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
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/230176230926291892/

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! 

8 comments:

  1. Brilliant post! I agree with everything you said!
    Though, I have found several Christian books that portrayed Christianity really well, my favorites being the Skylar Hoyt series and the later Christy Miller books.


    Alexa S. Winters
    thessalexa.blogspot.com

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    1. I'll have to check those out! For some reason the Skylar Hoyt sounds familiar, but I can't think where I've heard it before.
      I'm glad you agree - I wasn't certain how all this would come across.
      Thanks for reading!

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  2. I definitely appreciate this, just because I've spent so much time getting so friggin bored of Christian fiction and I think you nailed the reason why at the beginning: the characters are spiritually perfect and that's totally unrealistic. It's not how we do it.

    And I think, as a rule, the following are pretty good rules too. I mean, I myself kind of enjoy cussing when writing, and I've even heard Christians make arguments for cussing, but it's probably something I need to work on, even if it makes me unhappy. Ah, well.

    Still, excellent thoughts! :) And thanks for posting—I think I needed it but didn't know I needed it.

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    1. I'm glad you found it useful! Goodness knows I felt like I was taking a shot at the dark when writing it.
      Thanks so much for reading (and commenting!).

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  3. I have to say I went through a time where I loved Karen Kingsbury (Christian Fiction). After a while, I started to read like a writer, and realised that I couldn't stand what I was reading - it was to perfect, and I couldn't relate to the characters. I knew that even if they did something sinful, at the end of the story they would return to their spiritually perfect selfs.

    I write fantasy as well, and while Christianity doesn't scream out at you from it, in the end, I want to use it to glorify God.

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    1. I have the exact same experience as you, except I was reading more Christian fantasy. There were good parts and bad parts but the worse was definitely several of the characters.
      Yeah, I mean, we're supposed to glorify God in whatever we do. Even if we don't mention Him or write Christian genre. :)
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  4. Thank you so much for writing this! I've been thinking about this a lot, too, and I think I've come to the same conclusions as you. :) Also, I loved the way you backed up your thoughts with Scripture!

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    1. I'm glad for that. I think I needed to write it for myself, more than anything, but I am really happy you like it (and agree with it!).
      Haha, some of them I knew already and some I didn't. It's amazing what you can find with Google. ;)
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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