Friday, February 2, 2018

Why There Should Be A Moral to the Story

Our guest today - Candee Fick

Hello Seekerville! Candee Fick here, and I'm so glad to be back. Audra first invited me to be a guest several years ago and back then I shared about my never-ending journey as a pre-published author. And now I'm back a fourth time as my third novel is about to release. (I guess the moral to my personal story is to never give up!)



As a child, I remember reading Aesop's Fables in school. You remember those, right? Super short stories with thinly disguised messages, but years later, the lessons still linger. True friends can come in all sizes. It's possible to get trapped by greed. Slow and steady wins the race. (In fact, I do most of my writing during my "Turtle Power Hour" before the family chaos erupts simply because small daily progress beats intermittent word sprints.)

But the fables of our childhood aren't the only stories that teach us something.

Like Carrie so eloquently wrote about in her first Seekerville post, there is a Story that we are all a part of. We are on a journey of change just like the characters in the smaller story we are reading or writing. Ideally, as readers, we are emotionally invested in the characters as they face obstacles, change from the inside out, and learn some sort of a lesson. Therefore, when that story closes, we should also walk away not only with an enjoyable vicarious adventure, but also having learned something.

That's why there should be a moral to your story.



When I start out to plot a new book, I always ask myself what my character is going to learn. I also ask what I want readers to take away from the book. What am I trying to say with this particular story? In other words, what is the theme?

Now, when it comes to weaving a lesson into a story, the sweet spot lies somewhere between a comedic romp without a point and mere cardboard props erected around a sermon. That's where the true craft of writing helps shape realistic characters making difficult choices but growing through the process. As the pages unfold, small "truthlets" are dropped into the character's life until the climactic events cause them to defeat the Lie they've been living with, embrace the Truth, and begin a New Life.

As the writer of the tale, it's up to us to sprinkle the Truth in along the way. Just like the Author whispers His Truth to us so that we too can learn and grow and change. Personally, I want my stories to give a glimpse at one facet of God's character as part of that Truth.



In my debut novel, Catch of a Lifetime , I wanted to combat stereotypes with the message that God looks at the heart of a person, not their outward appearance. In a college football setting, the main character learns to let go of her past bitterness and see the athletes as individual people. And based on the reviews and other feedback, readers uncovered the lessons for themselves.

In Dance Over Me , I wanted my main character to discover that God, in His amazing love, was always there behind the scenes looking out for her. There was also an adoption theme as she searched for a physical family but already was part of a spiritual one. Once again, readers loved the story...and embraced the message.

When it came time to write the sequel, I knew that Liz was an actress with a photography hobby who had a chip on her shoulder about God...and religion in general. I knew she needed to get past the rules and rituals to discover the true Love of God in a personal relationship. She needed to Focus On Love. (Yes, that's the title of the book and a play on words because photographers "focus" their cameras and zoom in on their subjects.)

Focus On Love


The moral of this about-to-release story is love. And that includes all facets from romance to faith to family and friends to patriotic military service to even finding a career we can be passionate about. Yes, there's a swoon-worthy book boyfriend and all the romantic feels. Plus there's an antagonist you want to shake really hard. It even has humor and cute kids.

But most importantly (to me), my prayer is that readers will walk away from the pages with the same lesson Liz will learn. God loves us and offers a hope-filled future to those who walk with Him. Not to mention, we should all learn to Focus On Love.

Speaking of which (shameless plug time), there are three easy ways you can embrace the moral to this story.
1. Pre-order a copy of the book releasing February 13th in time for Valentine's Day.
2. Share a photo (or several) of something/someone you love or love in action on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with the hashtag #FocusOnLove to be entered to win an autographed copy of the book and a Shutterfly gift card. Contest ends February 17th.
3. Enter to win autographed copies of all three of my novels plus another Shutterfly gift card and share that contest with your friends for extra entries (https://candeefick.com/giveaways/focus-love-prize-bundle/)

While I pull out the hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls, I've got a few questions we can chat about. What is the moral of the story you're writing or reading right now? And how do you keep a focus on love (in any facet) in your daily life?

Candee Fick is a multi-published author in both fiction and non-fiction. She is also the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job, writing, or coaching other authors, she can be found cheering on the home team at sporting events, exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.


BOOK BLURB: Free-spirited Elizabeth Foster turned her back on her father’s photography business to pursue musical theater, but with a one-show contract, she’s a few weeks from unemployment forcing her home. Meanwhile sought-after photographer Ryan Callahan has put his career on hold to help his sister’s family while her husband is deployed, but the promise of a bigger assignment could lure him away from building a family of his own. If given the choice, what dreams would develop? Or will they learn to focus on love instead?


55 comments:

  1. Welcome to Seekerville again, Candy! I love that we get to tell the Truth in our stories, and that Truth gives hope and life.

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    1. Good morning Erica! I can't imagine telling a story without some Truth in it.

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    2. OH, man, my bad! That's what I get for posting in the middle of the night! CandEE not Candy!! Many apologies from someone who gets Ericka, Erika, Arika, Aricka, and don't even get me started on what people do to my last name!

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  2. Hot chocolate AND cinnamon rolls??? Oh be still my heart!

    Candee, thanks so much for being here today. And for a lovely post... and the moral in my Work in Progress.... well, let's do the Christmas novella... a beautiful story of two people who made drastic life changes to put the past in perspective... only to find that there is no ideal existence, that we... us... the common folk... make things as ideal as we can by our love and cooperation. And not fighting God's perfect timing!

    Great thought-provoker today!

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    1. Good morning Ruth! I can't imagine gooey cinnamon deliciousness without a mug of whipped cream-topped chocolate. It's all about decadent rewards today, just like when reading a fabulous book with a flavor that lingers.

      Your novella sounds like it will challenge both the characters and the readers to wrestle with a sometimes-difficult truth. Can't wait to see how you weave that theme through the story.

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    2. Ruthy, what a noble and heartfelt theme for a novella, especially at Christmas. But then, no matter how long any of your books are, they are always DEEP. Make people think.

      And that's a good thing.

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  3. Candee, great post. The theme of my WIP is that we need relationships to have a happy life--a relationship with God, but also the connection of other people. I'm not sure if that's a theme, and just writing that out makes me think that this is why this story is not working: if the author doesn't know the theme, then the readers won't either! Thanks for giving me some things to think about. And being the wife of a photographer, I love the title of your new book. Shouldn't we all Focus on Love? Thanks for being here today!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Glynis! I'm glad to be here and it's cool that you're married to a photographer.

      Sometimes we start out knowing the theme but sometimes it just shows up during the writing...and then we get to be more intentional and weave it in better during rewrites.

      And yes, the title to this story had multiple layers of meaning. As a romance, the focus of the plot is on love. They are photographers who focus cameras...including on love at a wedding. And Liz learns to focus on the love of God rather than religious rules.

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  4. Good morning Seekerville! I'm currently keeping a focus on love by supporting my youngest child who made it into the Middle School All State Choir! Between long hours of rehearsals yesterday and lots more today before the concert tonight, we've been exploring downtown Denver on foot and enjoying the luxury hotel we snagged at the group's discount rate.

    However, said hotel only had King Suite rooms left...so we've had to suffer in a ginormous room with CEO worthy desk, huge couch, and vaulted ceilings. Sigh. The sacrifices we make to be there to support our kiddos. :-)

    Actually, all kidding aside, I let the star of this show have the plush king-sized bed last night while I took the sofa-sleeper with the thin lumpy mattress atop metal bars. When my back starts squawking later, it'll remind me that my focus has been on loving my son well through this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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  5. Good morning, Candee. It's good to have you in Seekerville again!

    How in the world can we write books that don't have a moral? I guess there are stories out there, but they're not memorable. I hope that my readers, when they read "the end" have a deep sigh moment and walk away with something to think about.

    You've come a long way, Candee. I'm glad Seekerville has been a part of your journey!

    Cinnamon rolls? Has Ruthy been here? Are there any left?? LOL. I'll pop in as I can today. Let's all pray I have a slow day at work so I can peek in occasionally.

    Enjoy!

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    1. Good morning Audra! Thanks for having me back so I can celebrate this journey with Seekerville. And I tried to save you a cinnamon roll...

      I love that deep sigh moment at the end of a book, especially when a story lingers with me. If the author has done a good job, I'm still unpacking the layers to the story days later.

      I'll be in and out myself between rehearsals.

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  6. Hi Candee, what a great post. Congratulations on your new book, Focus on Love. I'm about to tweet a picture on Twitter with your hashtag.
    Thanks for sharing today!

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    1. Thanks for taking part in the contest Jackie! Even for people who don't know about the book yet, that hashtag and this season (Valentines Day) should help others put their focus on love in general too. Which makes everyone happy. :-)

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  7. My WIP is a contemporary Christmas romance. The heroine thinks she isn't good enough because of a horrific childhood, so she builds a wall so nobody can get in. The hero endured psychological abuse from a demanding father, so he thinks he isn't good enough either. But both realize they are good enough for Christ as long as they're serving Him. That's a thread that runs through all my stories, but more overtly in this one.
    I read "Dance With Me' and reviewed it. In fact, I think I won it on here.
    I hope Blogger doesn't eat this one.
    KB

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  8. Good morning Candee. I enjoyed your post and I look forward to reading your new book. Thanks for sharing your giveaways.

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  9. CANDEE!!! YOU JUST MADE SOMETHING HUGE CLICK IN MY WRITER'S HEAD!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. Really? That's awesome! My mission here is accomplished. ;-)

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    2. It absolutely is!!! Go Candee!!! (btw, very sweet name!)

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    3. You'll have to thank my parents for the name.

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    4. Ack! I am doomed to continue wandering in darkness since Mary didn't share her aha moment. Off to figure out the moral of the story for Caleb & Alanah all on my lonesome.

      Or better yet, I'll just finish and revise and maybe it'll come to me in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

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  10. Good morning, Candee, and welcome back to Seekerville. I love this post. There's nothing worse than putting down a book and thinking, "And the point of that story was what?" I think I sometimes I feel that way when I read the book of Jonah. The dude just could not grasp why God would want to save those horrible Ninevites. Hmm...not sure why that popped into my head.

    The moral of a story is what we reflect on after we've closed the book and think of how the characters had to grow and change. And, sometimes, it even causes us to look inward and wonder if God is asking us to grow and change.

    Great post. Thank you, Candee.

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    1. I think that if we've been living inside the character's life for the duration of the story, we should walk away changed somewhat. Encouraged. Re-energized to continue the faithful fight. Something. And as a writer, I feel it's partly my responsibility as a steward of the gift of writing, to make sure the reader gets that extra something special when they read my stories.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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    2. Mindy, great point about Jonah. He sure was a wishy-washy (pun intended) dude, wasn't he? If nothing else, his story gives hope to the rest of us.

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  11. Good Morning, Candee and Seekers! Congratulations on your newest release!

    The hot chocolate is DELISH! I brought chocolate chip scones to share.

    Blessings!

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    1. Thanks Caryl. And anything with chocolate in it makes my Friday morning. ;-)

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  12. Good morning, Candee!

    This was a great post! It made me reflect on what stories are like that don't have morals...and I remembered that in college I was taught to never put a moral in a story. That was old-fashioned and not "art." I've long since realized that the professors at my liberal arts college had missed the mark. They missed the core of what story telling truly is.

    Because without a moral - a theme that affects both the reader and the characters - the story is nothing. Worse than nothing, because I've wasted my time reading it.

    :-) I guess your post uncovered a pet peeve!

    Thanks for the deep thinking this morning, and enjoy Denver! It sounds like a great mother/son experience!

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    1. It's been a great experience so far with lots of memories being made.

      And I echo your sentiment about not wanting to waste my time reading something. Of course, there are times I'm in the mood for a somewhat mindless light read, but even those should leave me with a little bit of value.

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  13. Hi Candee. I loved Catch of a Lifetime and Dance Over Me. Now I'm really looking forward to Focus on Love.
    I am writing a story now about the concept of giving anonymously, like the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing sort of thing. I love how giving anonymously without expecting thanks in return can so bless a giver and, pun intended, keep one's Focus on Love.
    The last story I wrote had a similar theme of how God's blessings will find you when you least expect them. One last point here, I never plot a story because if I do it sounds as if I plotted it and wrote according to formula. My spontaneous stuff is better (IMHO), but I have an infinite respect for those who do plot and aspire to be like them. However, in my mind and even without a plot outline, the 'moral of the story' is usually clear from the beginning.
    Thanks for being in Seekerville today, Candee and wishing you much success with Focus on Love.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Cindy. I'm looking forward to seeing how people react to Focus On Love. It won't be long...

      I like your idea of giving anonymously, because that truly does keep the focus in the right place. As to the plotting issue, whatever method works to unlock your personal brand of creativity is the one you should use. Because it's all about telling the best story possible.

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  14. Hi, Candee! My favorite books are rich in theme, where the theme is poignant and developed in many ways throughout the story. I just finished analyzing a short story with my honors seniors (on my lunch break now). The theme of the story was foreshadowed by the title and developed by the protagonist's gradual change, by a character who symbolized the opposite of the theme, by a statement a child made in the story, by an action taken by the townspeople, by an allusion to a poem as well as to Psalm 23. The short story is a work of art. Now...if I could just write like that myself! :) Congrats on Focus on Love. Great word play with Liz's hobby!

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    1. Hi Karen! Way to multi-task your lunch break and it sounds like your students are learning some fabulous fiction tools to add to their own arsenals. Believe me, it doesn't come together in the first draft. That's where I plant a few seeds, then make them grow and blossom in the rewrites.

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  15. Hi, Candee, I loved this post. I will check out the new book,

    Thanks for coming to Seekerville today.

    Hoping my irregular heart beat will decide to pop back into a regular rhythm soon so I can work on my writing now that I have a few critiques for the first two chapters. It is a little hard to think when my heart if fluttering and flopping.

    Hope everyone has a great day! The Lord is good.

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    1. Oh, wow Wilani. I'll be praying for your heart to settle down. I can't imagine being distracted to that level when trying to write. God certainly is good.

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    2. Praying your heart stops acting like a fish on the river bank, Wilani! That would be very disconcerting. Feel better, and I hope you get lots of work done on your story!

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    3. Oh, Wilani... praying that your heart stops acting up! I've got my big ol' frowny face on over here! :(

      {{{Hugs!}}}

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    4. Wilani, I can't imagine the sensation! Praying your heart calms down into its regular rhythm!

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  17. I love a story with a good moral -- it's why I read Christian Fiction -- brings so much depth to a story. And I love coming away from a read with something to ponder. I've just started reading Her Handyman Hero by Lorraine Beatty (only on page 26) but so far I'm thinking this is a book about trust -- both in yourself and in others, and, of course, in God. Looking forward to exploring more as I get further into the story.

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    1. Oh, Kav, that's cool that you can see that theme this early in the story. Lori is an amazing author!

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    2. Kav, I know us Christian fiction writers are happy you like us!

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    3. Kav, I know that extra layer of Truth in Christian fiction is part of what makes the genre so special to write. Thanks for stopping by and for adding yet another book to my to be read pile. :-)

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  18. Hi, Candee! Thanks for your insightful post! I love it when someone makes me think! :-) And you made something click for Mary! That's really something!!! (Haha! Just kidding, Mary!)
    Have fun in Seekerville today!

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    1. Okay, I must go find Mary's comment where something clicked. If Mary gets it, then surely I can. Right? ;)

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    2. When something makes Mary think, we all listen!! Candee, do you know what you said??

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    3. Ha. Wish I knew what part of accidental brilliance made Mary switch to all caps and a gazillion exclamation points. :-) But Melanie, I'm glad I made more than one person think today. And if it makes all our stories that much stronger to impact even more readers, then it was a day well spent.

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  19. Am I like a horrible, no-good, lazy writer if I can't really tell you what the moral of my story is until after it's done? Uh, sometimes I can't tell you until my editors tell me. And, then I say, "Oh, yeah, there it is! Wow! So glad you saw that!" :)

    And I still need que-cards to remind me.

    Years and years ago, an agent (she reps a bunch o' youse) looked me dead in the eye and asked how I wrote the ms she was holding without knowing any more about the characters than I did. But it was all there. I just don't always know how to put it into simplistic terms.

    I write a lot by instinct, especially when I'm under deadline. Hope my editors aren't reading this. ;)

    Welcome to Seekerville (again) Candee even if I'm no help whatsoever.

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    1. Pam, I can relate to every word you said. I hate it when someone asks a "process" question about my book... It's almost embarrassing when someone else can explain the theme, the conflicts, the etc. of my book better than I can, LOL.

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    2. Sometimes we're too close to the process while fleshing out the scenes. It's that whole "can't see the forest for the trees" thing. Except for me, I'll be writing along and suddenly I feel the ideas pinging and those God-bumps perk up as if to say "pay attention to this." That's usually when the theme clicks into place and I start seeing the threads already woven into place.

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  20. The moral of my current WIP League of Thieves is that not everything of value is gold. Seeing as all my main characters are thieves, it kind of takes them a while to realize that ;)

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    1. Nicki, that sounds like a super fun theme to explore. I can just picture the varied reactions as each individual character comes to the same realization in different ways.

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  21. Seekerville, it's been such fun hanging out with all of you today. In my continuing "focus on love" with my singing boy, we're drawing closer to the dress rehearsal, mad dash for dinner, change clothes, and then find seats for the concert part of the day. In case I don't get back on here today, best wishes to all!

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  22. I know the concert will be wonderful, Candee! Thanks for being with us today.

    Great post! So important to have that takeaway for the reader. Often I write about forgiveness, which is one of the important tenets of the Christian life. We have to forgive and ask forgiveness when we've done something wrong. It seems to me that a lot of folks these days are hesitant to admit when they've done something wrong. They blame the other guy. We have to own up to our mistakes and then ask forgiveness.

    Okay! I'm stepping off my soapbox!

    Hugs!

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    1. Hi Debby. Thanks for stopping by. The concert was amazing and I'm glad for the special time to invest in my youngest son's life as he pursues his passions.

      I think having a common theme for many of your stories--told in a variety of different ways--helps your loyal readers capture the nuances of that message.

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  23. Good job, Candee! I'm writing CHRISTIAN fiction that will impact hearts in addition to giving an exciting, satisfying read. And it still sells I'm happy to say. One of our chapter members, Misty Beller, who has learned how to write Christian historical romances and market them well has often sold 10,000 copies a month. Think of the lives impacted with a keeper nugget of truth.
    Blessings and Onward Christian Fiction Writers!
    Elva Cobb Martin
    VP ACFW-SC www.elvamartin.com

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