Monday, April 23, 2007

The Color of Story

What makes a good story “good”? In my Monday post two weeks ago of that title, I decided that a good story (based on Genesis 2:9) consists of two parts: excellence in the execution of the writing (good craft) and biblically sound themes and their proper treatment (good content).

Having two standards, however, means that stories are no longer just black or white. The black and white can also combine, giving us four possible categories, not two. So now we must deal with black and white and a new third color, gray.

So what makes a story black or white or gray? Let’s look at each of them separately.

White—good content, good craft: This is the ideal. It meets the standard God used, giving us a story that is a pleasure to read and a benefit to the soul. Therefore, these stories can be enjoyed without fear or worry. Nothing meets the standard perfectly, of course, but some authors have come pretty close. I would include authors such as C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, and G. K. Chesterton on that list.

Black—bad content, bad craft: These are fairly rare. A secular publisher might release a book with bad content, but usually the craft is excellent. A Christian publisher might release a book with bad craft, but often the content is powerful. But nonetheless, occasionally one gets through and should be avoided, since it is completely opposite God’s standards. Thankfully, we aren't tempted to read them often—if the craft is truly “bad,” you’ll most likely stop reading before page fifty, unless it is required for school or something similar.

Gray—bad content, good craft/ good content, bad craft: Ah! Here we reach the rub. Most books fall into this area and what a friction they cause! We want to read the first (bad content, good craft) because the writing is so engaging—but we read the latter because it’s healthy and “safe.”

So what’s a Christian suppose to do? What do you do? Which gray books do you read and why? And why not touch the others?

Feet on the ground, head in the clouds,
Chawna Schroeder

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