Have you ever set down a book, startled that the author turned your outlook upside down with tiny black marks on paper? Do you want to write stories that have the same effect on others?
As I stared at the blank page beneath the title of this article, my mind revisited all the stories that have given me a transformative experience. I love when my heart skips a beat and I pause to process the exhilarating symphony that the words are orchestrating in my imagination. Or when I come to an ending so satisfying that I’m amazed.
Jesus didn’t shut His eyes to the suffering around Him. From hypocrisy to idolatry and worse, He confronted sin head-on with God’s love—sometimes in everyday conversation, but more often He couched His teachings in parables. Christian storytellers need to practice the same wisdom and extend the same grace. My newest release, Inside the Ten-Foot Line, provides one example of how to gently reach hurting readers. Although the novel features a lot of volleyball action (it’s sports-centric), a dash of romance (it’s YA), and humor (because I’m the author), it touches on a struggle many teens face.
Kids’ minds are like clay. Everything they see and experience leaves a mark, and for better or for worse, the impression is difficult to remove later. I don’t recall much from my childhood, except the characters who took me on grand adventures. However, a startling amount of elementary and middle-grade fiction promotes damaging ideas—you know, the whole “parents are the worst, kids are smarter than adults, rebellion is cool” schtick. Because stories influence how children perceive the world, we should be especially careful when crafting entertainment aimed at them.
If you’ve been reading Christian fiction for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve noticed that some books are powerful and inspiring while others fall flat. What’s the difference? Any number of variables can be the cause, but one culprit is relying on certain Christian scenarios to communicate a theme instead of building it into the entire story.
“Show, don’t tell” is a mantra that writing teachers quote to conceal the challenges of story crafting, and their students regurgitate it to sound insightful—whether they understand the concept or not. It’s lasted through the decades because it defines the difference between engaging and boring fiction.
I used to believe that a writer’s mission was to tell the world important truths through stories. Talk about pressure. If you’re like me, you don’t handle pressure well. I’m generally laidback, but when I start worrying that I’m not as intentional, skilled, or efficient as I should be, my life can get wild in a hurry.
As Christian writers, stories offer us a purpose to fulfill on a daily basis, as well as a pastime that refuels our energy. Whether we’re obsessing over choosing the right theme or admiring the protagonist’s grit in our latest read, one of the reasons we’re passionate about fiction is because we know it has the power to irreversibly change lives. But sometimes we forget that God designed a unique character arc for each of us that predestined when we would meet Him and He’d begin cleansing and shaping us.
Have you ever loved a book or TV series as a child, re-watched it as an adult, and realized how terrible it actually is? Several stories fall into this category for me—many of which are Christian and contain heavy-handed messages. But Adventures in Odyssey is one of those rare Christian stories that stands up to the test of time. Here’s why.