All of us are experts at sad stories. We’ve read novels that schooled us in death scenes, betrayals, fractured relationships, and harrowing pasts. These examples taught us that tormenting the protagonist is easy: just thwart his deepest longings. Then we can type “the end” and congratulate ourselves for accurately reflecting our fallen world. But the real sad story is how untrained we are in the art of weaving meaning into tragedy.
Since the rebellion in the garden of Eden, our souls have longed for wrongs to be righted and life to be whole. Happy stories aren’t heaven on earth because they ignore our brokenness. One of the most challenging aspects of the human condition is when we fall into hardship, where we begin to question who we are and why God has seemingly forsaken us.
Books were history’s first long-range torture devices, subjecting readers to vivid renditions of holocaust, suicide, doubt, and betrayal. As the worlds and characters shatter, so do our hearts. But can we write about such situations without creating emotional scars? Should we even try?
In a world where the gods of sexual pleasure pose strong opposition to Christianity, we need Christian storytellers who are ready to write about sexuality appropriately and biblically. In this article, I outline seven principles to consider when incorporating sex into our stories.
Swearing, like most subjects in the Christian community, has created its share of controversy. Are English words, which are nothing more than subjective pairings of vowels and consonants, offensive to the Almighty, or only when combined with His name? Should we avoid saying certain words around children? What about typing them out?
Should you write a scene of human sacrifice where the priest cuts out the victim’s [bleep] with a stone knife, the body [bleep], and the blood [bleepity bleep bleep]? (I’m trying to be sensitive here.) These kinds of questions plague Christian writers—especially beginners and those who have been raised without exposure to brutality.
Light is a paradox. Without darkness, the light’s ability to reveal hidden wonders and dangers would be lessened. Without the night to conceal, gloom can’t be driven away by dawn. Without shadows for contrast, even the brightest light cannot manifest its full strength. This is true of the gospel as well as writing.
Stories that focus on the rosy sides of reality are rarely compelling or memorable. They’re predictable—and indistinguishable from other patented plot lines. Just like Hallmark films. Although lighter fiction has a place in today’s market, I’d argue that we need more stories tackling the gritty sides of reality from a Christian perspective. We explored this two years ago with our Tricky Subjects series. And this year we’re addressing it again from a new angle based on the eleventh resolution of our Christian Storytellers Manifesto.
Killing a side character isn’t bad storytelling. But some writers (particularly those in the fantasy genre) tend to rely on death to catalyze character growth, which makes it predictable. Even worse, it trivializes the loss of a human being. As Christian authors, our stories ought to preserve and emphasize the value of life, and we can’t do that if we’re crucifying characters purely to keep the plot moving.