Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Honoring God in Fiction Writing

Lately I've been thinking about God, and how I can honor Him in my writing. Now I've never tried writing "Christian" fiction - I write and read fantasy - because I don't particularly enjoy reading it for a few reasons:
  1. The characters often start off as Mary Sues or transform into Mary Sues, making them completely unrelatable. Because they become so spiritually perfect they no longer resemble real human beings with real flaws. 
  2. At least in the Christian fiction I have read, the authors tried too hard to make certain that readers knew that their book was Christian. The books were often filled with references to prophecy, lectures about things from the Bible, etc, until the actual plot was stifled. 
Now I'm not saying any of this is particularly bad. But at least in my experience, it makes for an annoying, self-righteous sounding book, and if you just want to read a story things like those can be irritating. 
I'm not saying all Christian fiction is like that, either - it's just my experience. 
So, while avoiding making characters unrealistic and the writing itself a lecture, how can we honor God in writing fiction (even fiction that isn't in a Christian genre)?

1 Corinthians 10:31 - Pin found on Pinterest at

With some conversations with friends and family, I've come up with the following ideas.

Portray good and evil as they are
We know that in every story there is a bad guy and a good guy. It's the same in reality, except instead of both the antagonist and the protagonist being people, the protagonist is God and the antagonist is Satan. Evil exists in the world, and when writing a story I don't think sugarcoating it to make it more palatable is a good thing to do. I'm not saying that you should make your book filled with the worst evils you can think of in order to get people to think, "oh, this is evil." I'm saying that you shouldn't try to disguise evil as goodness. I'm aware that evil can also be disguised as goodness by Satan, and I think it is alright to show this aspect of evil in a story - as long as it is ultimately revealed to be what it truly is. 
Likewise, there is good in the world which comes from God. In writing, show this goodness, even if it is just one righteous character in the middle of an evil world. Provide readers with a character (or several) to point to as people who don't have messed up moral compasses. 
Readers will recognize good and bad, especially if you have both. Contrast is good. It helps people see the truth. Above all, portray both as what they really are. 
"Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpant called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him." - Revelation 12:7-9 (New International Version) 
"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." - Isaiah 5:20 (New International Version)
Show the consequences of evil and the rewards of doing right.
I know that during life on earth, following God is not often easy. A lot of people are persecuted for following Him - people are punished for their faith. Additionally, it sometimes seems as though evil is rewarded. 
But we can't forget that ultimate justice happens after we die. At that point, righteousness is rewarded and evil is punished. I feel (and feel free to give me your opinion on this) that this justice should be represented at least in some small way in your writing. Even if the good guys don't win - good people don't always win in the world after all - at least show the evil baddies reaping the consequences of their choices. Remember that even though good people don't always win, God does - evil does not go unpunished.
"Don't be misled - you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant." - Galatians 6:7 (New Living Translation)
"As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it." - Job 4:8 (New International Version)
"He will judge everyone according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But He will pour out His anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness." - Romans 2:6-8 (New Living Translation) 
Show humanity truthfully.
Humans are not perfect - we all know that. This is why I get so annoyed at Christian books which portray their characters as perfect angels. This just isn't realistic or truthful. The truth is that humanity is a cursed race, living in a cursed world. We all have evil in us and sometimes it shows. When we lie to our parents, let our pride get the better of us, or give in to the temptation of eating from the forbidden cookie jar. Those are all "minor" examples of sin, but of course there are sins which we, at least, consider much worse. However, no matter what people do all are in need of forgiveness and salvation from God. It is unrealistic to make righteous characters who never do or think or say anything wrong (right now I'm thinking of Bonnie from the Dragons in Our Midst series, if anyone knows who I'm talking about).
That isn't to say that characters can't or shouldn't be righteous. Just do it realistically, because even the most godly people have their downfalls and sins. There's no escaping that - we're all human.
"As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one." - Romans 3:10 (New International Version)
"If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us." - 1 John 1:10 (New International Version)
Keep what you write clean.
I've heard the excuse that characters aren't righteous - that they curse, cheat, etc. -  and that the author wants to portray the character accurately. I can understand that logic, but I want to add something onto this.
What you write is your words. Don't write curse words, or word porn. There are ways to accurately portray a cursing character without using curse words ("Let loose with a string of swear words," "He cursed," etc.) and ways to show that a character had an affair without writing every detail out. I know that what you read and watch stays in your head, often as very vivid images. Writing is the same. If you don't want your thoughts muddled by gross images and forbidden words, don't write them!
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips." - Proverbs 4:23-24 (New International Version) 
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." - Philippians 4:8 (New International Version)

So those are my ideas. I think that they are pretty basic principles which can be applied to any genre I can think of right now. As I rewrite my projects (I've got two to do now - ugh) I'm going to try keeping these three things in mind so that I can better portray truth in my writing. A reminder, neither of my works-in-progress is in a Christian genre. Both are fantasy.
If you have any ideas of your own, by all means leave me a comment. I'm still growing in my faith and I can't claim to have the answers - I'm just doing my best to honor God with the knowledge and skills that I have.

Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Beautiful Books Linkup #3: Let's Talk Editing

This is the third post for the Beautiful Books Linkup series by Paper Fury. You can find the explanation of it all here. This is the last post of three - the first was on planning a novel, the second about writing a novel, and the third about editing.
So! Onwards to the questions!

1. On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best) how well do you think this book turned out?
Eh. Certainly not ten. Maybe a five? I don't think I really need to change anything already written - I just need to add a LOT of stuff. Like a whole other point of view and several more scenes from the first point of view, which is all going to require just as much planning as I've already done. *sigh*

2. Have you ever rewritten or edited one of your books before? If so, what do you do to prepare yourself? If not, what's your plan?
I've never finished rewrites or edits before, but I've started both for last year's NaNoWriMo project (progress was stalled because of this year's NaNoWriMo). I didn't really do anything to prepare myself other than let myself take a break so that I'm not still emotionally invested in the project once I start hacking it to pieces. That's the plan I'm sticking to - right now I'm on a writing break.

3. What's your final wordcount? Do you plan to lengthen or trim your book?
53,453 words. I was aiming for 54,000, but the book finished before I reached that. What I wrote is really fast paced - there is nothing extraneous at all and I probably didn't take enough time to write the descriptions I should have. So I don't think I need to trim anything; however, I definitely need to add stuff. A few more scenes to enhance the tone of the book and to develop characters, and an entire new point of view in addition to the one I already have. It's going to be like writing a whole other book, then splicing it with the one I've just written. Ugh.

4. What are you most proud of? Plot, characters, or pacing?
As I said, I feel like my pacing is rushed, so that isn't what I'm proud of. Plot I like, but I don't think it's absolutely genius. I like my characters but there are things about them that could be better. What I really like about Shadows & Light is the world. It's basically real world + magic + Destiny, but that mix makes it so much different, and I love it. It's both incredibly relatable and completely foreign.

5. What is your favorite bit of prose or line from this novel?
I was reading through the beginning and found this line. Ace wouldn’t dare try cooking for himself. They’d end up calling the fire department.

6. What aspect of your book needs the most work?
Pacing, namely adding some slower pacing. Also, I have a dog which mysteriously disappeared and then reappeared in the second half of the book. He needs to come back. And as I said, I need to add an entire point of view. Descriptions, also, are going to need quite a lot of refinement, namely because they're barely there to begin with. 

7. What aspect of your book is your favorite?
The networks of relationships between all the characters, and between characters and their Destinies. 

8. How are your characters? Well-rounded, or do they still need to be fleshed out? 
They're pretty good, I think. Ace is going to need some more work since I'm going to have to write from his perspective - and I suppose I'll have to work on his gang of friends some more. But yeah, I think the characters I've got are pretty good.

9. If you had to do it over again, what would you change about your whole process?
Nothing. My process worked fine. :D

10. Did anything happen in your book that completely surprised you? Have any scenes or characters turned out differently than you planned?
Well a dog named Lancelot mysteriously vanished, which was unplanned. And I had a surprise scene come up which was adorable *fangirls over the cuteness of Gabriel and Mara, even though they're not dating*. 

11. What was the theme and message? Do you think it came across? If not, is there anything you could do to bring it out?
The message was supposed to be that we all have to be responsible for out actions. And no, I don't think it came across as well as I would have liked. :\ This is why I'm adding the other point of view. Mara's is too limited. It doesn't show enough so that the reader can clearly see just how bad she's gone. I'm adding Ace's point of view to contrast Mara's descent into evil with Ace's maturing into a hero.

12. Do you like writing with a deadline (like NaNoWriMo) or do you prefer to write as it comes?
Deadline. Definitely. Without one, I don't get anything done because I don't have anything to aim for.

13. Comparative title time! What published books, movies, or tv shows are like your book? (Ex: Inkheart meets X-men, etc.)
*wince* I don't really know. It's a little bit like the book V is for Villain, with a little Harry Potter substituted for the superpowers and government. That's the best I can think of on the spot.

14. How do you celebrate a finished novel?
I haven't really celebrated. I've allowed myself to stop writing for a while until such a time as I want to start editing (that could take a while). 

15. When people are done reading your book, what feeling do you want them to come away with?
Bittersweet, I think, is how I want them to feel. Maybe just a bit excited for a sequel, too. ;)


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Best Blogging Buddies Award

Wild Horse nominated me for this. Thanks!
You may grab this cute little owl for
your post, too. 

So I know I haven't been blogging for the last week or so - I have valid excuses in the form of NaNoWriMo and Thanksgiving. But I'm back! Off schedule, but back, nevertheless.

The Rules:

  • You must make a post to show your award on your main blog.
  • You must tag the person who nominated you in your post.
  • You must nominate all your best buddies, and those whom you want to be best buddies with, who, to your knowledge, have not been nominated for this award.
  • You must ask your buddies at least fifteen questions in your post.
  • You must answer all the questions your buddies ask you on this post.
Alright. Let's do this thing.

Why do you blog?
Honestly I want to be able to share my writing with people, and hopefully get others to share theirs with me.

Purple or pink?
Purple. Pink is too . . . common. And it reminds me of Pepto Bismol (yuck).

Summer or winter?
Errr . . . winter? I hate the heat because I sunburn at a ridiculous rate and don't even get a tan out of it. That being said, I don't really like either one. I much prefer spring.

Have you read/seen The Book Thief? Tell me if it ripped you up like it ripped me up.
I've seen the movie - and I think it was a good one. It did get an emotional response from me (not to the point of tears, though). It wasn't really my kind of story, though. It was good, but not a favorite.

A book you keep re-reading?
I've re-read many books. But in my memory the record holder for the most re-reads is John Flanagan's The Ranger's Apprentice #1: The Ruins of Gorlan. Eight times. Maybe more. I'm losing track. And that doesn't even count the number of times I go and re-read just sections of it for the humor.

Do you have any pets?
I share a house with four cats and two parakeets. Only one cat is officially mine, though. His name is Joshua, but his name should be Mr. Grump.

Type or handwrite?
I prefer handwriting for most things. I find that I'm more creative when using a pen and paper than when I'm banging on keys. But handwriting isn't efficient for writing 100+ page novels, plus character sketches, plus setting sketches, plus outlines, etc. Nor is it efficient for any writing that I actually will have to show someone someday. Therefore, while I would love to handwrite everything, it isn't feasible, and I type everything instead.

Has a book ever made you cry?
YES! When I first started reading at bookworm levels, I basically read this one series by Erin Hunter called Warriors. I cried several times through the course of that series, but it's been so long that I couldn't tell you which specific books. I have also cried during John Flanagan's The Ranger's Apprentice #9: Halt's Peril. Probably a few others jerked a few tears but I can't remember them.

Favorite school subject?
Hard. I don't feel like I have one particular subject I'm good at (except English, but just because I'm good at it doesn't mean it is my favorite). It's either between science (Advanced Chemistry this year) or my Omnibus class (sort of a mash up of history, literature, worldview, and Bible). Probably the latter because it doesn't cause as much stress.

The best sport in the world is . . .
Umm, for me, none. Does chess count? Or writing sprints?

Do you live in town or the country?
Town I guess?

What is better? Sunrise or sunset?
I haven't seen many of them because I'm lazy and like my sleep, but I like sunrise better.

It's midday, you're still in your PJs, at home alone, when someone knocks on the door. What do you do?
Ignore it and stay away from windows where they might see me. Also make sure I have a phone nearby. Wait until the person goes away (and if he doesn't I've got my phone). I may even try to sneak over to the alarm system and set it without the person seeing me through the windows. What can I say, I'm a bit paranoid.

A quote that is important to you?
They're all Bible verses and the one that means most to me depends on how I'm feeling or what I'm struggling with. Most of them relate to peace, and I usually only know snippets of the verses and not the location. Most of them are along the following lines:
"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:7
"When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul." - Psalm 94:19

If you had to eat one food forever, you would eat . . .
Gosh. I don't know a lot about nutrients but I'd choose something that would keep me healthy. I wouldn't want to die from poor diet.

And now I nominate . . .
Morgan LeAnne

Questions for nominees are . . .

  1. Silver or gold? Why?
  2. Action movie or romance?
  3. Favorite super-hero?
  4. Favorite character of all time? (Yours count).
  5. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
  6. What story has made the biggest impact on you? (Again, yours do count).
  7. What book/movie/tv show that you've read/watched was the biggest waste of time? 
  8. Real book or ebook? Why?
  9. What is the weirdest thing you've ever researched?
  10. Who are your writing/blogging role models? 
  11. What character (any character) do you identify most with?
  12. What fandom are you most obsessed with? (If there aren't any, don't be ashamed. You're more sane than us, if that is the case.)
  13. Have you ever met one of your favorite authors in person? Tell me about it.
  14. Here's a big question: Loki or Thor?
  15. Have you ever been obsessed with something typically considered academic? Like astronomy, ancient history, psychology, mathematics, economics, physics . . .something along those lines?