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.
Story Embers Editor-in-Chief
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He co-founded Story Embers in April 2018 and leads the site as editor-in-chief, where he sets visions and goals, reviews submissions, handles web design & marketing, and oversees site initiatives.
Someday Josiah 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 writers at Ink Slinger Academy or writing short stories on his website as he works toward achieving these goals.
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.
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.
People regularly complain about preachiness in Christian fiction. However, in my experience, most Christian fiction I’ve read that’s been published in the past decade isn’t the evangelistic propaganda that readers complain about. Instead, the biggest problem is that I didn’t care about or relate to the characters. Here’s why this happens.
“Bad books are a myth because the only measuring stick is people’s whims.” I ended my first article in this mini series with that provocative and troubling conclusion. But hopefully you followed my reasoning. Since even literary-minded readers occasionally enjoy “bad” books, how can we make any objective assessments?
We all have books we hate where we can’t fathom how anyone else could enjoy them. And yet scrolling through the reviews of even your least-favorite book on Amazon or Goodreads will inevitably reveal a number of five-star write-ups. Why do readers like these books? And why does this matter to authors?
Last summer at our annual staff retreat, we ran into a dilemma. Many people want to become published authors. But that dream gets buried under rejections, discouragement, and life’s responsibilities. So they give up. Since we desire to help Christian storytellers excel, this presented a challenge: Why do writers quit? And how can we empower them to continue pursuing their goals?
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?
Writers tend to view symbols as literary tropes to develop a story’s theme. However, well-executed symbols not only deepen theme: they enhance the audience’s enjoyment of a story. Here’s a few lessons we can learn from the new Star Wars trilogy about how to craft symbols that emotionally impact readers.