For thousands of years, audiences have been enamored with stories of heroes going on quests to save the world. From Robin Hood to Luke Skywalker to Wonder Woman, the trope’s variations are endless. But recently a new trend has taken over fiction and film. The traditional hero has been replaced with a more relatable “hero” who’s afflicted with as many flaws and vices as he is virtues (sometimes more). Instead of Saint George slaying the dragon, we encounter characters like the Punisher, a tortured man who murders bad guys in the name of justice.
The trouble with Christian writers today is that, instead of leaving everything behind as Matthew did, we sometimes stay huddled in our own little booths, waiting for excitement to tap on our windows. But not only does this mentality ignore Christ’s greatest commandment (“go into all the world”), it also stunts our growth. Only interesting people can craft interesting books. And being an interesting person requires one crucial element: adventure.
Writers are liars. We spend hours trying to make imaginary people and places seem realistic enough that the line between fact and fiction blurs inside readers’ heads. We want the sensory details to be so tangible that they can see, hear, and feel everything the characters experience. But readers aren’t the only parties we need to convince. Our characters should be tangled up in the deception too.
After I finished the draft of my first full-length novel, I eagerly sent a copy to a friend for feedback. Much to my dismay, she flagged one of the most important scenes: an argument between two of the protagonists. She said it seemed out of character for both of them, and I had to agree. They lacked a reason to be emotionally invested. But how could I rectify the mistake without altering the story’s outcome?
At the beginning of May 2021, I maxed out my schedule. That may sound stressful, but it was actually a happy occasion. I began a new job I felt good about. The sad part? I lost writing time. Thankfully, I prepared for the shift in my routine months beforehand. If I could only work on projects during the evenings and Saturdays, I knew I’d slip into a pattern of releasing books three or more years apart—especially considering the complexity and monstrous size of my epic fantasy novels. I didn’t want to make readers (or myself!) wait that long.
Theme is a hot topic among writers. From elementary school to university courses, teachers ask students to identify the messages that literature tries to communicate. Writing blogs discuss how to incorporate and strengthen themes. And fans relish debating the major themes of popular novels and films. While all of these exercises can reap beneficial insights, the assumption behind each one is that the theme was in the forefront of the author’s mind from the first draft onward. But that’s not always the case.
The Mandalorian. Artemis Fowl. Dustfinger. Kaz Brekker. These antiheroes and countless others have captured the imaginations of viewers, readers, and fangirls with such ferocity that traditional heroes struggle to compete. But what makes audiences love the cowardly Dustfinger, the calm Mandalorian, and the clever Artemis Fowl? Certainly not their morals, because when we first meet them, they’re far from paragons of virtue.
Since time began, spiritual beings have played a role in literature, ranging from stereotypical devils with horns and pitchforks to angels with halos and wings. These invisible, mystical creatures can raise the stakes and tension, rescue or endanger their human counterparts, and embody the conflict between good and evil, but since most of us have never laid eyes on one, how can we both accurately and artistically develop them as characters?
Christian writers who want to involve God as a character in their stories face an ongoing struggle. We’re acutely aware of how monumental the endeavor is, so we hesitate. If we’re too bold and dive in without forethought, we may make mistakes that mislead readers. But if we’re too timid, we risk tiptoeing around the real source of story, beauty, and truth—God Himself.
The divine is an elusive subject to capture, yet humans have been fascinated with it since the beginning of time, exploring it through poetry, stories, music, art, and various other mediums. Whether God shows up in a burning bush, as a thunderous voice accompanied by fire and lightning on a mountain, or in the humble person of Jesus Christ, incredible wonders are guaranteed to happen. Any moment that He steps into the story of humanity is powerful and purposeful.