One of the biggest challenges we face as writers is the process of translating our ideas into chunks of text that seem much more bland than the characters, settings, and themes did in our imaginations. Once we’ve filled the page, our next hurdle is to make our words both understandable and inviting to readers.
Story Embers Staff 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 in Ohio, and his hopes and dreams are nestled in the stars.
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.
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?
For better or for worse, villains are fascinating. The best ones challenge the protagonist’s worldview and ethics, pushing him closer to pivotal decisions than the smoke and mirrors of plot.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How is fiction useful? Is devoting our lives and careers to it appropriate? Most of us have wrestled with these questions. For some, concern has been posed by parents, who want to ensure that their children spend their time constructively and seeking truth. Others have sensed unspoken skepticism from the culture around them, as if writing couldn’t possibly be a meaningful pursuit on its own.