Recently I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with readers of my novel, Journey to Riverbend, at our local library’s book club. While I’ve met and discussed the book with individual readers, this was the first time I met with a group of readers, not writers. There were about ten readers present and the experience was unique and refreshing, to say the least.
Instead of discussing the craft of writing with its own jargon, we discussed, in essence, the art of storytelling. For me, it meant a paradigm shift from looking at the manuscript from a technical point of view to looking at the story through the eyes of people who ultimately didn’t care about the technical stuff, through the hearts of people who saw the characters as real people, who identified with them, who liked some and disliked others, who were touched and moved by what they experienced through the story.
Their questions and insights were sharp and, at times, challenging. Like why did I kill Old Thomas? I used Jerry Jenkins line: “I didn’t kill him. I was just writing along and found him dead.” Then I talked about how Old Thomas’ death increased the tension and gave Michael more motivation to continue.
One of the comments that touched my heart was the reader who said she appreciated how the characters’ Christianity came out naturally through their actions and dialogue, how the Christian characters weren’t perfect, how the story didn’t preach Jesus but showed Jesus. When I heard that and saw the nods around the room, I knew the story had connected with them at a deeper level than a few hours entertainment or escape. My prayer that the story both entertain and minister to readers was answered.