A NYT-bestselling author I heard once argued that readers tend to “read fiction to escape. Authors are entertainers,” and whether we like it or not, we need to give people what they want. But is this really accurate? Or is there a deeper reason for why people read fiction and what we need to thus provide them as storytellers?
Story Embers Summit & Marketing Director
Josiah DeGraaf is a writing teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since. He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations and loves to take normal people, put them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then force them to make difficult choices. Someday he hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him teaching young writers at the Young Writer’s Workshop or writing short stories on his website as he works toward achieving these goals.
In the past, Christian publishers shied away from the topic of mental illness. And when a book did broach it, sometimes the advice dismissed the condition as unreal, perpetrated myths, or failed to provide the needed support and encouragement. Thankfully, Christian publishers have become more open to addressing gritty issues, and several releases over the last couple decades have touched on mental illness—including Sara Ella’s Coral, the center of our 2022 summer book study.
Sometimes I worry that we spend more time talking to peers about the ins and outs of being a Christian writer than we do asking God to help us flourish at it. Chatting about ourselves is easy—it’s one of our favorite hobbies as humans. And if the other person shares our interests, we can ramble back and forth for hours. But when we speak with our Heavenly Father, other concerns tend to crowd in. An ailing family member. A sin we need to overcome. A decision we’re not sure how to make. Prayer is the lifeline that keeps us afloat in the whitecaps. We have no doubts about that! But is it necessary to our writing?
Three years have passed since we released our manifesto, but some of you may still be wondering how it can help you thrive. A document like this is pointless if it never translates to action. We recently surveyed our audience to see how signers have applied the CSM to their writing, and today I’m going to highlight the five differences it’s made in their spiritual lives, mindsets, and relationships.
Few events showcase the power of redemption as beautifully as the repentance of a hardened villain. But few events undercut the nature of redemption as starkly as a villain who forsakes evil without self-reproach or fallout. Unfortunately, today’s media culture slants toward the latter. At Lorehaven, I’ve pointed out how various Marvel TV shows misrepresent redemption. But those aren’t the only offenders. Pixar’s Toy Story 4, as popular as it may be, never deals with Gabby Gabby’s manipulative tactics. And in the recent Star Wars trilogy, Kylo Ren chooses the light side during the climax without acknowledging the magnitude of his crimes.
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.
Finding time to build up a word count is a widespread need in the writing community. That’s why so many articles offer advice on balancing life and writing (including the ones we’ve published on this site). But even if you manage to squeeze writing into your days, you may worry that you’re being unproductive. Your ideas trickle out, so you only type a few sentences, or social media distracts you. That’s happened to all of us, including me.
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.
Two and a half years ago, we founded Story Embers with the goal to train Christian writers to not only be strong in their faith but also in their craft. Over time, God gave us better clarity about who we are as a team, what kind of projects we should be pouring our energy into, and where we need to go to equip as many writers as possible. Here’s how we’re changing our strategies.
Have you ever noticed that one area of plot tends to get neglected? There are many strategies for structuring a plot. But advice on structuring individual scenes? That’s rare. Thankfully, the Triangle Scene Method is one of the best tools available to help you better structure your scenes.