Publishability – Ron Benrey’s Five Ingredients

In a course taught by author Ron Benrey, he spoke about the 5 keys to publishability. A more detailed description can be found in his book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Christian Fiction. (Curiously, was he trying to make a statement about this – that it takes idiots to actually want to climb the proverbial Mt. Everest to write fiction 😉 This list came from his lecture at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers’ Conference in Black Mountain, NC.

1. A Publishable Genre – know what you are writing and stick within the ‘general’ guidelines of that category. If you don’t know much about genre or even what type you want to write, do a bit of fun research: READ. The main genre areas for Christian fiction are: Historical Fiction, Romance, Suspense/Mystery, and Contemporary.

2. Voice – This does not mean you have to be able to sing 🙂 It does mean the way you ‘string words together’ to create your stories. How do you write your sentences and phrases? What are your word choices, metaphors, and smilies? How do you put all of those things together to draw your readers into, what Benrey refers to, a fictional dream? Ron defines authorial voice as ‘the voice readers ‘hear’ in their heads when they read a novel’.

3. Handle the Content Well – The point of fiction is to place the reader into a world where they can not only ‘watch’ but participate by sharing the emotions of the characters. If the author has written errors, mispellings, sentimental cliches, or grammatical errors then there is a sudden break in the imaginary world of the reader. The flow of ‘imagination’ is interrupted.

4. Tell a Gripping Story – Like in #3, our goal is to bring a reader out of their current world into the imaginary world we provide through our stories. One of the main tools used is conflict. Everyone’s experienced conflict at some point or other, small or large – and conflict causes an immediate emotional response in both the character and the reader. Hmm, it would be interesting to write a character who didn’t respond to conflict while everyone else around him did.

Another important tool in developing a gripping story (besides cool characters) is ‘wants’. Give your characters wants and then put up road blocks to keep them from getting there. There are so many other tips for creating a fictional world, but I’ll let you get Ron’s book to learn about those:-)

5. Create a World or a Dream‘Twang’ a Reader’s Imagination – This is my favorite one. It’s the ‘tip’ to feeling like Lucy stepping through the wardrobe in Narnia. It’s the mind-reading of the ‘fictional dream’. Ron Benrey uses ‘magical paragraphs’ to hold a reader’s interest throughout his novels and keeping point of view straight too. (This is where I need more work) It’s a really cool concept and involves four basic components: signal (who’s thinking right now), twang (the ‘click’ of a sense), show (character’s experience), start (the character’s response).

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