I’ve just returned from Amish country and boy, are my eyes tired! I mean to say they just about leapt out of my head at the amazing sights abundant in Holmes County, Ohio. Of course, since I am a writer, I viewed the panorama unfolding around me through the writer’s lens. Particularly, I wanted to understand why Amish fiction is so amazingly popular in the inspirational market. Have you noticed? Look at any Christian fiction bookshelf and you’ll find dozens of titles with bonneted people on the cover. Wanda Brunstetter, Bev Lewis, and others have sold millions of copies. Why? What’s the draw, I wanted to know? Here’s the answer.
1. Good stories have to have external conflict. There is no greater external conflict than a community trying to live set apart in a world that intrudes on them at every turn. Amish believe they must not be conformed to modern standards, yet they exist in a world where they are regulated by a government in which they do not participate. They need tourist dollars to support their large families, yet they do not wish to be photographed, or be exposed to conduits such as cell phones, television, cars or the internet. Extending one hand out to tourism, while turning their faces away from the lifestyles of their visitors is a hotbed of conflict, and great fodder for a story.
2. Good stories echo the emotional needs of the reader. Why do so many love Amish fiction? Because in some way, we all long for a simpler time. We worry that our dependence on technology has distanced us from a meaningful relationship with God and each other. We yearn for that pure, divine communication that we struggle to discern in our busy world. During a conversation with an Amish woman in her home, I was struck by the fact that they do not listen to music, there is no cell phone beeping, or even the sound of traffic on their lonely graveled road. In that quiet space, can they hear God more clearly? It’s a question we can explore in the pages of a book.
Have you ever visited Amish country or read Amish fiction? What do you think would appeal to you about the culture? Giving away a double prize on Friday!