But I don’t think that Catholic fiction should be didactic. Yuck.
With all due respect to Marcus Grodi (I love his show and wish my husband and I could be on it), I think that How Firm a Foundation is a weak story with stock two-dimensional characters and a very predictable and unsatisfying plot. The “novel” serves as a vehicle for Catholic apologetics sermons. In fact, entire chapters in the novel are basically Catholic Answers pamphlets, as related by various characters in the novel.
IMO, fiction needs to first and most importantly have a really good, gripping, well-constructed STORY with multi-dimensional dynamic characters who speak believeable dialogue in a logical setting.
I think that the writer needs to put most of their time and talent into constructing the story first, with a logical plot (unless lack of logic IS the plot, e.g., some cool psychological thriller!) and a beginning, middle, climax, and conclusion.
Then the writer needs to create–just like God!–a “world” in which the plot can occur believably. The characters have to be conceived and born and grow up and develop until we meet them. We may not see any of this background, but it has to be there, or the characters won’t breathe like real people.
The rest of the “world” has to be created, too–time, place, geography, climate, buildings, etc. This all has to make sense–it’s highly unlikely that a world-famous ice sports training facility will be located in equatorial Africa–although if a BILLIONAIRE built it and populates it with athletes who have escaped from terrorist regimes, it could happen! (That sounds kind of exciting, doesn’t it?)
You see, things have to make sense. In most stories, the ice training facility will probably be in a country where people can actually afford to ice skate.
One thing I hate is when a story that is supposed to be “real” sounds incredibly FAKE. For example, a Christian romance–I haven’t read any of the Catholic romances yet, so I’m not talking about YOUR novels! But I’ve read Protestant romances–eeugh! I just refuse to believe that a couple in love in this day and age living in a city here in the U.S. and working at normal jobs will never kiss until their wedding night. I do not believe it!!! I do NOT!
(I also don’t believe that they will never become sexually aroused. Nope.)
And then there’s dialogue. I also don’t believe that couples in love will dine in the revolving restaurant on the top of the skyscraper, and have a discussion about the Five Points of Calvinism and share how totally blessed they are to be believers in this doctrine and how they can trust in Providence to provide even when the way looks dark and drear (yes, drear–of course, we ALL use this word in everyday conversation, don’t we?!)…
Ridiculous. People just don’t talk like that! C’mon, now!
I think that anyone who writes “Christian” dialogue should go out with friends or spouse and “run” the dialogue just as they have written it and see just how fake it sounds. Then re-write it, and if that means making it sound a little less “Christian,” so what? When Christians all start talking about “the Lord” in their everyday lives all the time, THEN I will buy novels where they talk like that!
After the groundwork is laid–then the “Catholic” can happen and WILL happen.
It may not be didactic at all. The characters may not ever preach anything. There may not even be a quote from the Catechism in the novel! And not a single saint may be mentioned.
But even without a homily in every chapter, the “Catholic” will shine.
Madeleine L’Engle has written a wonderful book, Walking On Water–Reflections on Faith and Art in which she claims that a Christian can only create “Christian” art. That doesn’t mean that it will be didactic. But it will be “Christian.” I highly recommend this book, BTW, for Christian writers. It’s quite deep, even though the title implies being on top the water.