As we stumble along in Jesus’s footsteps, we want the stories we craft to be a source of light to our broken and chaotic world. But we don’t own a corner on the lane of creativity. We share the space with hundreds of other authors, many of whom have different beliefs yet still sprinkle wisdom into their work. The general market holds many treasures in the children’s book category, inspiring young people to appreciate diversity, treat others with kindness, and develop strong values like truthfulness and responsibility.
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.
Some Christian writers believe that their characters should sprout wings—or at least tote a halo throughout the book. Others, taking the negative approach, think their characters should be devils who transform into angels (undoubtedly due to a five-minute conversation in which the understanding of spiritual realities is suddenly knocked into them). If our characters resided in heaven, this stance would be acceptable—but they don’t, and it’s about time we pushed them off the cliff into reality.
Killing a side character isn’t bad storytelling. But some writers (particularly those in the fantasy genre) tend to rely on death to catalyze character growth, which makes it predictable. Even worse, it trivializes the loss of a human being. As Christian authors, our stories ought to preserve and emphasize the value of life, and we can’t do that if we’re crucifying characters purely to keep the plot moving.
“What’s your plan?” As graduation looms closer, high schoolers get sick of hearing this question from friends, relatives, and strangers. Career decisions are daunting for anyone—and even more complicated for teens who want to shove words across the page 24-7. The hard truth is that writing won’t be profitable from the get-go, so adults tell aspiring young authors that they need to be more realistic.
Characters need flaws to humanize them. When we try to follow this advice, sometimes we populate our stories with characters who are perfect except for one glaring issue, such as selfishness or insecurity. But how many of us have a single weakness?
Fawkes is one of those novels that breaks the “rules” for how to deliver a Christian message without sounding preachy. Many of the tropes used in this novel would be cliched or annoying in other stories. But Brandes makes them work without any of those downsides. Here’s how she did it.
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14 NIV) This is one of my favorite verses, and I love to pray it over my writing. Recently though, I hit a brainstorming block that left me winded and unsure how to move forward. I swung from feverishly scribbling notes to mapping out the story on a whiteboard, hoping that a different view would help.
Many Christian storytellers desire to set themselves apart from the secular world by writing clean stories. Clean fiction can have a purpose, especially if the target audience expects it. But if all Christian fiction is clean, I’d contend that we’ve lost something. Here’s why.