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“Did I believe it? Did I care?”

Poet and writer Philip Larkin made some valuable comments when explaining his criteria for judging the 1977 Booker Prize – a UK award for best fiction. His comments are a challenge to any Christian writer. If we write testimonies, the reader should find the story believable. Exaggeration, gushing, preachiness, will detract from the story. And a lack of incidental detail will make the writing seem less ‘real’. Specific down-to-earth information and quoted speech will help the reader visualize a real picture of you and what has happened in your life. Your readers must actually feel that they care about you, about what happened to you.

Larkin wrote:

“Personally, I found myself asking four questions about every book: Could I read it? If I could read it, did I believe it? If I believed it, did I care about it? And if I cared about it, what was the quality of my caring, and would it last? I came to think that quite a number of novelists – and for that matter poets too – might do well to imagine a reader asking himself such questions about their work, because, to be honest, very few novels I read survived as far as question four. Far too many relied on the classic formula of a beginning, a muddle, and an end.”

    From Required Writing, P Larkin, Faber & Faber

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