Chapter II: Beelzebub
I started editing my fist chapter yesterday. It is due to my editor by Monday. Currently, it sits at 8,500 words. I need to expand it to between 10,000 and 15,000 words. This is the first chapter that someone will read—excluding the introduction—of my book, Peacemaking: A Story of Redemption. For those who don’t know, I am taking my master’s thesis from Denver Seminary and popularizing it. Essentially, I am turning this long and arduous academic work into a flowing narrative. As my editor recently explained to me: “I believe that there are two basic ways for writing history: The first is to persuade readers to ‘do good’; the other is to reveal ‘truth.’ The former is storytelling; the latter is academic research. It seems to me that these two methods are complimentary; and that this work of yours has both. The trick is to blend them into a cohesive whole.” I can’t help but think of works like “The Brother’s Karamazov” or “East of Eden.” These are works that tell a compelling narrative, but also teach and transform. By the way, I am in no way comparing Peacemaking or myself to these great works. I can’t touch them. They are classics for a reason. I’m only saying that they come to mind when discussing the blending of academic research and narrative. Personally, I find that narrative can both inform us and shape us in way that non-fiction cannot. I think this is because through narrative we are able to connect to both the story and the characters, and in so doing examine our own lives. In other words, narrative has a power that both non-fiction and academic writing do not. Maybe I’m wrong. Either way, I wanted to ask the Internet: What do you enjoy most: academic non-fiction or instructive narrative? What do you think works best as both an instructional tool and a compelling narrative? Should story seek to instruct or only tell? As I work through this process myself, your thoughts would be much appreciated.