Monday, October 19, 2020

Weaving the Spiritual Thread into Your Story

 


It’s time for a book release! 

Softly Blows the Bugle is the third installment in my Amish of Weaver’s Creek series, stories that are set in an Amish community in Ohio during the American Civil War. 



Since this book is the third in the series, there is a lot going on! Not only do the series-long threads need to be wrapped up, but Elizabeth’s and Aaron’s stories need to be told in full.

How many story threads are there?

First of all, there’s the romance. Boy meets girl, there are problems and fun times, they fall in love, and live happily ever after.

Then there’s the external plot – Boy meets girl, things go wrong, things are fixed, we come to a resolution.

We also have a few secondary plot lines, a secondary romance (or two,) and an antagonist.

By the way, you’re really going to hate this antagonist!

But when you write inspirational romance, there is another thread that can not be forgotten: the spiritual thread.

I like to think of this thread as the foundation fabric that all the other threads are woven upon. Like a piece of even weave fabric in a cross-stitch project or a tapestry, the finished piece – the story – would fall apart without this thread.


 
What does the spiritual thread look like? Well, it depends on your characters!

1) Option one is when both the hero and the heroine are believers. In this case, the spiritual thread could be when your characters’ faith is tested, or when they are called to put their faith into action. There are many other ways to keep this type of spiritual thread moving through your story.

2) The second option is when one main character is a believer and the other one isn’t. Many successful books start with this premise. The unbelieving character comes to a saving faith part way through the book and the hero and heroine move on to their Happy Ending.

3) The third option is when neither character is a believer. Each of the characters come to faith separately. You can decide if that happens before or after the romance turns to love.

In “Softly Blows the Bugle,” neither Aaron nor Elizabeth are believers at the beginning of the book, but neither one is a stranger to the gospel

Elizabeth grew up in the Amish church but left it to marry a non-Amish man when she was in her teens. After she became a widow, she joined the church. However, it wasn’t because of her faith, but an effort to erase the years she had been married and return to the ways she had been taught as a child. It is only when she realizes that she can’t relieve the burden of her guilt on her own that she understands the gospel and comes to a saving faith.

Aaron, on the other hand, was never Amish. His mother, who had passed away when he was a young boy, had taken him to church, but he had never attended church since her death. What draws him to faith in Christ? It is the hymns he remembers his mother singing in their home. Hymns like “Rock of Ages” and “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy.” Hymns that he rediscovered during the war, in the evenings when men would gather to worship. In the smoky campgrounds lit by dozens of campfires, the fragrance of wood smoke drifting in the night air, he would listen to the familiar hymns before the bugle would softly blow taps.

In this story, the spiritual thread is ever-present – guiding, tugging, and calling the characters to a belief in God and His work in their lives. Most of the time it is in the background, like the fabric in a tapestry.

That, I think, is where the spiritual thread is the most effective for the readers. Instead of “preaching” (which is really just telling,) a powerful spiritual element in the story is subtle. Shown, not told.


What do you think about the spiritual thread in inspirational romance stories? Do you have an example of a book where the author handled that thread particularly well?

Share your thoughts with us, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a copy of “Softly Blows the Bugle!”




Jan Drexler has captivated readers with her heartfelt tales centered around the Civil War. In the final installment of The Amish of Weaver's Creek series, Drexler offers another tender story full of hope, renewal, and love in Softly Blows the Bugle.

When Elizabeth Kaufman received the news of her husband’s death at the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863, she felt only relief. After a disastrous marriage, she is determined that she will never marry again, even if it means she will have to give up her dream of having a family of her own.

Two years later the Civil War has ended and her brother returns home with a visitor. Aaron Zook has lost both his home and his leg during the war. He is ready to put the past behind him and find a new future out West. But, he never imagined that the Amish way of life would be so enticing—especially a certain widow he can’t get out of his mind.

Yet, life has a way of getting complicated even in the simple Amish community of Weaver Creek. Aaron soon finds that he must put Elizabeth’s welfare before his own and risk sacrificing everything if he wants to win her heart.

28 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the book release, Jan!

    Many years ago I read a fabulous article on faith arcs in inspirational fiction, but unfortunately I didn't save it, and I've never been able to find it again.
    Thanks for sharing this today.

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  2. Jan, what a great post and Good Morning! I've done all three. In my first book, "Westward Hope," Caroline was a believer and Michael wasn't, but he becomes one through her example. Her spiritual arc is forgiving him for what he did to her in the past. In my second book, "Settler's Hope," neither Pace nor Oona is a believer. Abandoned by his other and never knowing his father, he has trouble believing God if He exists could care about him, and she has been scarred by her experiences in Ireland. Both come to a saving knowledge of Christ through a traumatic experience leading to the climax of the book. In the third and last book, "Redemption's Hope," both Jenny and White Bear are believers, but they must depend on God to bring them back together through a series of separations, and to protect them against the Bad Guys. So Jan is right, there are several ways of introducing a spiritual thread to a story.
    The best "spiritual threads" rise naturally from the characters, their personalities and their backstories. That's the way to avoid being "preachy."
    We had a beautiful fall weekend in NH and got out for a couple of drives. My husband is healing but slowly and I am reassessing all the things I had planned to get done around the house this fall, including the "Honey Do" list which is now a "Honey Don't or it could kill you." But I guess it's not the end of the world if stuff doesn't get done. We watch a lot of sci-fi, and I can tell you it is DEFINITELY not the end of the world if stuff doesn't get done. I am learning to pivot, I hope gracefully, and to enjoy the time I have left.
    Off to Bible study, may be back later.
    Your Kaybee
    Making it work in New Hampshire

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    1. Kathy, I do look forward to reading Jenny and White Bear's story. I'm sorry your husband's injury has caused your plans to change, but you are correct that life won't end because of it. The work will wait!

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    2. "The best "spiritual threads" rise naturally from the characters, their personalities and their backstories."

      Exactly, Kathy! It's that natural element that gives authenticity to the characters' faith journeys.

      And I also firmly believe that some things just don't need to be done right now. Praying for your husband's continuing recovery!

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    3. KB, it seems this year has been packed with "change of plans" situations. At the onset of COVID, I kept longing for the way things were before the virus hit. Eventually, I realized that wasn't healthy and I needed to live in the moment and be grateful for where I was at each particular point in time. Yes, I still look back, but I try to focus on NOW. I've kept your husband in prayer. So hard to have such a huge setback...but this is 2020, right? Everything seems more topsy-turvy and out of line this year.

      I love hearing about your stories! Go you, girlfriend!!!

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    4. Thank you, Debby, and especially for your prayers. This wasn't in the playbook.

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  3. Great post, Jan. I agree with you that the thread of faith needs to be woven seamlessly throughout the book. Being too preachy will be a turnoff for some readers. This book looks good!

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    1. Thanks, Sandy!

      It's that "seamless" part that gets difficult, but we have the example of so many books that do it well!

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    2. Thank you, Sandy. I appreciate your support.

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    3. Thank you, Jan. This post did strike a chord with me.

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  4. I would love to win “Softly Blows the Bugle!” I am putting this book on my to be read list. What do you think about the spiritual thread in inspirational romance stories? I like it in books. Thank you for the opportunity to win.

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    1. The spiritual thread adds depth to the story, doesn't it?

      Thanks for stopping by, Tina!

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  5. Jan, I remember reading an inspirational story years ago that was so very preachy. I've never forgotten the way the author handled the faith element.

    Usually my characters have a smattering of faith. Often they feel God has turned His back on them. As the story unfolds, they realize that God was always there and that they were the ones who turned their back on God.

    Your latest release looks wonderful! Love the Civil War setting!

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    1. I love it when the characters' early faith strengthens and grows in the story. We can really see character development in action in those books!

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  6. My stories are mostly like Debby just mentioned. Characters who are strengthening or returning to their faith.

    Jan, congrats on your new release!

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  7. I like your analogy of the evenweave fabric behind the stitches. :)

    The spiritual thread for me is probably the most difficult to 'get right.' I worry about 'being preachy' or heavy-handed, so I probably veer to the other extreme of not putting enough spiritual threads into my story-stitching.

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    1. It's a fine line between the heavy hand and the subtle nuance. Too light, and the spiritual thread isn't apparent. Too heavy, and you risk turning off some readers, or having them skim through the un-interesting part.

      I don't think you need to worry, though! Your stories always have just enough of a spiritual element that is natural to the characters and plot. :-)

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  8. Hi Jan:

    Sometimes some plots are so good that I forget the name of the book. One book's spiritual threads were so unique that they seemed to be the whole story. The romance was incidental and I could not tell you anything about the romance today.

    Here is the story: The hero was a non-believer who espoused good arguments for not being a believer. He could never marry a believer. The heroine was a believer and an evangelist to boot. She sought out non-believers to convert. She was part of the Campus Crusade for Christ.

    The hero and heroine loved to argue. These exercises seemed to fulfill them in some way. Each saw the other as a worthy opponent. Opposites attracted with great force as time went on. Besides, other than their spiritual beliefs they seemed perfectly matched.

    Then both, in short order, faced crises in their lives that advanced them along the character arc. Their crises were unrelated so they felt free to seek comfort and support from each other.

    In a twist, as might be found in O. Henry, the shaken believer lost her faith and confessed to the hero, a non-believer, that they could now get married but the non-believer's crisis won him over for Christ. They were now on the other side of the issue each giving the same arguments the other gave before their changes of heart.

    That was a memorable black moment!

    How to solve this?

    I believe that they used Pascal's wager explained in their own words. (I don't think they mentioned Pascal by name.) In any event, the two conducted some pretty high level arguments making for great fireworks. I mean they went at it.

    In an ironic twist, what turned the hero into a believer was essentially the same situation but reversed that made the heroine lose her faith.

    This was a spiritual thread that was like a soulmak-stick-braided. Don't try this at home!

    Vince

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    1. That sounds like an interesting book! And you're right - I don't think I would try that plot line!

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    2. Hi Jan:

      If you did want to write a version of this plot I would suggest you read C.S. Lewis who went from avowed atheist to Christian and then almost lost his faith when his wife died of cancer after a long awaited happy marriage that ended all too soon. Read "Surprised by Joy" and "C.S. Lewis on Grief". It would be hard to find better arguments on both side of the issues.

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    3. C.C Lewis is one of my favorite authors. :-)

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  9. I am looking forward to reading this series

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  10. There are a few authors who do it well, but what stands out in my mind more about the spiritual thread is the lack of one in books published by the big CF publishing houses sometimes. A recent release (which I thoroughly enjoyed) was published as CF but I was hard-pressed to find a spiritual thread, or even the mere mention of God or faith! It was disappointing, as I believe Christian authors have a great opportunity to include that element into their writing.
    Thanks for sharing Jan. Looking forward to reading the final book! :)

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  11. I LOVE the way you describe the spiritual thread here. Just perfect. May all our stories have such a strong foundation to be woven on!

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  12. Hi Jan, I loved reading about spiritual threads in books and 'm drawing a blank on naming a specific book. I do believe, however, that a "heavy" dose can often turn a reader off if they are a searcher instead of a believer. A plot that shows a Christian witness in actions and deeds may be more effective than a constant barrage of scripture and "preaching". Congratulations for your new release!
    Blessings!
    Connie

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