition, paganism, idol worship, and self-reliance. Hadassah is tested on every front, and her trust in God deepens. What I learned in the months of writing this story is God is always faithful and people notice those who follow Him. A life of faith brings persecution, but persecution builds strength of character. People watch how we live, and eventually ask why we live the way we do. And when that question comes, God gives us the words to speak.

Here are questions that started a few of my stories:
An Echo in the Darkness—How many times can you forgive someone who hates you and wants to destroy you?
The Atonement Child—Is there forgiveness and restoration for someone who has had an abortion?
The Scarlet Thread—What does sovereignty mean?
The Last Sin Eater—What is the difference between guilt and conviction?
And the Shofar Blew—What is a church? How do you build one?



My newest book, The Masterpiece, started with how early childhood trauma shapes the way a person thinks as they grow up. How can survivors be turned into victors? How does God use the worst things that happen in life to good purpose? Both Roman Velasco and Grace Moore are impacted by traumatic childhood experiences. How do they handle temptation? Each is a survivor, but what trials will it take to make them victors? The Masterpiece is a love story about two people with opposing points of view about life and eternity, and how God works behind the scenes so that they will be equally yoked.

Questions are a good starting place for Bible study. Right now, I have mentors on my mind. What does it take to be a good mentor? How many examples of mentors can I find in Scripture? What do these mentor-mentee relationships teach me? I’m beginning to see an older woman in my mind, one who has made many mistakes. She meets a young woman just starting adult life, and she’s falling into the same problems and making the same (bad) decisions that destroyed the older woman’s relationships. I imagine grown children for the older woman, children with major problems. I see her wishing she had lived life differently and hurting when she sees what’s happening in the younger woman’s life. Should she step up, step in, or mind her own business? How does a baby boomer relate to a millennial?

And so it happens. One question starts me thinking and presses me into God’s Word for answers. Can we redo life? Can the past be untangled? How would that look? The quest begins.



New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers returns to her romance roots with this unexpected and redemptive love story, a probing tale that reminds us that mercy can shape even the most broken among us into an imperfect yet stunning masterpiece.

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want—money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist—an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship—and both their lives—forever.

Read the first chapter here.
More information here.



New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers has published numerous novels—all bestsellers—and she has continued to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for many honors, and in 1997, after winning her third RITA Award for inspirational fiction, Francine was inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. In 2015, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Francine’s novels have been translated into over 30 different languages, and she enjoys bestseller status in many foreign countries. She and her husband, Rick, enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren.



65 comments:

  1. I am twitterpated (I borrowed Kav's phrase) to have Francine Rivers at Seekerville!! Welcome!!!

    The first book I ever read by you is Redeeming Love. This was very,very early in my Christian fiction reading career. Before I discovered all the wonderful authors I now know. True confession, God used that book to break a pretty hefty chain from my life that I had been carrying around for a long time & didn't really know it. IT CHANGED MY LIFE!! So I've been in awe of you...er, your books...ever since.

    I did not know that book was your first Christian fiction! I've read a few other authors testimonies of how they used to write "steamier" romance before God convicted them and changed around their writing 180 degrees...Terri Blackstock being one of them. I too, used to read the regular Harlequin novels long before I discovered my first Love Inspired or Heartsong Presents. I guess that's all I knew, seems back then, there wasn't a huge Christian fiction category like there is nowadays. Once I tasted my first romance book...the kind of true love God orchestrates...nothing else satisfies me :-) I'm SO glad there are now an almost endless supply of authors who write with that same conviction!

    Francine, thanks so much for sharing this post. I've often heard writers first ask themselves the five W's and one H question when coming up with what to write next. It's a great place to start! I'm sure it also gets the gears in your mind going :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P.S. I forgot to add that I have asked my library to purchase both a physical copy and ebook of The Masterpiece. I'm crossing my fingers they will indeed!! I KNOW I would enjoy reading it and I'm sure others will too :-)

      Delete
    2. Trixi, what a wonderful witness to the power of story. Thank you for sharing that!

      Delete
  2. Francine, welcome back! I'm so excited to see this new book from you and the story line behind it sounds wonderful... The image of success is so often different from the reality behind the "success".

    Congratulations on your successes, but also on your kind and loving heart. You've set the tone for so many of us... and opened doors that might never have existed. You are not only a trailblazer, you're a vessel because you take us all along for the ride.

    So good to see you here... And yes, there are a bunch of Francine books on my Keeper Shelf... And each one is like an old friend, the kind I like to revisit!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good morning, Francine! Ditto what Ruthy said--together you and God touch so many hearts and have opened so many doors for other writers being led to write for Him. Thank you! And thank you for sharing today the probing questions that you've vividly illustrated the answers to in your stories.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Welcome back to Seekerville, Francine! Redeeming Love is my all-time favorite book! Thank you for writing that story. I'm so glad you had your conversion so RL could be given life.

    The Masterpiece sounds like another Francine Rivers bestseller! Looking forward to reading the story.

    I enjoyed your questions! A great way to brainstorm a story.

    Who is one of my favorite Christian authors and how does she create such engaging stories? The answer to "who" is, of course, YOU!

    ReplyDelete
  5. BREAKFAST IS SERVED! A full breakfast spread provided by the ladies of Seekerville, so you know there's some Midwestern egg bakes, Southern grits-and-gravy, Yankee hash browns and a host of deliciousness with maybe a bit of seafood from our Mid-Atlantic regions. :) Coffee is here!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ruthy, you forgot the Southwestern scrambled eggs with fresh salsa!! :)

      Delete
    2. You're making me hungry! I've brought biscuits and sausage gravy! And grits just to torment those of you who think we're crazy for eating them here in the south. hahaha

      Delete
    3. And don't forget the breakfast tacos, Ruthy.

      Delete
    4. WHAT WAS I THINKING, GLYNNA???? :)

      Delete
    5. Missy. You're Southern. The normal ship sailed a long time ago, darling. You weren't aboard! :)

      Now biscuits and gravy I can get behind!

      Delete
    6. You Southwestern gals eat weird things for breakfast.

      I'm bringing extra Danish and kuchen for us Northern girls! :)

      Delete
    7. What to eat first??? It ALL sounds good!!!!

      I've never had grits but have wanted to try them. But I've heard they have to be cooked the right for them to be good, guess I have to find me someone who can do 'em up right.

      Missy--you are speaking my language with them biscuits & gravy, wooodoggie!! Pass the plate please!!

      Delete
  6. Good morning, Francine! Welcome to Seekerville! Thank you for all you do to mentor writers. I was pleased to meet you at an ACFW conference awhile back, and you left a lasting impression of graciousness.

    I love your bravery in tackling those What If questions that often produce crises of faith in our lives. I love that God gives you the words that reach people who wouldn't pick up a Bible to look for answers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Erica, I was thinking the same thing about how brave it is to ask those difficult questions that we often shy away from.

      Delete
    2. Right? She's got guts... and shuns the glory. Another reason to love you, Francine.

      Delete
  7. Welcome Francine Rivers. Your new book looks so interesting. I love the cover.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for this post. It both blessed and encouraged me. The samples of questions brought clarity. Blessings to Francine Rivers and Seekerville

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barbara, I, too, loved how she shared the questions she asked for each book.

      Delete
  9. Welcome to Seekerville, Francine. What an honor to have you share with us! Congratulations on The Masterpiece. What a beautiful cover and it sounds like another amazing story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jackie, I love that cover, too. It makes me curious about the story.

      Delete
    2. I'm psyched that it's a ROMANCE.... :)

      Delete
  10. Welcome to Seekerville, Francine. I love your books and my book group has read many of them. In fact, The Mark of the Lion series was how we started our book group which started 20 years ago this summer. In April we are reading The Masterpiece. I am looking forward to it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sandy, that's wonderful that you've had a book club meeting for 20 years! What a fun thing to do with friends. :)

      Delete
  11. Good morning, Francine!

    I love the way your questions go much farther than the 5 W's and an H that I learned when I studied journalism! Those deep questions are the ones we wrestle with, and storytelling is the best way to answer them.

    Put me in your fan club. The Scarlet Thread was the first of your books that I read, and it changed my view of Christian fiction.

    Thanks for being here today!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jan, that's one that I haven't read yet. I need to do that!

      Delete
  12. Good morning, Francine. What a pleasure to have you join us here at Seekerville. You have been an inspiration to so many of us authors and continue to be so. And this post is just one reason why. Great ideas, plus we got a little glimpse of your writing process. Thank you for being here to today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mindy, I really loved that glimpse into the questions she asked herself. It gave me an idea for a short story. :)

      Delete
  13. Thank you for modeling the kinds of questions you ask as a writer, Francine. You made me think differently about my current project. What is the question I'm trying to answer? As I think about that, I can already see the Q&A bringing my story into sharper focus. I've read two Christian fiction books that were truly a spiritual experience for me...and Hadassah's story was one of them. She is a character who will always be in my heart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen, isn't it amazing how just asking specific questions can bring sharper focus?

      Delete
  14. I am reading Francine's newest book right now and completely hooked just like always. So thankful for authors who are willing to write about hard subjects and touch on hard questions.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Francine, thank you so much for visiting Seekerville today. Your post is just what I needed to hear...God’s timing.

    People watch how we live, and eventually ask why we live the way we do. And when that question comes, God gives us the words to speak. YES! I pray this for my writing. Your books have touched so many. What a beautiful gift....used well!

    Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for joining us in Seekerville today, Francine! I love your post so much, and it challenges me as a writer and makes me want to go deeper. Thanks for this thought-provoking look at where ideas come from.
    And thank you for writing powerful stories that make a difference in the way readers view God and their relationship with him. Your books are truly a blessing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Melanie, the post affected me the same way, making me want to go deeper.

      Delete
  17. OH. My. Gosh.

    Welcome to Seekerville, Francine! (I'll try hard not to gush. You are one of my FAVE authors EVER.)

    REDEEMING LOVE holds a prominent place on my bookshelves. LOVED it. Such a hard read emotionally, but WOW...what a stunning example of beautiful, selfless love. Of course, all your stories are fantastic, but that one will forever hold a special place in my heart.

    Oh, and FYI, every church body should read AND THE SHOFAR BLEW. Might save a lot of repercussions and heartache and teach a lesson or two.

    Here's to continued success and fantastic story-telling! Cannot wait to read THE MASTERPIECE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cynthia, thanks for the recommendation of And the Shofar Blew. I'll be sure to check that one out.

      Delete
    2. Missy, I recommend all pastors, pastors' wives, church-goers, naysayers and in-betweeners read AND THE SHOFAR BLEW. Francine nails it. All of it.

      Delete
    3. Ruthy, I love, love, love Francine's books. I missed the ACFW conference when she keynoted and I was bereft for days. Such a big fan. She writes/speaks to the tough issues we Christians only dare whisper about.

      Delete
  18. Love seeing how questions turned into books. I've not read any of them so will have to check them out. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sally, lots to add to your TBR pile! :)

      Delete
    2. Yes!!! I'll have to check my bookcases. I'll bet I have one and don't know it lol.

      Delete
    3. Yes! I have one: A Voice in the Wind. I'll have to read it!

      Delete
    4. LOL! You sound like me, Sally. I have bought a book I already have on multiple occasions. :)

      Delete
  19. Wow - Francine Rivers in Seekerville! Thank you so much for being here and sharing how your questions became books. Though I love all your books, I believe my favorite is The Atonement Child. Not easy to read at times, but such a clear message of hope and love despite the circumstances. Thank you again for sharing with us today.

    ReplyDelete
  20. All I can say is that Francine is a master at creating masterpieces. And what's become even more obvious to me over the years is that she relinquishes the brush to The Master and let's Him paint the picture.

    I can't wait to read The Masterpiece!

    Welcome to Seekerville, Francine!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Francine, I'm deeply encouraged by your depth of questions and how you dig to the very core of a story's message with one or several provoking question. Wow. In the past two years, I have realized the art of asking questions to explore a character's inner and outer journey. Still not skilled at it yet, but I'm getting there! I'll definitely be sharing this article with my writing people!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thank you so much for sharing here, Francine Rivers! I *Love* your Christian books! May God continue to speak through you and may He bless you and all of Seekerville!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm so excited about this story! I've loved all of your books, and I was so excited when I met you at ACFW and you took a pic with me! You are one of the reasons I wanted to write Christian fiction. With the Mark of the Lion series, I saw the power of story! Great to see you here on Seekerville, one of my favorite websites! Can't wait to get started reading The Masterpiece! (I realize I used a lot of exclamation points, but did I mention I'm excited?)
    Blessings

    ReplyDelete
  24. I can't wait to read this book! Have read all your books, Francine, and loved them all!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Fantastic post Francine! I am looking forward to The Masterpiece.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Welcome, Francine. Thank you for sharing with us today---excellent post. I always enjoy reading how authors begin their writing process--so fascinating to begin with questions and have ideas to develop for an amazing story!
    Congratulations on your wonderful writing success, and I'm looking forward to reading The Masterpiece.
    Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

    ReplyDelete
  27. Good Evening Francine and Seekers! Thank you for this wonderful post! Congratulations on your release of The Masterpiece!

    Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thank you for sharing the wonderful way you use questions to inspire your writing. I loved how you used inspiration from Hosea when writing Redeeming Love. It truly is a classic in Christian writing. Thank you for setting the standard.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Francine at Seekerville! Fangirl moment! (Which to me is having nothing to say with a smile a like wide!) Thank you, Francine for dropping in. I loved the process you've shown us for your inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I love Francine Rivers books—her books touch my soul! Thank you for sharing this post. It’s always interesting to see how authors craft their works. And what a lovely surprise to see my sunrise picture that I sent in and for which I won a copy of The Masterpiece.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ann, it's a gorgeous photo! Thanks for sharing it with everyone. It made a wonderful meme.

      Delete
  31. Francine-If you only knew how much Redeeming Love has meant to me! That was the book that (eventually) made me want to write. Since 2010, I have published 4 books, the most recent of which went live this morning.
    You know how authors often skip over their first book to talk about their second one? I'm going to do that here. While I was working on The Long Road Around the Corner of Hope, I started another one called Crawling to the Light. It was this book that gave me the direction I was to go into. Melissa Leahy is a teenage girl who is on drugs. When she gets clean, she wants to kill herself. But on the way, she sees a church where a Christian rock band is playing. She goes in a watches the show. Jimmy Hensley, the lead singer, says he was once on drugs, himself. She meets him and he becomes her mentor.
    What I'd love to do is make that and my subsequent books into Bible studies. My characters and all of the scenes are biblical illustrations. What made me think of this? Redeeming Love.

    ReplyDelete