More from the first chapter of Cavernous, my inspirational YA dystopian.
Three knocks rattle the front door, and I drag myself into the entry to answer. Mrs. Whitman and company stand on the porch with a box full of baked goods and plastic containers of food. “Morning, Callie. We’ve been praying.”
“Morning, Mrs. Whitman. Mrs. Spencer, Mrs. Parker, Mrs. Bates.” I dole out hugs, my soft cotton tee catching on their gaudy polyester prints. Two still have hair in rollers. “Thank you so much.”
Mrs. Whitman shoves past me into the kitchen and sets the box on the counter. “This should keep you guys fed for a couple of days. We’ll be by with more sometime later this week.”
“It took forever to get here. Traffic’s backed up on the freeway for miles.” Mrs. Bates wipes a dramatic arm across her forehead. “I don’t know how I’ll get to the hairdresser.”
“Speaking of hair…” Mrs. Spencer lifts one of my matted locks and wrinkles her nose. “Go take a shower. It will help you feel better.”
“I’m sure you’re right.” I force a smile. “Thanks for stopping by.”
Mrs. Whitman shuffles around the kitchen, opening cabinet doors and glancing at the pile of mail Mom left on the counter. “What’s the smell? A candle?”
“Come on, Mary,” Mrs. Parker says. “Let the poor girl rest. She’s had a rough night.”
They tug Mrs. Whitman toward the door, and she pulls away. “What kind of candle, dearie? I’d love to get one.”
I sniff, detecting leftover pizza and the faintest hint of weed. “Um… pine?”
Mrs. Spencer also takes in a deep breath. “Have you been smoking marijuana?”
“No.” Pressing my lips together, I cross my arms over my chest. “No, I don’t do drugs.”
“It’s the college girl,” Mrs. Bates says. “The sister. Leroy always says she’s trouble.” She turns to me. “Is your sister still here?”
Leroy has no idea. “Amber’s asleep. I couldn’t get her to wake up this morning.” I walk over to the door and hold it open. “Thank you for the food. I’ll let you know the moment we hear.”
“Is she breathing?” Mrs. Whitman starts down the hall to the bedrooms.
Mrs. Parker links arms with her, dragging her toward the door. “Mary, we can visit later this week. Let’s go. We’ve got the women’s club meeting, and Ellen has a hair appointment.”
Mrs. Whitman harrumphs and follows the other ladies to the porch.
Outside, summertime dew covers the ground, and it smells like earthworms. I laugh as the ladies take ginger steps through the wet grass to Mrs. Whitman’s car, which is parked too close to the edge of the driveway. Hope she doesn’t hit the mailbox when she backs out.
About the book:
In a divided America, several secessions lead to the formation of a new nation, the Alliance of American States. Fueled by extremists who solicit members via social media, the Alliance has one weak point: Callie Noland, daughter of extremist leader Adrian Lamb. Can she maintain her faith in God and stand up to the man who calls himself Lord and Master?
The mission of the Cavernous trilogy is to incite a revolution for teen girls to delve into Scripture. Many of today’s society grasp at a meme-driven belief system and draw doctrine from Facebook and Twitter statuses. They need strong characters that write the words of God on their heart and take stands against slight untruths and injustices, especially the youth.
Sometimes when reading Scripture, I come across words that make me curious about their origin, and then, once I find their initial meaning, I try to understand how I can relate it to life and writing. Take “platitude,” for example. A platitude is some kind of statement that usually has a moral or religious intent, but it’s been used so often it’s become boring or trite.
I didn’t dig too deep this time (wrapping up soccer!), but Google’s dictionary told me it originated in France, from the word plat, meaning flat, and it’s usage peaked somewhere around the mid 1920’s. In today’s society where people get paid to babble about whatever they choose on blogs and national TV, maybe it should make a comeback.
I came across the word in Job 13, where Job is talking to his critics. After questioning them and asking them if it will be well for them when God searches them out, he says this:
Your proverbs are platitudes of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay.
Trite, flat, boring, and overused. Hollow, empty words.
To the modern world, many Biblical themes might be considered platitudes. Though we, as Christians, all know that God’s message is timeless and those moral statements are treasures, those outside of the faith might consider them old-fashioned and trite.
Still, I believe wholeheartedly that God’s moral wisdom belongs in our stories, and his themes should be resounded over and over. At the same time, there are certain themes that become our pet issues and we often beat them into the ground to the point that they become rote. How can we continue relaying the same simple truths time and time again without making them seem like platitudes to the secular world?
I think the answer, both in writing and in life, lies within relationships and attitudes. All the time, I hear people complain that they try to talk to someone about their faith and “they just won’t listen.” This just makes me wonder how the message is being given.
I’m not saying I think we need to sugar coat God’s truth, but I do think the delivery needs to come from compelling characters that people want to read or be around. In life, are we that person, serving others and forging friendships to open doors for conversations about faith? Or, are we that pushy, “my way or the highway” person, who forces the conversation whenever possible, as if it’s the only reason we have to talk to a particular person. In writing, do we interject our message to the point that it feels contrived, rather than the natural flow of the story? Do we throw a Christian message into the plot just to call it inspirational fiction?
I’ve learned this from teaching–the same general fact can be delivered to a class of students. From one perspective/attitude, they dismiss it. From another, they embrace it. And the perspective they embrace ends up being the one that requires the most effort, the one that makes it the most meaningful to them.
So, there you have it. We’ve come back to grit, which seems to be my favorite theme these days. It takes a little more effort to be that person who cultivates relationships so Biblical truths will be more palatable, as they are coming from a friend. It takes more effort to write characters who show their faith rather than just dropping it into a dialogue.
And for an extra bang for your buck, especially if you are interested in melodic trances, meet “Platitude,” mixed by Onova (otherwise known as Christian Lejon), released back in 2007.