Evolution of a Novel – Part 4 – Symbolism

I hope you’ve been enjoying this series on the development of my newest release, Perilous Waters, as much as I’m enjoying writing it.

Today, I’d like to talk about the heart of why I love writing Christian fiction–the opportunity to share spiritual truths and to show my characters working through troublesome obstacles to their faith.


The use of symbols is a powerful way to touch the heart and mind of a reader at a subconscious level.

As hopefully, you’re immediate internal reaction to the sunset photo above demonstrated.

I always get ridiculously giddy if a particularly appropriate symbol presents itself as I write.

Not every reader registers the deeper meaning of symbols. And that’s okay.

I tend to watch for them in movies, which drives my family a little crazy. For example, in the movie Australia, the big tree in the middle of the desert is used as a symbol for the blossoming relationship. I was sure of it!

So…when the movie appeared to be over after they got the cattle to the ship and my family prepared to call it a night, I said, “It can’t be over. They have to go back to the tree!” 🙁

For those who’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember that I was half-right. I won’t share the significance here, because I don’t want it to be a spoiler, but watch for the tree scenes if you watch the movie. Once you examine such symbols on a conscious level–remember those high school English classes?–you really begin to appreciate their power.

While writing Perilous Waters, “discovering” the particular stolen work of art that the heroine Jennifer Robbins would find in her family’s art gallery, seen depicted below on the FBI’s National Database for Stolen Art, was a total God moment for me. It immediately resonated with me as a powerful symbolic depiction of several elements of the story. 

Screenshot Duel after a masked ball

Screenshot 2014-03-04 09.42.40

It is called Duel After a Masked Ball, and the title alone conveys two elements significant to the story–the idea of a duel, and the masks people wear. So even if the reader can only visualize the piece from my paltry description, I hope they appreciate that the selection wasn’t a random choice.

Throughout the story the heroine finds herself in figurative duels with herself, her sister, her “uncle” and even the hero who she doesn’t realize is secretly investigating her connection to ongoing art thefts involving her gallery. Which…

leads to the second element of masks. Not everyone is whom they seem in the story.

Of course, making people not be what they seem is my favorite pastime to keep my readers guessing. 😉

But the deeper truth comes in shedding the mask that hides us from our true selves.

My heroine Jennifer is a twin sister, a believer, while her sister thumbs her nose at religion. To me, one of the most powerful lines in the story is when her sister says: “I don’t know why you cling so tightly to that Bible. It doesn’t seem to make you any happier.”

It forces the heroine to take a good, hard look at herself, her faith and the perception she conveys to others, however unwittingly, of what being a believer looks like. And what it could look like if she trusted God completely, instead of only trusting him with pieces of her life here and there. 

Your Turn: How have you been impacted personally by a fiction book you’ve read? Or…what’s a favorite symbol you remember from a book or movie?


Finish Well

As I marveled at the glorious colors of the setting sun, the words “Finish Well” flashed through my mind.
As I watched the colors deepen and grow more vivid, it occurred to me that it was the contrast to the growing darkness that made them all the more brilliant. And my thoughts turned to my friend Kate as they have so often these past weeks, and how even in the darkest days of her illness her spirit shone so brightly.  
Today, if you feel the darkness closing in on you, remember the glory of the sunset God desires to paint on the canvas of your life, remember his promise to never leave you or forsake you…

And finish well. 

Today I am visiting Inkwell Inspirations, recounting my experiences at the Writer’s Police Academy, complete with photos. Hope you’ll stop by.  

Faith, Hope and Love

Thank you to all who shared their ideas for my book signing on Friday, and to those who prayed me through it. (For those who don’t follow my FB updates, a dear writing friend had died the night before.)
I’m happy to report that the event was wonderfully attended. My local writing friends came out in full support in Kate’s stead, and I didn’t cry once. I had so much fun meeting new readers who’d read about the event in the newspaper.
Since Mondays are dedicated to character discussions related to Deep Cover, today, I’d like to talk about the dove pictured on the front cover. Fifteen-plus months before the story began, Rick gave Ginny a dove ornament as a reminder that God watches over her. 
It’s a recurring symbol throughout the book. I love how it’s depicted on the cover. How the dove appears in the shaft of light beaming through a break in the stormy clouds. It’s a wonderful picture of how God promises to lead us through the darkness.
In her last days, my friend wore a treasured cross, handed down to her from her mother and her grandmother before that. It was a wonderful symbol of her trusting in God for her eternity.
Because she had no children, she gave the cross to me a few days before she died and asked me to pass it down to my daughter. We were so incredibly touched and honored that she entrusted this precious symbol to our care.
It seems apropos that a post I wrote weeks ago about my friend should be scheduled for today at Hope to Life. It’s a short post about daring to dream, and dedications. I hope you’ll stop by to read it.
Your turn: Do you have a symbol or verse or song or keepsake that reminds you of God’s love when He feels far away?