Why does Christian fiction as a genre have to exist? Why can’t we ditch the special label and simply write good fiction? In the first installment of our article series exploring The Promise of Jesse Woods, Josiah answers these objections and explains what the book teaches about crafting explicitly Christian themes that resonate with readers.
When you write, you don’t aim to recreate reality. Instead, you excitedly create a secondary world. Although a few aspects resemble reality to make the story understandable, other aspects are intentionally unrealistic to make a point. If this describes your work-in-progress, you know I’m talking about speculative fiction.
A plot may stimulate readers’ minds, but even the most unforeseen twists won’t linger in their memory unless the events are deeply rooted in the characters’ lives. Strong character development engages readers’ emotions, giving them someone to invest in and identify with. It’s a crucial component of fiction, but the execution looks starkly different in a plot-driven story than in a character-driven one. By comparing the two styles, writers can learn how to capitalize on the one that best serves their work-in-progress.
When you think about fast-paced stories, what comes to mind? Cliffhangers that keep you awake late at night, turning pages so quickly that you get paper cuts? Or anemic character arcs and half-hearted themes. Sometimes films and books sacrifice character development for the sake of fight scenes and car chases. But if a character’s experiences don’t change him at all, what’s the point?
When you claim to speak truth, opening your mouth is dangerous. Words are not idle collections of syllables in a conversation or symbols on paper. The pen is mightier than the sword, causing both greater good and greater harm. Wars, racial slavery, and genocide are all carried out by the sword, but words provoked or justified those actions.
Have you ever come across a saying that jumped inside your mind, made itself at home, and informed your thinking from that day forward? This happened to me several years ago when I read a quote by Neil Gaiman that rephrased G. K. Chesterton’s words from decades earlier. It helped me understand the unique strengths of the fantasy genre.
When you think of poetry, what comes to mind? Language strung together that you don’t understand but somehow exemplifies the standard of literary beauty? Sentences that drop off in the middle and flow onto the line below?
Every fiction writer has fallen in love with stories and dreams of engaging readers the same way. Few, however, are interested in poetry. In our modern age, this art form fights a losing battle against flashier entertainment.
For many of us who write speculative fiction, worldbuilding is a key part of the process. I enjoy harmonizing the story world, themes, and characters. When I succeed, the results are rewarding, and I’m equally fascinated by complex cultures in the books I read. Since art both reflects and affects worldview, its role in a culture reveals many secrets.
“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.