As Catholics, we are going to want to write about God–and there is a way to do that in a way in which the world will hear us. It has to do with the work being artistry. So good they can’t ignore us, and they dare not mess with what we have done.
Nicolosi then went on to emphasize the value of subtext in fiction, especially when addressing a secular audience:
A couple principles I want to lay out are that the real power in a work of fiction is not what you say to the audience. The real power is what you get the audience to say to themselves. And if you say it first, chances are the audience won’t ever say it to themselves. We call this subtext. It is very respectful of human freedom–in this case, the audience’s freedom.Subtext is the aura that hangs over your story in some way. It is the presuppositions. It is the thing that the audience absorbs along with the journey of the story. So, one of the subtexts of A Man for All Seasons is that human laws are mutable while the law of a man’s conscience is not.
The subtext of The Song of Bernadette is (as they say at the very end) “For those with faith, no proofs are necessary. For those without faith, none are sufficient.”
Flannery O’Connor said all her stories were about one thing: Grace is out there. Grace constantly intervening in human lives is Flannery’s omnipresent subtext.
This is important because it is the thing that is ruining our work. That is, we people of faith have no faith in people. We don’t trust that the audience is going to “get it.”
So we end up writing in a way that is obvious and banal. We leave no puzzle for the audience to work through. We have to learn to have faith in the basic journey of a good tale. People will find meaning as they travel along on the journey with the characters.
The power of subtext. Just one of the ways in which attention to craft can help Catholic writers overcome the tendency to write only for an audience who already “gets it.”
The Church deserves nothing less.
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