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?
Story Embers Article Writer
Martin Detwiler is mostly normal. For a writer. He is, like most of us, a mess of paradoxes. Dreamer & cynic, philosopher & clown, hopeless romantic & grim realist—if there’s a contradiction, you’ll find it in him somewhere or another. But at the heart of it all, Martin is a man made new by Christ, the Author of that cosmic tale we call history. He has had a passion for stories from his earliest teen years, and the transition from reading others’ stories to writing his own seemed a foregone conclusion. His greatest inspirations are C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, both of whom stirred a passion for stories that combine the aesthetic and the true in such a way that the reader is given an experiential glimpse of God’s reality.
Martin lives with his wife in South Carolina, where she keeps his sky-high hopes and dreams firmly rooted in the humble yet beautiful soil of reality.
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.
As writers, we love exploring the internal struggles that shape our characters. During formative moments, emotional turmoil may need to take center stage, as with Thomas in Nadine Brandes’ Fawkes. Usually this scene happens near the story’s middle, when everything—including the protagonist—seems to be falling apart. Turning points deserve emphasis; otherwise the deep change in the character’s arc will seem artificial or glossed over.
Imagine that, for twenty-four hours, you’re limited to the use of half your vocabulary, your awareness of interpersonal subtext dims, and all your skills and strengths revert back to level one. On top of that, you shrink to the height of a hobbit. Carrying out your normal routine would be frustrating, wouldn’t it? But you would still have nearly the same internal experience. Your needs and desires wouldn’t disappear, only your ability to express and achieve those goals.
God designed humans as intricate beings, and a single culture encompasses thousands (if not millions) of individuals interacting with each other in hundreds of different combinations and relationships. Reflect on your own life and the roles you rotate through each day: sibling, caretaker, student, mentor, friend. As a writer, how can you presume to play God and pack all of that complexity into your own worldbuilding?
When you sit at your desk and take up your pen, you’re centered on the act of being a storyteller. You bring to bear all the skill and experience you’ve accumulated. But what about the moments when you aren’t shaping settings and characters? What mindset fills your head?
In cheap secular entertainment, the value of faith is chronically underestimated and mischaracterized as either irrational belief without evidence or arbitrary adherence to a set of dogmas. On the other side of the spectrum, Christian novels and films sometimes flaunt a cleaned-up, Sunday-best version of faith that, to be fair, is not much of an improvement on mainstream media’s interpretation—which only exacerbates the problem.
Many of us, by default, partition off our writing growth and our personal growth. One is vocational and the other is spiritual. Although we realize that the two can and do intersect on occasion, we assume that the phenomenon is limited to traits that help us with the process (such as patience or courage), not experiences that inform our craft. But what if both kinds of growth coexist in the same sphere, each complementing the other?
The task of fiction writing is complicated. We make up people, places, and situations that are supposed to inspire readers to care and relate. We’re not trying to enchant anyone to the extent that they lose sight of the line between fiction and reality, but we are hoping to lift the veil of disbelief so that their imagination can run through the lush grass or the chipped pavement of worlds that don’t exist.
Shortly after I graduated from high school, I decided to watch a horror film for the first time. I wasn’t sure I wanted to, because I’d never been a fan of scenes designed to startle the audience, and the prospect of demonic activity layered onto suspense intimidated me. My gut urged me to discount the horror genre as unfit for conscientious Christians, but I knew I needed to experience it at least once to evaluate it fairly. So I went to see The Conjuring 2 with my best friend.