Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I have recently completed a series of short stories all fiction and all from a Catholic point of view. I am now in search of a Catholic publisher that might pick up this sort of thing. After an exhaustive search there is no such animal. I have heard and read that there is no audience (outside of magazines) for this type of work. I have found some that will do Christian Poetry and one that specializes in Catholic fiction: Sophia Institute Press. They have some excellent guidelines for success; the most I’ve seen from any publisher Catholic or not. Their main point is to hide the faith or rather make it very subtle. Here are a couple of their tips for Writing About Faith and Faithful or Holy Fictional Characters: Some Recommendations

"...3.) The secular rule, which still holds true for us is: you can get away with any amount of preaching if the character doing it is sufficiently insane, off kilter, evil, or unexpected.

I'm not talking about using a colorful old Irish priest to present your rules on marriage: I'm talking about having a homosexual debaucher pointing out to the main character that he's losing his soul. (Evelyn Waugh brilliantly does this in Brideshead Revisited: "I warned you at great length and in great detail about Charm. It kills art. It kills love. And I fear, Charles, that it has killed you." Charm here is the socially-acceptable compromise with morality that Charles has embraced to escape his boring marriage: no one in the entire book points this out to Charles except for Anthony Blanche, the sinister homosexual character). Readers expect priests and nuns to stand for and speak of morality. They don't expect your villain or your loser or your sappy wallflower to do it. So, for maximum impact, use them, not your openly religious characters!

Don't show normality. Be wary of showing consolations in prayer.

Characters can pray if:

a) they are sufficiently under stress, or better yet, there is a situation causing stress - there is a fire, shooting going on, etc. Anyone, including atheists, can pray then! Having characters getting worked up and crying in prayer really only should be used when circumstances demand it: someone shedding tears mainly over their own sinfulness or someone else's is generally going to read as false.

b) the prayers aren't answered, apparently. This is almost always acceptable. A) works best, actually, if the prayers don't seem to help.

c) the character is sufficiently strange or unexpected

d) the characters are priests, monks, or nuns, whom the reader will expect to see praying and acting in a holy, upright manner. (In fact, if such characters are not seen praying, it might weird the reader out, especially if the nuns or priests are engaged in too many other "normal" activities like playing cards, riding bikes, etc. The reader might think, "If they're just like me, why are they wearing those funny clothes?") For better or worse, prayer is expected from religious, but lay people who are devout are still seen as abnormal.

e) prayer is used for irony: someone prays for chastity and then goes out and starts lusting. The juxtaposition has to be sharp in order to work. This isn't me being nasty: think of how many times we Catholic parents can go from praying devoutly for patience to screaming at our kids!

f) the framework is humorous. Think of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof chastising God, or the Mouse character in LadyHawke bargaining with the Almighty. If someone has a unique or offbeat relationship with God, constant prayer can be fine."


Seriously, they have laid out some excellent points for any writer and probably should be used in any creative writing class.

I will continue my search for a publisher but my hopes are not as high as when I started. Or as my Dad used to say, “Now the real work begins.”

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