A Commercial Break


PowerElementsCharacterDevelopment[1000][1]I personally hate commercials, so I won’t feel offended if anyone who stops by A Christian Worldview Of Fiction or receives these posts by email chooses to do a little channel surfing instead of reading the rest of this post.

The thing is, I don’t mind doing commercials if I think whatever I’m talking about really could be a benefit. So with this commercial.

The benefit would be for writers (and another half of the visitors charge for the exits. I understand, and still, no hard feelings! 😉 Really!)

Amazon, which I chose when I decided to publish my fiction writing instruction ebooks, has a promotion program which they call the Kindle Countdown Deal. For much of this week the second book of my Power Elements Of Fiction series, Power Elements Of Character Development, is available at a discount.

Today gives anyone interested in purchasing the book the best price: $.99. Yep. You read that right—ninety-nine cents. The discount is a whopping seventy-five percent off the regular price of $3.99.

But sadly, that savings lasts only for the day. Tomorrow the price bumps up to $1.99—still a fifty percent discount.

On Thursday the price creeps up another twenty-five percent, to $2.99. Anyone buying on Thursday will only save a dollar, but I figure a dollar off is better than no discount at all. However, anyone who wants to take full advantage of this Countdown Deal has time today to purchase the book at its lowest price.

Be aware that on Friday the price will revert to its normal $3.99 cost.

One last thing—and this is more me asking for help than it is commercial—if you have purchased the book in the past and read it, or if you do so now during this promotional program, would you consider writing a review and posting it on Amazon?

Reviews are like gold to writers. They influence other people who might be considering the book, and they affect the way Amazon positions the book so that others take notice. I don’t know how the whole thing works, but I do know that reviews matter.

Here’s an excerpt from one of those that has been posted already:

I loved [Rebecca LuElla Miller’s] last [writing instruction book] and this one is, I think, even better. Love that she gets me thinking and makes me want to dive in to my own work and get to know my characters better and understand what motivates them.

OK, that’s it for the commercial. Back to our regularly scheduled programing. Thanks for your patience. And if you’re so inclined, please share this discount opportunity with all your fiction-writer friends. Thanks! 😉

Power Elements jingle winner #1

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Published in: on August 22, 2016 at 6:36 pm  Comments Off on A Commercial Break  
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CSFF Blog Tour-Storm Siren, Day 2


cover_StormSirenOne good thing about a blog tour is that you get to compare what different readers think about the same book. This includes views about the writing, the story, the issues engendered, the genre, the characters, the pacing—whatever the bloggers wish to discuss.

A good tour also isn’t a rah-rah club. The participants will give genuine, honest reactions, so there will be positives and negatives. The current CSFF tour for Storm Siren by Mary Weber is no different. Here are some of the observations I’ve made half way through the tour.

First, I’d say there’s a consensus that this book is well written. There seems to be a split decision about the ending, however, and an equal mix concerning the level of darkness in the story. A fourth issue many participants in the tour mentioned was a dynamic opening scene followed by a slow section.

This pacing problem is one I’d like to address because I think it’s all too common and something I think is fairly easy to fix. Here’s how one CSFF blogger described the problem:

After an intense opening sequence, Storm Siren settled into a long, relatively quiet interval that built up the characters and their world, with all its dangers. The shift surprised me, but it didn’t dismay me. I’m not as hyped for action as some readers are; I like the building and the exploring. I like introspection, I love characters, and more to the point, I liked Mary Weber’s characters.

And yet I reached a point, reading this novel, where I was just waiting for something to change. (Shannon McDermott)

Others mentioned putting the book aside for a time or reaching a point where the pace picked up. The point is, there does seem to be bit of a lull. Some seemed to think this was a necessary aspect of the book—all the world-building and character-introduction pieces needed to be put in place.

I used to think that a natural lull was part of telling a story. After all, readers need to know who is who and where the characters are, what the places are like, and what’s at stake. While we’re learning all these things, it’s hard to keep the story moving forward.

But here’s the crux of the issue and why I believe the fix isn’t all that hard. All the world-building and character introduction can take as long as they need to with one proviso: the main character needs to have a goal to acquire what she needs or to fix the problem at issue. As long as she’s working toward something, readers will be patient as things unfold because they want to know if her plans succeed or not.

In Storm Siren, the story opens with the protagonist, a teenage girl named Nym, on the slave auction block. One thing that pops out is how feisty this girl is, how easily she reads what others are thinking, and even how much she wants to shield those weaker than she.

She’s interesting—a cross between a vulnerable young girl (she is a slave after all, and one who has been sold fourteen times in eleven years) and a strong, even cocky, resilient, nonchalant character who can handle anything, epitomized in this bit of internal monologue:

Eleven years of repeatedly being sold, and it’s sad, really, how familiar I’ve become with this conversation. Today, if Brea has her way, I will meet my fifteenth, which I suppose should actually bother me. But it doesn’t.

So there’s the issue: what is it that bothers Nym? Readers learn there are a few things, most notably her own anger which triggers uncontrollable destruction. But here’s the problem: Nym doesn’t have a plan to change or better her circumstances or to overcome the unfairness or escape. She’s not trying to enlist allies or work to improve her lot. Rather, she pretty much lets things happen. When things are bad, she toughs them out as best she can and when things are good, she proceeds with caution. But she doesn’t make any plan to overcome.

It’s this “go along” attitude, this lack of initiative, that reduces tension and thus slows the pace. As a reader I was not dragged forward by my desire to know if her plan would succeed because she didn’t have a plan and wasn’t working toward anything. Rather, things were, or were not, happening to her, or around her, or to her friends.

I found these things interesting, but I wasn’t emotionally invested until Nym had a goal and seized on something she believed she needed to do. At that point, the pace of the story picked up.

And now, I encourage you to read some of the excellent posts by CSFF Tour participants who are writing about Storm Siren. Steve Trower, who participates in the tour though he can seldom get books across the pond, wrote an especially funny post based on what he found out about the book on the Internet.

Chawna Schroeder, who is often a tough reviewer, wrote part 1 of her analysis and praised the craft by saying, “Storm Siren provides a phenomenal story with a strong driving plot and unpredictable characters.”

Joan Nienhuis looked at the various elements of the story and observed that there is more going on than winning a war between two countries: “The war is somewhat twofold. One aspect of it is for Nymia’s soul. Will she ever be healed of the pain and horror of what she did as a child?”

Good, thought-provoking reactions to Storm Siren. Be sure to see what others had to say in their posts. The list is at the bottom of the Day 1 post.

CSFF Blog Tour – One Realm Beyond by Donita Paul, Day 2


onerealmbeyondcover

Favorite characters.

Donita Paul has written some of the best fun fantasy characters of all time, I think. This trend continues in her new novel One Realm Beyond, first in the Realm Walkers series.

In the past some of her minor characters have been quirky and interesting and unique. Sometimes they’re wise. Often their appearance belies their true status. They impact the story in unexpected ways.

Here are some of the memorable ones:
Lady Peg in Dragons of the Valley. Her distracted state and odd observations add enjoyable humor and wit.

Rigador in DragonFire and DragonLight. This last (or so we thought) of the meech dragons is fearsome, precocious, elegant, and strong. He commands the page as much as any room he might walk into.

Sir Dar, a doneel, makes an appearance in a number of books, but nearly upstaged the protagonist in DragonSpell. He is fastidious about his clothing, though his outfits might be considered somewhat garish, and he loves to prepare meals properly. He added a great deal of humor.

Leetu Bends, an eccentric hermit-like emeraldian, who is wise, mysterious, capable plays a key role in DragonQuest.

Toopka, the silly little doneel child who bonds with Rigador.

Wizard Fenworth is such a remarkable character, both in the DragonKeeper Chronicles but also in Dragons of Chiril series, with bog creatures nesting in his beard and his habit of becoming treelike to the point that it’s hard to tell him apart from the real thing.

And what about Gymn, the fainting minor dragon?

I wish I could remember them all.

But I reminisce about all these creative characters because I believe Donita Paul has done in her latest work, One Realm Beyond, what I’ve longed to see her do. Rather than making her quirky character a minor sideshow, she’s taken one of the best ever and brought her front and center.

I’m talking about Bixby, one of the point of view characters in this first installment of the Realm Walkers series. The story opens with Cantor, an eager pup of a boy who wants to get on with his destined role as a realm walker. But readers soon meet Bixby who then becomes a second point of view character. In the end, it’s clear she is as important as Cantor. Maybe more.

But what makes Bixby so special?

First, she’s unpredictable. I’d even say, surprising. She’s small and for all appearances, weak, but she can keep up with Cantor and even out-maneuver him at times. She has special abilities. So in some senses, she’s a bit of a superhero. She’s also wiser than Cantor, but she has secrets, and this makes her interesting, too.

Another quality that won me over to her is her courage. Despite her vulnerable size, she never backs away from a challenge, never tries for an easier assignment. She’s not foolhardy, but she’s not about to stand around and watch when lives are on the line. She’s compassionate and caring and willing to take a risk.

Along with everything else, she has the perfect dragon constant for her temperament. Totobee-Rodolow, with her love of bright and beautiful accessories, her love of shopping and fine dining, her connections and sophisticated manners, is the perfect fit for little Bixby.

Truly, this little mite of a girl—closer to a fairy, perhaps than any creature Donita has created before—is a star. I for one love to see such a strong character given the floor so she can have the spotlight shine on her all the longer.

Don’t forget to tour the other participants reviewing and commenting about One Realm Beyond. I might especially point you to Shannon McDemott‘s excellent review in which she says

It is such a fun book, such a light-hearted book, with entrancing characters and a terrific setting. I like fantasy, and I like sci-fi, and I hold a special fondness for well-done science fantasy – which is what One Realm Beyond is.

Catching Fire – A Unique Point Of View


catching_fire_coverLast Friday I went to see Catching Fire, the second movie based on Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. I have a unique perspective on the movie because, unlike the majority of people who have seen, or are planning to see, it, I have neither read the books nor seen the first movie.

Consequently, my opinion of Catching Fire is largely formed by the movie itself. I say “largely” because I have been a party to more than one discussion of the Hunger Games books, and therefore have some familiarity with the direction the story is taking.

Nevertheless, my view is probably as untainted as is possible to get in this communication age in which we live.

First, I liked the movie a great deal and found myself thinking about the story long afterward. True, I was thinking about writing a review, so in some ways, my dwelling on it isn’t a sign of affirmation. However, I think the more I’ve taken a closer look, the better the movie gets.

When I walked out of the theater, I was captivated by the fast action and very aware that I didn’t really know the main character, Katniss, at all. She was a pretty girl, sensitive to others, even tenderhearted. But she had some steel inside her, which is why she was able to win in the games.

That steel inside, or backbone, was also the thing that the people saw and admired, together with her caring. She felt the way they felt, grieved with them, and cared about those they held in esteem. She was someone they could rally around.

But that’s it. I don’t know Katniss beyond those points. She loved her sister and apparently her childhood friend and sweetheart, but also her companion and fellow champion. She didn’t seem conflicted by loving two guys at the same time because her life was reduced to survival.

Yet oddly, it was Peeta who pointed out to her that she needed to live for her family and for the guy who loved her rather than sacrificing herself for him. She, it seemed, was all too willing to die for him, though he had no family and no one apart from Katniss to love.

I guess that made me think she was a bit shortsighted. And in the end, when it’s apparent that others have realized she is a symbol of hope to the nation when she herself is unaware of it, my thoughts of her limited vision are born out.

In many respects, Katniss mostly wanted to escape, not fight, the system that oppressed her and the nation. She tried to get Gale to leave with her before she was called back into the games. She entered intent to take no allies apart from Peeta. At one point she said she didn’t have friends, and that wasn’t true, but it showcased her desire to keep people at arm’s distance as a way to protect herself from the pain of seeing them die, or of having to take the blow for them.

In many ways, Catching Fire is an issues movie. Yes, the action is filled with tension, but the real question isn’t will Katniss survive. It’s what will Katniss decide to do? Will she step up and seize the role that her nemesis, President Snow, fears she will take?

In the end, she doesn’t. She actually becomes a symbol without meaning to and with others manipulating events around her to bring it about.

I’m left, then, with disappointment. The people want hope and they have it, but not because the heroine has chosen to side with them or to lead them. She’s thrust into the circumstance of being a leader of a cause, just as surely as she was thrust into the games. She thinks about one person at a time–her sister, Peeta, the other competitors–but in fact, her actions have far-reaching impact on many, many others.

In the long run, I’m glad I saw the movie, and if the third in the trilogy came out tomorrow, I’m pretty sure I’d make every effort to see it. But at this point, I don’t see Katniss as a character I care for deeply. I don’t know her well and don’t believe she is trying to accomplish anything of great significance. If she could, I’m sure she’d escape with Gale and be done with the whole thing. But she can’t.

So the new question is like the old one: what will Katniss do now?

A worthwhile movie which is generating some thoughtful conversation.

On Fantasy Characters


Till_We_Have_Faces(C.S_Lewis_book)_1st_edition_coverI don’t know if the protagonists in fantasy are particularly different from the protagonists in fiction at large. Maybe. There is some “hero” quality a fantasy reader may expect, but I’m not sure that readers of other fiction don’t want that as well.

Here are some thoughts about fantasy protagonists from The Writer’s Guide to Fantasy Literature, edited by Philip Martin (The Writer Books):

The hero has a complex dual role to play: to be human and to be larger-than-life. In many ways, Harry Potter and Bilbo the hobbit are like us, their readers. They are shy, quiet, reluctant to take center stage, not seeking fame or heroic stature. Yet they also have special powers, and when called upon, draw on their inner strengths to perform feats of great courage and personal sacrifice.

p. 98

I started thinking about the fantasy heroes I have loved. There is Taran from The Book of Three and the other stories in the Chronicles of Prydain. He was a young pig-keeper—apparently not a particularly good one—who wanted to be a knight. He was “relatable”—”human” as the quote above terms it. But he became larger than life, in part because of his desires to be greater than he was, but more so because he learned what that meant, learned how incapable he was, and then he did the really heroic.

There was Fiver from Watership Downs, the weakest rabbit in the warren, but with amazing powers that ended up saving them all. He was “human” because of his weakness and his inner strength. What mattered wasn’t just the exterior—the vulnerable part. He was more.

An obvious one is Lucy from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She was the youngest of the four Pevensies, which put her at a disadvantage. But when she found Narnia and came back telling her brothers and sister, their disbelief made her a sympathetic figure—more human. She was right but misunderstood and disbelieved. She became heroic because her belief was a cornerstone to their relationship with Aslan.

Speaking of C. S. Lewis fantasy, there is Oruel from Till We Have Faces . She was the unloved and unlovely princess, save for the special place she had in her sister’s heart. She too was sympathetic because of her humanness—her weaknesses, disadvantage, frailty, and her longings, her hopes. She didn’t become heroic until the end, which I won’t mention because I don’t want to spoil it for any who haven’t read the book yet.

This leaves me with a question, however. If the hero doesn’t become heroic until the end, will readers lose their interest in him (or her)? I mean, Till We Have Faces is not a well-known or popular work of Lewis’s. Is Oruel, perhaps, too human, and not enough larger than life?

What about some of the contemporary Christian fantasy? Billy and Bonnie in Dragons in Our Midst, Susan Mitchell in The Swords of Lyric series, Abramm in Karen Hancock’s The Guardian-King series, Kale and Bardon in The DragonKeeper Chronicles, Aidan in The Door Within series or Aidan in The Bark of the Bog Owl. Your thoughts?

Re-posted from an earlier article here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction.

Admirable Qualities


Recently Sally Apokedak, now an agent with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency, wrote a blog post about the qualities of compelling fiction characters. It’s a good list. About half of them I’ve seen in Donald Maass’s excellent book Writing the Breakout Novel, but I think all Sally’s additions are good ones.

What struck me was how different the list is from what I like and look for in the real life people that I hang with. But even more striking is how different these qualities are from the ones God says He values.

Yes, God does name some specifics when it comes to the qualities He esteems.

While our culture has taught us to admire the aggressive, take-charge protagonist who has a New York attitude or a bit of swag or an assertive insistence, God says the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit is “precious” in His sight (1 Peter 3:4).

Gentle and quiet?

He even says later that when we give an account of the hope that is in us we are to do so with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).

Through Paul He tells us that our speech should always be with grace (Colossians 4:6).

Through the prophet Micah, God tells us what He requires of us:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (6:8)

In Deuteronomy we learn that God wants us to love Him and obey Him, to fear Him and serve Him. Elsewhere we see that God wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

People that have these qualities would make the best bosses, I think, and the best spouses, friends, co-workers, neighbors, pastors, teachers, you name it. Just not the best protagonist in a work of fiction.

Why is that?

The main reason, I believe, is that we want the people in our life to be more like God and the characters we read about to be more like us.

We know ourselves to be flawed, in need of change and redemption, so we can relate to a character that struggles as we struggle. Not in the same way, necessarily, or because of the same things, but identifiably so that I see myself in what the character goes through.

At the same time, I believe we humans, following Satan’s lead, want to set ourselves up as god in our lives, so the power of the aggressive, in charge, snarky, assertive character who determines to make things right is appealing. We like to win with him as he blows away the bad guy or at least knocks him across the room.

Even sacrifice, which we admire in real life and in fiction, is better when it is bold and memorable and successful. Something seems wrong and sad about someone who gives his life for another who also ends up dying. We want the sacrifice to “work,” to pay off, to be effective.

It seems to me, then, that our fictitious characters are a mixed bag of what we are and what we wish we were. We want them to learn and grow because we want to learn and grow. We want them to win because we want to win. We want them to fight for justice because we wish we’d fight for justice.

Fiction characters aren’t us and they aren’t entirely a reflection of the values of society, but they show us a lot of both.

Published in: on October 11, 2012 at 5:39 pm  Comments Off on Admirable Qualities  
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Fantasy Friday – A Look At Daughter Of Light


Daughter of Light, a fantasy novel by Morgan Busse (Marcher Lord Press) has one of the most intriguing point of view characters I’ve read in some time. He isn’t the main character, and you can’t really think of him as the antagonist either. But he and his interests pit him directly against the true main character.

Mind you, I want to tell you about this character without giving too much away (down on spolers!), so if I’m somewhat vague, you’ll know why.

The character I’m talking about is Caleb Tala, second brother to Lord Corin, the power-hungry leader of Temanin. In some ways, Caleb is an uncomplicated person. He wants pleasure and ease, and is willing to pay a high price for both. Not in money but in loyalty and service.

At the same time he’s rather complex–driven by nightmares, haughty toward those who have significant power, kind to the most undeserving. He’s clever to the detriment of the main character, skilled in military strategy, understanding of human nature, but he can’t see his way out of his own political snarl.

In short, he’s a compelling character, someone I found myself cheering for–not that he would succeed, but that he would change. He’s not happy, and I want him to be. I want him to figure things out, to make better choices, to stop what he plans, renounce what he wins.

Ultimately, Morgan made me care for him. It’s a great accomplishment, I think.

Daughter of Light is high fantasy–the kind that feels like it’s set in medieval times. The only “magic” in the story is a big piece of the puzzle–the power that resides in a race of people thought to be extinct.

The premise is unique on its own, but when Caleb’s story and that of Nierne, the young scribe from Thyra, are woven together with the main character’s thread, “the plot thickens,” in a compelling way.

This storytelling is not straight bad guy against good or supernatural evil against supernatural good. There is complacency among the side of right and hope amid despair within the ranks of the defeated. And then there is Caleb.

Why is he, of all people, the focal point of the light coming from the daughter of light?

That question alone generates a great deal of interest in volume two of this fantasy series.

Fantasy Friday – Is Harry Potter A Character Readers Love?


Of course opinions about literary characters vary from reader to reader, but some general consensus eventually forms. More than one person has said that Harry Potter is a likable person but not someone to love.

I’ve thought about this some and have to agree. But in the same way that opinions vary, so do the reasons for the opinions. My friend and fellow speculative fiction writer, Sally Apokedak, concluded that she didn’t love Harry as a character because he was an angry young man.

That wasn’t on my radar screen at all. In fact, I thought Harry was quite docile in the opening book, even compliant. It is in book one that readers should have fallen in love with him, I think. But I didn’t.

He was in dreadful circumstances and he bore them well. When thrust into the limelight, he didn’t revel in it or try to capitalize on his fame.

Actually, he didn’t do much of anything. Instead, stuff happened to him. He didn’t craft a plan to go to Hogwarts to get out from under his home circumstances. Instead, the opportunity came to him, and he went along with those who told him what to do, whether that person was Hagrid or Mrs. Weasley or his teachers.

Here is the reason I don’t believe I loved Harry Potter as a hero of a series of brilliant novels — he was not the agent that made things happen. Consequently, I feared for him but didn’t get in his corner and cheer him on to success.

Granted, when presented with a definite choice, Harry came through with good decisions. He stood up for Nevile, the brunt of many students’ ridicule, he refused Draco Malfoy’s offered friendship, he chose Griffindor as his house instead of Slytherin, and throughout the series he did things like going back to warn Hermione of impending danger when the troll was in the school.

In the end of the series, he even forgives and rescues Draco and offers Voldemort a “chance at remorse” (Wikipedia).

Yes, Harry had moments when he was angry, generally times when he seemed painted into a corner. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the ministry rep, who later became the headmistress who replaced Dumbledore, didn’t allow the students to learn defense against the dark arts because she and others in wizardry leadership did not believe Voldemort had really returned. Harry knew they were wrong and that their actions laid the wizarding world open to danger. He was disgruntled until he had a plan of action.

Was he vengeful as some believe?

When his godfather was killed, he was angry and when Dumbldore was killed, he determined to destroy the hidden parts of Voldemort that kept him alive. These responses don’t seem untoward or out of the normal range of emotions for someone in those circumstances. I believed his reactions to be realistic and believable, and I wasn’t at all put off by them.

More amazing was how his desire to do whatever was required to bring an end to Voldemort crystalized. The compliant child became the determined savior willing to give up his own life to bring an end to the evil that threatened the rest of the wizarding world.

His actions were admirable. They were not lovable. For me to have gotten behind him in a more meaningful way early on, I think Harry would have had to be a different person. But then the books would have been completely different.

Showing God In Fiction Via The Protagonist


Earlier this month Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees hit a home run for his 3000 hit of his career, the first player wearing pinstripes to do so. This was big news, but someone else has crowded Jeter out of the limelight, at least a little. In the stands Christian Lopez, a recent college grad with a sizable school debt, caught the ball … and gave it back.

Those in the know say that record-setting ball could have brought between $200,000 and $1,000,000 from sports memorabilia collectors. But Lopez gave it back to Jeter, saying that he knew how important it was to the player. After all, he’d worked his whole life to get to that point. The ball was a symbol of what he had achieved and rightly belonged to him.

Some fans say Lopez played the fool. Others claim the Yankees conned him out of the ball. No one seems inclined to believe that the young man acted on a set of principles that outweighed any monetary gain or fast-talking arm twisting.

I have no idea what motivated Christian Lopez, but the key point here is, people are talking and writing about him because he did something unexpected. Unexpectedly generous. One writer asked, “What does it say about the Yankees, Mr. Jeter and our society that multi-millionaires and billionaires knowingly (and happily) accept the charity of a young man in debt?”

My question is, what does it say about the young man, acting out of step with the rest of the actors in that situation? He alone, who could least afford it, acted sacrificially.

As a result, people notice. And talk. And write. And ask, what would I have done in that situation? Is there a right or a wrong in the decision to keep the ball or give it back?

But what does any of this have to do with God and fiction?

If a simple act of kindness that cost a needy young man a sizable amount of cash can generate this kind of discussion, why can’t a character in a novel do something like this?

A Christian character, who’s faith has been established, steps up and does something out of step with what society expects. And all hell breaks lose. Literally. Temptations come his way. Criticism.

Think Joseph rejecting Potiphar’s wife. Clearly he was acting in a way that was contrary to what Mrs. Potiphar expected. And probably to what most of Egyptian society would have expected, because he made a decision, not based on his hormones but based on his relationship with the Living God.

Do we not write those stories in our novels today because we think they are too unbelievable? Would such a character seem too good for most of us to relate to?

But that’s the point, isn’t it? If we want to show God, somehow we have to show good. Not in a cliched way, not necessarily with everything turning out great in the end.

Perhaps in our stories the protagonist who sacrifices needs to end up in jail. But he’s singing. Or praying. Or telling somebody else how glad he is that God gave him the strength to resist.

Maybe that’s too over the top and no one can relate to a guy willing to go that far for his love for Christ. For this same reason, I don’t think the Apostle Paul is the Bible figure most people identify with. It’s Peter because he was just as apt to do the wrong thing as to do the right.

So maybe we take a Peter and show him giving his last dime to get his high school buddy set up in an apartment — the buddy who just got out of jail for molesting his cousin when he was still a minor. Or some other self-sacrificial thing that’s out of step with society.

Wouldn’t that get people thinking and talking? What kind of a God is this jerk following? What kind of a God is this compassionate young man following?

What do you think? Might not protagonists doing the unusual be a powerful way to show God in fiction?

– – –
For earlier posts on the subject see “Realism In Fiction,” “When God Shows Up In Fiction,” and “God In Contemporary Fiction, Another Take.”

Published in: on July 14, 2011 at 5:36 pm  Comments (1)  
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God In Contemporary Fiction, Another Take


Typically readers learn about characters, not by what the author says about them or how he describes them, but by what they do. Since God does not appear in our world as a corporeal being, it’s not easy for an author to show Him in action. I mean, how is the reader to know that the protagonist’s near miss on the freeway was God’s doing?

How do we know in real life? How do we know what God is “saying” to us or how He is leading us?

Often times it’s the accumulation of things — an open door here, a closed door there, a passage of Scripture, a specifically themed article followed by a sermon much like it, and so on. But those things don’t make for great fiction.

Neither does God coming in to save the day in answer to prayer, though He might do so in real life. In fiction it looks like authorial manipulation. The story seems contrived.

The truth is, life is contrived, more than we’d like to admit. God is sovereign, after all. Yet we humans, made in His image, have the freedom to choose. So what does that combination look like in fiction?

I’ve been playing around with different options for showing God in a contemporary story, and what I keep coming back to is showing Him through a relationship with the protagonist. The reader, then, not being able to see how God acts, can see how the person trusting in God acts.

I’m still not sure where the conflict should be, but I came across this quote on Facebook, posted by the C. S. Lewis Society of California:

Be not deceived, Wormwood, our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys. – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Besides making me want to reread the book, I saw a kernel of a story there. Not the demon’s involvement, but a protagonist still obeying in the face of events that look as if God has abandoned him.

The protagonist’s unyielding obedience, then, would serve to show us God — that He is worthy of that kind of trust, that kind of service. That His love matters more than whatever earthly stuff holding on to Him might cost.

I still think showing God truly, so that readers come away after reading the story knowing Him more, or at least being curious enough to want to know Him more, has to be some of the hardest writing a novelist can undertake.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced this is what sets Christian fiction apart from all other fiction.

Christians or non-Christians can write about troubled teens who hurt themselves or others. All writers can tell stories about angst-driven adults who have been disillusioned. Christians can show the world truly and sinful man’s nature in all its ugliness in the same way that non-Christians can.

Both can also show the moral thread that runs through men and women, making some determined to fight for justice and others choosing to live by the rules of their own making.

However, only Christians can include God in a story and have Him appear as He really is. Non-Christians can’t because they don’t know Him. Of course we Christians don’t know all there is to know about God, and our stories shouldn’t lead people to believe that we have Him tamed.

But neither should they make readers think God is unknowable or inaccessible or uninterested or absent.

Part of creating great art is addressing universal themes and telling the truth about them. Hitler had a distinct worldview but it was false. If he had been a talented painter or a great writer, he still would have been writing about that which was false. There is no beauty apart from truth.

Hence, today’s Christian novelists, should we wish to create artistic stories, must write about life in a way that unveils truth about far more than man and his behavior in the bedroom. We need to stop worrying about what we can and cannot write according to publishers’ strictures and put our shoulders to the task of writing what needs to be written, what only Christians can write — stories that tell the truth about God.

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For earlier posts on the subject see “Realism In Fiction” and “When God Shows Up In Fiction.”

The discussion continues with “God In Fiction Via The Protagonist.”

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