Thoughts: How to write great spiritual/new age novels

What is spiritual/new age fiction? Novels such as Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, or Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. Similar books might be labeled Spiritual, Metaphysical, Speculative Fiction, Visionary Fiction, or Paranormal, but labels don’t matter.

What good spiritual/new age novels all have in common is that the authors weave spiritual and metaphysical themes into strong story lines that keep readers turning the pages despite their sometimes pedantic tone. Readers want to be both entertained and educated. They want to get lost in an enthralling story that captivates their emotions and nourishes their spirit. Keenly interested in all things spiritual but not necessarily religious, they want to have fun learning, instead of wading through a nonfiction tome.

How do you write good spiritual/new age fiction? Understand what readers want. In The Writer Magazine, Salon critic Laura Miller identifies what readers care about in order of importance:

  1. Story
  2. Characters
  3. Theme

Note that theme is last on the list. You first must have great characters and a solid plot, and then structure your thematic elements to support the story without overwhelming it.

Where do spiritual/new age authors go wrong? They forget that fiction comes first. Many write fictionalized memoirs that don’t meet the basic requirements for a good novel:  A great story and engaging characters. Some write instructional guides draped in fictional trappings. Even if the spiritual message is strong, weak writing skills can drive the reader, who first and foremost wants to be entertained, to drop the book before any education can take place. Good spiritual/new age fiction appeals to both the emotions and the intellect.

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4 thoughts on “Thoughts: How to write great spiritual/new age novels

  1. Pingback: Book review: American Gods « Fiction for a New Age

  2. Pingback: Spiritual novels appeal to regular folks, too « Fiction for a New Age

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