Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Writing, Bible study and discussion questions

There's been a bit of discussion over at Becky Miller's place lately about discussion questions for novels (I know, that's two 'discussions' in one sentence - bad writer!). I suspect that if I were to pay them any attention they would make me wonder if I had missed a page (or, perhaps, whether the author had missed a page). But then, I tend to read novels for entertainment above all; any thought I may give to a given 'theme' as a result is pretty much a bonus and won't necessarily have any bearing on the author's intentions.

The reason I mention this is that lately I have noticed that, when reading the Bible, I can sometimes relate aspects of it to the actions of my own characters, either the events recorded in Countless as the Stars, parts of their back story known only to me, or anticipated events for potential sequels. And I find that looking at it through the eyes of these characters, and trying to relate the Bible to my own imagined Creed, sheds some new light on things.

It is of course possible that this only works for me, because I know these characters' past and future lives, I know how the Creed relates to the Bible, and I know my intentions in creating all of this. Also, because I based my story so closely on Biblical events, I put a lot of Bible study in during the writing process, some of which it seems I retained.

I still live in the hope that some of what I have written may help others, casual sci-fi readers maybe, to make some sense of the Bible - specifically, the Old Testament. With that in mind, I may write a few short pieces for the website - why various events have been included, how and why they differ from the Bible accounts, what I learned while writing it... I should probably also explain that all the sex and drugs was included with the intention of exploring the consequences later (that way they don't look quite so gratuitous...)

I hadn't really thought about discussion questions until I read Becky's piece on the subject. I suppose it is possible that some readers might benefit from that approach, but it's not really my style. Besides, I don't want my readers thinking I missed the point.


Becky said...

Steve, if I understand you when you say, you don't want readers to think you missed the point, do you mean they might think your story missed the point, so you have to make it through the discussion questions?

I hadn't thought of that as a draw back, but your comment leads me there.

I want readers to be entertained, surely, but I also want them to think. Really, if I do the job I hope to, that should happen without question prompts. How am I to know if my story succeeded if I then guide them into deeper exploration through a non-fiction add?


UKSteve said...

Actually I was thinking of readers getting something out of a story that is completely overlooked by the discussion questions, and wondering whether it was them (the reader), the author, or the question compiler who missed something.

I guess the problem here is that the more questions or prompts you provide, the more you are guiding the reader to think along a pre-defined route, where a story speaking for itself may have much more impact.

(I hope some of that makes sense.)