In The Middle of a Mess 9/1/2023

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by Staci Stallings

As authors, we’re told not to react to reviews—at least not directly, out loud or in print.  And ultimately that’s probably good advice because a critical review often feels like someone is attacking one of our children.  While I don’t respond to critical reviews, I can’t help but think through how I would respond if I either had the chance or didn’t have quite so much self-control.

That’s where I found myself when I read a recent critical review of one of my most reviewed books.

I can’t speak for every author, but I know, for me, critical reviews come in one of four “flavors”:

  • It’s too preachy.
  • It’s not preachy enough.
  • It’s got a lot of typos and it’s badly written.
  • It’s supposed to be a Christian book, but these characters don’t act very Christian.

I’m going to leave the first two alone because they are mutually exclusive if you are going on anything other than strict opinion, and I can’t argue you out of your opinion.  I’m going to let the third one be because Amazon recently wrote to inform me that I had an extra space in one of my books that needed to be removed because someone complained. (No, I’m not kidding about that.) If readers are going to get that picky, I’m giving up on trying to please them. Not to even mention the ones who have written to complain about my spelling and grammar—and misspelled “spelling and grammar” in the one-sentence review! (Not kidding about that one either.)

Anyway, this particular critical review focused on #4—that the situation the characters were in was “not very Christian.”  As I drove after reading it (one of the times I tend to think things through best), I “argued” with the person, trying to explain that I don’t write Christian situations where everybody acts perfectly and always acts (except for the villain) in perfect Christian fashion.

I further pointed out to this nonexistent person that when I write, the thing that attracts me to a story is that the characters are in a mess. If they aren’t in a mess, what’s the point of trying to sort the mess out?  Then I had a revelation!

The stories I write start out with a mess, and I pose the question, “What if I dropped God In the middle of this mess and let Him work?  What would happen?  What miracles might come from it? What lessons would I learn through it?”

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As I contemplated this question, I realized that that’s exactly my overriding philosophy in writing what I write, how I write it.  There’s a mess, and a character gets injected into the mess who brings God with them.  Untangling things is often rather difficult, but I’ve learned so much from doing this.

So, for example, what if you’ve got a guy whose family is rich, but he’s hurting because his mom died when he was really young and no one ever helped him through that pain and grief? Now he’s engaged to a woman who is using him to get to his family’s money and because he has the right name. He’s not in love with her, but he’s stuck and headed at breakneck speed toward a life he already hates.

That’s a pretty good mess, right?

Okay, so what if we take a young woman who gets a job with his family. She’s on the innocent side, barely surviving financially, but she has learned to cling to God.  If you give him, through her, the option of God, what would happen?

About the Author:

Staci StallingsA stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading. Although she lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, Staci touches the lives of people across the globe with her various Internet and writing endeavors.

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