For writers, especially “serious” writers, fanfiction can feel like the elephant in the room. Everyone is aware of it, and many of us have tiptoed into it. Yet, because of the stigma that clings to it, we avoid talking about it. The genre (if it can even be classified as one) has no gatekeepers or editors, and readers often use it to extend stories they love—usually with an odd or disturbing twist. You could fill a library with all of the erotica and overdramatic depictions of the worst tropes (consider yourself warned). Several popular mainstream books-turned-films began as fanfiction, including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Jane Austen’s delightful novel repackaged with zombies and zombie fighters) and Fifty Shades of Gray (a smutty mutation of Twilight minus the vampires).
For the first six years of my writing life, I didn’t know how to find the exact spot where a story sinks into a bottomless pit of darkness. Nobody around me could agree on which kinds of content deserved an R rating, and I wasn’t sure what my own stance should be. Half of the Christian community claimed that any book containing foul language or violence overexposed audiences to sin. To younger me, this made sense. But the other half of the Christian community cheered over gruesome battles and roguish characters, and they defended those inclusions with the shield and sword of realism. To older me, this seemed like a more progressive approach.
In cheap secular entertainment, the value of faith is chronically underestimated and mischaracterized as either irrational belief without evidence or arbitrary adherence to a set of dogmas. On the other side of the spectrum, Christian novels and films sometimes flaunt a cleaned-up, Sunday-best version of faith that, to be fair, is not much of an improvement on mainstream media’s interpretation—which only exacerbates the problem.
Strong women, as they’re portrayed in a lot of fiction and films, have a problem. They act like men (albeit hot men with curvy bodies and perfect hair, teeth, and nails). This bothers me, and it should bother you too, because we’re being fed a lie. Male and female perspectives each possess great worth, and both genders are vital aspects of the human experience. Neglecting one or the other in a story guts the truth’s potency.
A month ago, I had a shocking revelation about my current work-in-progress: my main character lacked a distinguishable personality and clear motives. I’d spent over a year on the story and written almost 100,000 words. How did I manage to screw up one of the most important parts?
Abortion. Homosexuality. Feminism. Race. Border politics. These topics dominate the news, and fiction needs to accurately portray our world, but how do we write with caution and avoid inflaming or alienating readers? (Hint: Not with blunt statements like the opening of this article.) God’s Word reveals answers and helps us form clear stances on controversial issues. Unfortunately, when we try to share our beliefs in our stories, we can come across as condescending (at best) or openly hostile.
What makes a character come alive? Writers have been asking this question for ages as they attempt to convince readers that little markings on a page are actually living, breathing people. This is no easy feat. You’ve likely struggled with it yourself. In this article, Daeus explains the one thing you need.
Many of us, by default, partition off our writing growth and our personal growth. One is vocational and the other is spiritual. Although we realize that the two can and do intersect on occasion, we assume that the phenomenon is limited to traits that help us with the process (such as patience or courage), not experiences that inform our craft. But what if both kinds of growth coexist in the same sphere, each complementing the other?
In this article, I’m going to give you two lists of outside-the-box strategies to cracking the big-picture puzzle of an engaging story. The more you experiment, the more sides of your story you’ll reveal until you can visualize how every piece fits together and find the jewel at the center. As you consider the possibilities, don’t be too quick to discard any, because sometimes the ideas you’re reluctant to try will help you the most.
Have you ever read a book or watched a movie where the interaction between two lovers became graphic? Or been absorbed in an adventure story and suddenly had to skim unnecessarily steamy scenes? I have, and I hate it. Not only does the sensuality rip me out of the story and make me roll my eyes, it taints the characters (and prevents me from recommending an otherwise great novel).