I was talking to a friend about the message of my novel. The story has many messages I suppose, but perhaps the most important one is the message of grace. I want to share the truth that no one of us is better than another; that we are flawed and imperfect and perfectly redeemable.
I filled my story with imperfect people making mistakes and doing harm. One character, though, remained less tainted than the rest. Claire—my main character. She was a little anxious, but otherwise filled with faith and good will. Bless her. What a gem.
My beta readers weren’t as impressed with Claire as I was. They said she was boring. They said she lacked excitement. They said she was too safe. She was. She is the stay-at-home mom married to the cop who always had a wonderful attitude about life’s challenges. A Pollyanna. Yawn. The thing is, I’m writing what I know, Claire was a cleaned-up version of what I hoped I could be.
I am not as wonderful as Claire. My attitude stinks. I’ve entertained angry, unkind thoughts about my husband and sometimes I judge people unfairly and I am selfish. My house is often messy and I waste more time than I’d like to admit and I’ve withheld forgiveness more times than I can count.
Claire was fiction at its finest.
So, I got to work on her. If my life was the inspiration for Claire, she was going to have to gain some flaws, angst and ugliness. I was going to have to let her fail. Allow her to be stupid and selfish and wrong. She was going to have to suffer shame.
Because if I’m going to write about grace, I have to give grace a dark place to go, so the light of grace can shine brightly.
I showered Claire with flaws and angst and ugliness so that my readers will care and relate and possibly see themselves in her story. It hurt to do it because I share some of her flaws—what if people think I’ve done those things? And there it is. A truth. People don’t relate to perfect Christians who have it all together and can show us how to have it all together too. They relate to real, broken, messed up people who had to scrape and scratch their way to God's grace. What if people think I’m just like Claire (because the resemblances are pretty stunning)? Well, maybe they’ll relate and feel a sisterhood and realize they can find sweet grace too.
I celebrate with Claire as she overcomes the bondage of sin and anger. I celebrate with her as her eyes open to the joy found in giving and receiving grace. I have grown along with Claire as I’ve helped her find her way.
As the revisions continue, I am thankful for the opportunity to improve my manuscript. I’m even more thankful that in real life, we can revise our story too. There’s plenty of grace to go around.