Here is one of the more serious posts I’ve been promising. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while and bounced some of the points off my friend Kendra
several weeks back. And speaking of Kendra she’s still looking for a few more people for her blog tour of Lady Dragon Tela Du
in a months time. It’s an awesome book. Head over here
or click the button on the side bar, if you’re interested. Now, onto the points.
As Christians and writers we have a great responsibility. We are writing things we hope will be read by people and have an impact on them. We are trying to affect people’s minds. Or even if some of your aren’t trying, it’s impossible to avoid. If you don’t want to affect people, perhaps you should make pizzas instead. But one of my points still applies to Christan pizza makers so keep reading.
We must not portray evil as good
This one looks pretty clear. We must not redefine morality. We cannot portray murder or theft as good. (Though we might explore some dilemmas around those crimes.)
But actually how to do it can be trickier. I think it can slip in more subtly. For example, if there are not suitable consequences for evil, we make the line less clear. What the consequences are, whether or not to show mercy, are of course left up to the author of each individual story to figure out. They may be natural consequences.
But if your protagonist does wrong, it must be made right. It cannot be ignored, or else it may appear to be okay. Even if your protagonist is truly trying to do the right thing and is boxed in between two bad choices, there must be some consequence.
However those situations are often not realistic and can be constructed for the express purpose of making writing look right. Don’t do that. Perhaps give them a difficult, hard to see third option. Or perhaps let them realize that this other choice was there later, and that they did the wrong thing. And have a consequence.
Also ‘evil’ is broader than we may think. This is somewhere many of us may blur lines. Disrespecting parent, being unkind, being lazy, simply thinking bad thoughts are all wrong. Yes, these things will happen in our books, unless we’re writing about perfectly perfect people (=boring). But we shouldn’t normalize them as being okay.
We must reflect God’s reality
This point is an extension of the one above. Some stories are just a superficial shadow of the way God made the world. They ignore the big things of the world. Yes, seemingly trivial things can be important to individuals, but it is not the purpose of life to simply eat, drink and watch movies, or even make enough money to live. God created us for a purpose, a battle between good and evil is going on. Please show some of that. It can be on a personal level or a worldwide conflict, but show it.
We should portray love, mercy, justice and other abstract concepts accurately. Also good character traits, such as courage, honesty and humility. These things are not always understood by the world. Courage is not the absence of fear, but doing what’s right despite it. (Okay, so that might be a well understood concept, but my point still stands.)
We should show relationships accurately. Siblings can and should get along well, teenagers don’t have to be rebels, friends can have a bad influence and sometimes it’s selfish to tell a person that you love them. Marriage isn’t just about ‘love’ and having another person to make you happy, it’s also about commitment, and working together. And marriage doesn’t doesn’t instantly turn you into a better person. (So I’ve heard, I have no experience in that.) So don’t show it that way. Show some examples of how things should be, and don’t do what never really happens. (This will also make your story more relate-able and therefore better.)
And we should portray God accurately overall. Not everyone has to see him that way in your story, but God is not evil, he is in control and he doesn’t change. We shouldn’t try to say otherwise.
We must spur people to action, not distract them
This was the point I got the post idea from. I was thinking about how people get very caught up in books at times. But though reading a book can be thought provoking or relaxing it is not entirely productive.
If we create a world that readers like better than the real world and it pushed them to make a difference and improve our world, that is a success. But if instead they wish they lived in that other world and spend all there spare time dreaming about it and reading your books that is a failure.
The same applies to characters. If people wish they were more like your character is good qualities and are inspired and encouraged, that is a success. But if they wish they were actually that person in that position and do nothing that is a failure. If someone wished they were your heroine just because the hero is amazing there’s a problem.
This might be off the overall topic, but there is a talk by Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin called Jane Austen and Vampires. It’s about what girls read. And they said, quoting very roughly, “If your life is boring and you feel the need to escape into books, maybe the thing that’s missing is you doing things in it.” And we want people doing things in theirs lives not just reading our books.
So even though we want our books to be engaging, we need to be careful to not trap people in them. God should be the centre of people lives, not anything we have written.
We must point people to God
Making people happy or moral without pointing them to God isn’t doing them any good in the end. Even if we’re writing a book that doesn’t clearly mention God, doesn’t have someone come to faith, or isn’t about a believer, we can still do this. Even if we don’t give the answer, the question must still be asked. Show people that there’s more to life than what can be seen. Make them realize the emptiness of life without God. Give them a bit of hope, something to make them search. And trust God.
Or if you are writing for Christians, then you should certainly show God. Remind them of things they might have forgotten. Encourage them and build them up.
We must follow God in our lives
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.– 1 Corinthians 10:31
Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men. – Colossians 3:23
Being a Christian doesn’t just impact what we write. It impacts how we live. Follow the Lord with all your heart and mind and soul and strength. Love his words. Read all of it. Think about it obey it. And it will affect your life.
We need to be a follower of Christ when we talk to a publisher, buy stationery, and deal with interruptions. And we must be ready to follow him wherever he leads. We may be writers, but that doesn’t mean God won’t call us to do others things. In fact most of us do.
And that is what I call a serious post. I hope this is useful to someone. I know writing it down has helped me. You may think that I had more than five reasons or that I could have grouped them into less. I completely agree. That’s why I didn’t number them.
I’ll be back next week with something. I don’t know what yet. Perhaps someone will inspire me. Perhaps I’ll see some tag floating around and steal it. Or perhaps I’ll come up with something at the last moment out of desperation. (Yes, that is where many of my posts come from. This post is an exception by being written the day before. I’d like that to become the new rule though. It’s less stressful the day before and stress is bad.)