3 Reasons Christians Can Write Compelling Stories (Despite Past Failures)

April 30, 2018

Christian artistry doesn’t compare to the real stuff.

 

I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Over and over and over. You’ve probably even thought it. Why? Because, for the most part, it’s sad but true. Christian films can’t stand up next to MARVEL, Christian music is often shallow, and Christian fiction is more suited to the pulpit than the pages between a front and back cover.

 

Why is Christian media second rate? There are lots of reasons. In a nutshell, measuring up to mainstream media is difficult. Only exceptional people write bestsellers, box office smashes, and chart-topping lyrics. You must compete with the best. It’s a steep mountain to climb. Do you even stand a chance?

 

Yes.

 

You, as a Christian, are duly prepared and equipped. The truth of the gospel gives you tools that secular writers don’t have. Three in particular will aid you as you embark on your writing journey.

 

We Were Created to Create

God Almighty created man in His image. We are created to be like God. Servants to Him, yes. Worshipers and glory-givers, certainly. But in His image. What was He doing at the very moment He declared us to be in His image?

 

He was creating.

 

We should take our cues from that. God creates. We are in His image. Now we create. You are a writer. I am a writer. Writing is one of our methods of creating. The story worlds we build, the characters we develop, and the plots we weave are all echoes of God’s initial creation. Every time we sit down to write, we’re perpetuating the reverberations.

 

How does this help you? First, it provides purpose. Every time you pick up your pen, whether you feel inspired or not, you are doing something you were created to do. That is powerful. Don’t feel like writing today? Too bad, you’re made in His image. Don’t think you can outline? Made in His image. Are you bad at dialogue? Made in His image. Can’t edit? Made in His image. Whatever discouragement is telling you, you know the truth.

 

Second (and more important than anything else on this list), if you’re pursuing what God created and called you to do, you’re not alone. Yeah, you’ve probably heard that before. But hear it again. Dwell on it. God is with you every day. He makes the sun set and rise so you can sleep and get up again. He’s the strain of consistency between days, weeks, and months. The world doesn’t spin into total chaos during the long process of writing a novel, because God is holding it (and you) in the palm of His hand. God is there to help you write. Today. In November. And in seven years. He’s the ally you will never lose. When you’re not strong enough to create, He is. When you’re not awake enough, He is. When you’re not creative enough, He is. Pray for stamina, guidance, ideas, and plot bunnies (God’s got the good ones).

 

We Believe in Good and Evil

From epic fantasies to contemporary YA, all stories are centered on conflict. In the modern age of relativism, that fact seems ironic. Nowadays we’re taught that right and wrong are based solely on personal experience. However, try to write a story with that as your moral compass. Real conflict can’t happen in a relative world. No villain. No climax. No inciting incident. Not even a hero.

 

At the heart of every story ever written by an atheist is a blatant contradiction. Sometimes it’s subtle and unnoticeable. Sometimes it’s so blatant you want to scream.

 

Case in point: Jason Bourne. The movies are popular and entertaining. They are classics.

 

But have the Bourne movies ever changed anyone’s life? Probably not. Why? To even exist, Jason Bourne requires a wishy-washy, relativistic worldview. Wishy-washy worldviews don’t provide direction. Jason murders people in the first movie to avoid trouble. Three movies later, he’s still murdering people to get what he wants (needs?).

 

I submit to you that Jason Bourne is not a hero, and his story is not a great one.

 

Fun. Entertaining. Empty.

 

Christians know better. We know there is right and wrong. We know that hard choices must be made to preserve truth. We know sacrifices are noble, and honor is worth fighting for. This moral compass enables us to touch a reader’s life in ways that secular fiction can’t. We can draw lines between right and wrong, between hero and villain.

 

We Hold the Answer

Have you ever read a book that felt like it ended with a question mark? Last month I picked up Turtles All the Way Down from Barnes & Noble. I plowed through it over a short weekend. In many ways, the book was some of the best writing I have ever read. Deep, deep characters. Engaging prose. Heart-twisting emotions. Quickly moving plot. Unexpected turns. If I were judging the writing quality alone, I would have given it a five-star review.

 

But when I reached the last page, I felt depressed. I had become entwined with Aza (the main character), and her problems had become mine. But they weren’t resolved. Her life was so rough, so crazy, so confusing. Her world was barely stitched together. She needed answers.

 

John Green had none.

 

Aza desperately needed Jesus. John Green didn’t have Jesus to give. You do.

 

Storytelling is an opportunity to hit a reader deeper and harder than nearly any other medium. Within a few hundred pages, an author can dig deeper into a reader’s soul than any of his parents, best friends, or fairy godmothers. Chords will resonate in him with a volume that cannot be ignored. This is a chance to untangle the biggest question any human has ever asked: “So what?” John Green struck that chord in Turtles, but he didn’t have the answer.

 

You do.

 

Your story can shake a reader to his foundation and then build him back up again. Your story doesn’t have to be a hollow echo. You have the answer to humanity’s biggest question.

 

That is the power of Christian fiction.

 

Moving Onward

Christian storytellers typically aren’t the top dogs in the market. We’re not the most talented, and our stories aren’t the most moving. But that shouldn’t be the norm. We’re doing what we’re created to do. God is with us. We believe in heroes.

 

Writing is challenging. Writing alongside the best is even more challenging. That’s not a reason to never start, but to try harder. In His image. In His strength. For His glory.

20 Comments

  1. Olivia Giordano

    Thank you for this, Brandon. It’s so encouraging, to know that it’s all about Him. Our stories can have the most power, because they have a true hope. I love that we can rely on His strength alone. It’s not about us, but about him. I really needed to hear this today.

    Reply
    • Brandon Miller

      I’m glad this was encouraging. TBH, I also needed to hear this today, so I’m glad it circled around the publishing circuit. Talk about timing. 😛

  2. Mariposa Aristeo

    This article is fantastic, Brandon! 👍🏻 I think it’s my favorite one of yours so far. I particularly liked your point about good versus evil and how stories are mere prattle without those values. Being a Christian storyteller is certainly a high calling and you’ve shown us that brilliantly.

    Reply
    • Brandon Miller

      Oh, cool. It gets a favorite award. *awarded* Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Brandon Miller

    Shoutout to Grace for an amazing podcast episode. (Have any of y’all listened to it? She’s pretty good!)

    Reply
    • Olivia Giordano

      I did! She did amazing for sure. *nods* That combined with your writing was awesome. 🙂

    • Grace Livingston

      I’m so happy you guys liked it. <3 <3 ☺

  4. Daeus Lamb

    I really hope this gets shared all over the internet.

    Reply
  5. Shaina

    I hadn’t thought of the endings of books that way before. That we have the ability to break down walls, and then build up again with hope. I think hope, and the answers to the questions, are what is missing in much of mainstream fiction right now.
    It was a great article! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Ariel Ashira

      Shaina, I have read many books that end with hope. Hope by itself is not enough. There has to be a reason for that hope, or else that hope cant be held onto for long. Jesus is the reason we have hope, and the answer to our questions. This, I think, is what is so often missing.
      Awesome article, Brandon!!! One of the best I have ever read! I will share this with whoever I can.

  6. Holly Clarise

    Wow, this was really good and really encouraging! I agree with Daeus. I hope a lot of people will read this! Christians need to realize the truth you presented in this article!

    Reply
  7. Rachel Rogers

    Soooo good, Brandon. Thank you for sharing this. I’m definitely saving it to re-read.

    Reply
  8. Grace Livingston

    Probably my favorite article I’ve recorded so far! 😀 I especially loved the first section on how we were created to create. Definitely something I need to remind myself of more often. 🙂

    Reply
  9. naomijackson

    Wow, Brandon! This really needed to be said! I remember feeling the exact same way about The Fault in Our Stars as you did about Turtles–it is so heartwrenching to see people write beautifully compelling questions and then stand at a loss when it’s time for answers. (I think a lot of F Scott Fitzgerald’s work is exactly like this.) Thanks for the great article!

    Reply
  10. SleepwalkingMK

    Wow. This is the single most encouraging thing I’ve read about writing. It helps bust writers’ block and shows me once again why and how I must write. Thank you so much.

    Reply
    • Brandon Miller

      Wow, that’s pretty cool. Go forth, be encouraged. Write lots of words.

  11. Cole Peterson

    Thanks, Brandon. You did an excellent job building a strong case for why we write as followers of Jesus! Very encouraging!

    Reply
  12. Coralie

    Whoa. That was potent. I think I might just print this and hang it on my wall. The spirit that dwells within me leapt for joy when I read this. Wow…I’m at a loss for words. Thank you so very much for sharing this encouraging, enlightening, and hope-filled mantra.

    Reply
  13. The Golden Light

    Somehow I just now saw this article. I really like it! Thanks!

    Reply

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