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.
A non-writer friend once told me that I seem to enjoy making my characters suffer. I disagree. Sure, portraying pain can be an exciting challenge, but I don’t relish putting my characters through trials. If their hearts are breaking, so is mine. Despite this, I realize that characters, like people, grow through adversity, and oftentimes they experience the greatest change when their circumstances can’t get any worse. In storytelling terminology, this hopeless moment is known as the low point, and it happens shortly before the climax.
Characters need flaws to humanize them. When we try to follow this advice, sometimes we populate our stories with characters who are perfect except for one glaring issue, such as selfishness or insecurity. But how many of us have a single weakness?
Last August, a young man in my church killed himself. He came from a large family, and our community loved him. I decided to chronicle the impact of his death, because a Christian suicide is a troubling situation. If the gospel is a message of hope in the midst of ultimate suffering, what happens when a Christian commits the ultimate hopeless act?
Abortion. Homosexuality. Feminism. Race/border politics (because those have gotten conflated). 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?
Have you ever read a book or watched a movie where the interaction between two lovers became graphic? Have you ever 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).
The 1860s to 1890s were a shoot ’em up, bang ’em up period full of drinking, swearing, killing, and general lawlessness. So, how are you supposed to write a wholesome story set during the Wild West?
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.