Thoughts And Ramblings of The Christian Writer (Part One)

“The Christian in the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.” 
― Francis A. Schaeffer

From the time I was a little girl, I’ve been an author at heart. I have always loved telling, creating, and reading stories. Whether it be a book I found at the library, a movie that I just saw at the local theater, or a real person’s growth and testimony, stories fascinate me beyond belief. Being a storyteller is an integral part of who I am.

As most of you (hopefully) also know, faith is an integral part of who I am. If I was to rate each part of myself, faith would always come up on top, as my relationship with God is the most important thing in my life. And while there are many great Christian authors who do not include their faith much in their stories, I cannot imagine keeping my faith out of my stories. One way or another, Christianity is bound to play some sort of role in my writing—it is simply the way God has called me to write.

Nonetheless, like many other people have pointed out, Christian art doesn’t exactly have the best reputation right now. Some may pin it on the fact that we live in an increasingly secular society and others may blame it on small budgets, but a fact still remains.

Oftentimes, faith based stories come out sub-par. And as a Christian and a writer, this is something that I find quite sad. 

I don’t think it is because Christians are inherently bad at storytelling. I also don’t believe that it’s because Christianity makes for a weak storyline—look at the Bible! I believe most of our problem is in our approach, and that with a little hard work, we can create stories that are both well made and and reflective of the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

Thus, I have decided to create a short series on writing good Christian fiction—and the first part of this series will be on writing good characters.

One of the most important things in writing a good story is creating a strong cast. For me, characters are the first thing that draws me to a story. That said, one of of the biggest problems that I’ve seen in (some) Christian fiction is that the characters exist for the story—not the other way around. 

In real life, we live amongst a wide variety of personalities, narratives, and temperaments. Ask me to name my five closest friends and I can point out specific traits that make them unique and special. However, in a lot of Christian novels, I have only seen a few personalities represented—and they’re often in extremes for the point of showing a character come to Christ.

Elaborating on this, many character only have struggles that are dramatic, cliche, or too-subtle-to-notice. I have seen female protagonists who come across like a damsel in distress, but rarely female protagonists that battle stubbornness and hard-headedness. I seen male protagonists who struggle with lust or anger, but rarely male protagonists who struggle with overeating, or self image.

Furthermore, I haven’t often seen characters who have quirks or interests that aren’t essential to the story or lesson. In The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, Tibby loves filmmaking, Bridget is impulsive, Carmen is introspective, and Lena is noticeably introverted. Those details aren’t necessary to the book (though, I suppose Bridget’s impulsiveness could be argued as essential in the first book) but they added life to the characters. They made them feel real and they made them relatable to the audience. Meanwhile, in The Hunger Games, there was a guy named Peeta who’s a baker. Corny? Maybe. Memorable? Absolutely.

In short, it is important to know your characters intricately, and for them to be written as if they have a life outside of the story. It’s important that they feel like characters we can get attached to and relate to. And, considering the vast diversity that we have in our churches, it is important that they represent a variety of different personalities and people. The kind of books that I love the most are the ones that  make me feel like the characters are my best friends. This is something we must do if we want our stories to feel real. Interview your characters. Stick them in various situations and see how they react. Consider how they would think or fall in love. Or how they would dream.

The kind of characters that become the most memorable are the ones that feel the most real. It is our job, as authors, to breathe as much life into them as we can.

Christian books/series/movies that get this right.

  • The Christy Miller Series by Robin Jones Gunn
  • The Left Behind Series by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
  • SouledOut Sisters Series by Neta Jackson
  • There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
  • October Baby 
  • Do You Believe

How about you? Do you have any tips on how to create good characters? And have you read any books that you feel do an exceptional job with this? Feel free to share in the comments section below!

 

 

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Thirty Day Blogging Challenge #2: Day Twenty-Three

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Day Twenty-Three: A Book I’d Recommend 

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’m a huge bookworm. I love reading to see stories unfold and learn new things. Some of my favorite authors range from Karen Kingsbury, to Neta Jackson, to Charles Dickens, to Emily P. Freeman. I love seeing characters come to life and getting the opportunity to live a thousand lives all from my small, humble bedroom. Nonetheless, in the midst of all of the books that I love, there’s one that stands out in particular.

The Bible. 

Topping bestselling charts, the Bible is a piece of literary art. But, it’s so much more than that. It’s God’s written Word—and an account of His faithfulness in so many lives throughout decades of time. It’s His promise and a portrait of grace—promising Salvation to all who believe it and follow it. Mixing history, with poetry, with God’s words—I think even a skeptic would have to admit that it’s one of the most dynamic books of all time. 

It also contains all of the elements of a great story—even though it’s a recording of real events. It has action, with Paul’s dangerous missions across the world. It has romance, with Ruth and Boaz. It has raw emotional honesty, as King David’s laments in the Pslams. And, it challenges the status quo, as Jesus reaches out to the most marginalized of His time, bringing hope and restoration.

It also contains literary elements, such as foreshadowing within the Old Testament laws. It’s clear to see with a little bit of study that the sacrificing of lambs was a symbol, one that the people of that time would later understand as they learned of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It also contains alteration, anthropomorphism, and apostrophe—elements commonly found in many great works of literature (I’m geeking out big time here, y’all!)

Most of all, the Bible is a love letter to humanity—professing God’s sacrificial love for each one of us and pleading to adopt us as His children into one big family of believers. God used hundreds of authors throughout history to write this book under His divine inspiration, and it is up to us to accept this call. It is up to us to read the greatest story of all times, written by the Author and Creator of each of our stories. 

The Bible is the book of my life. It’s the book I live with, the book I live by, the book I want to die by—N. T. Wright

 

The Future Of Our Faith: By Ron J. Sider and Ben Lowe

Hey everyone, sorry I haven’t posted in a while! I promise to get better about that moving forward! 

A couple of months back, I read a book called The Future of Our Faith by Ron J. Sider. and Ben Lowe. This book is an “intergenerational conversation on critical issues facing the church“, and throughout this book, we see commentary on important social issues through the eyes of a baby-boomer and a millennial.

Ron J. Sider is seventy-six years old, a professor at Palmer Theological Seminary, and the author of over ten books, including Living Like Jesus, Just Politics: a Guide for Christian Engagement, Churches That Make A Difference, etc. He is passionate about social justice and has been working within the Christian community for years to help Christians better engage with the world around them.

Ben Lowe is a Christian author (Green Revolution, Doing Good Without Giving Up, and The Future of Our Faith) and Senior Advisor with Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. He has worked in the Christian community to try to raise more awareness for Biblical environmentalism and once ran for congress in 2010.

Reading this book, it’s clear that both authors have done a lot of research on trends and problems facing the modern day church. Deeply frustrated with our current dysfunctional patterns, they strive to pave a new way forward in our approaches to topics like race, wealth, homosexuality, politics, gender equality, the environment, social sin vs. personal sin, divorce, etc.

The chapters are broken up into nine chapters, each addressing a separate topic. They’re both well-researched in different stances on important issues and strive to present their views with sensitivity and grace—especially on some of the more controversial topics. They don’t always stick with popular opinion and are quick to call out dysfunction when needed, but they always remain Biblical and stick to God’s Word as their number-one-source.

The Future of Our Faith remains relevant throughout, and addresses some of the very questions that we’re asking as a Christian society right now in a very nonpartisan way—avoiding siding completely with either political party. It avoids focusing on legislation and is more concerned with how we, as the Body of Christ, operate in the world around us. I appreciated this, as I believe that the current hyper-political atmosphere of the church is damaging our witnessing and making the us look bad.

At the end of each chapter, each author comments on the other’s points, and despite the extremely wide age gap, they tend to wholeheartedly agree with each other’s perspective. It was clear that they each valued the other’s opinions and appreciated the unique perspectives of their counterpart.

Personally, I believe that every Christian should read this, as the choices that we make at this point of history have the potential to shape the “future of our faith” (No pun intended). The authors have an excellent and consistent worldview and present a positive framework for how we can move forward in a changing world. It was easily one of the most insightful books that I’ve read in a long time.

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To conclude, I would easily give this book a five-out-of-five stars and I’d highly recommend it to any Christian interested in engaging Biblically with the world around them. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Three Day Quote Challenge: Day 2

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”-To Kill A Mockingbird 

I have always loved this quote from one of my favorite classics, To Kill A Mockingbird. The book, in all honestly, isn’t really about mockingbirds. The book’s main theme is doing the right thing even when everyone else is against you, and putting everything on the line to help another person. In order to do this, the main character (Atticus Finch) is forced to put himself in the shoes of a lot of different people, as he strives to defend an innocent man accused of crime.l-114822.jpg

Oftentimes, it can be easy to consider things from our perspective, but difficult to understand life in another’s shoes. Look no further than Twitter to find that too often, human beings are better at speaking than listening. As a society, we criticize other’s choices without taking the time to understand the motive behind their actions. While we may not always agree with the decisions that someone makes, we’re bound to have more compassion when looking at the world from another’s perspective.

I believe that the best way to “climb into someone’s skin and walk around in it” is to listen. Through listening, we validate that the person we’re listening to matters, and that we care about their thoughts and feelings. James 1:19 says “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

Imagine what would happen if everyone took the time to listen and really hear the stories of those around them. If everyone did this, so many of our social ills, such as hate, racism, and violence, would fade away. Our entire world would be turned upside-down, simply by practicing the art of seeing life through another’ eyes; taking the time to listen and care and love people where they’re at. ❤️

We can be a spark that starts a fire.

Let us start a movement of love.

A movement of listening.

A movement of walking in another’s shoes. 

If you want to read more about this topic, I wrote something similar a while back. You can find it in the link here.

Since I forgot yesterday, I’m going to nominate six people today. 

Concealed Foundation 

Only Way 2 Hope 

Papberry 

Passion and Pixels 

Victoria Favor 

Aschulting 

Thirty Day Blogging Challenge: Day 12

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From the time that I was a little girl, I’ve always been obsessed with books. My mom used to take me to the library every week and I would always come home with about twenty books. I typically finished all of them over the span of a couple of days. By about third grade, I absolutely loved long series, because they gave me the chance to stay with one character and read all about their life. My favorite series as a child would have to be Katie Kazoo Switcheroo.

The series basically centered around a girl who would frequently find herself in someone else’s shoes…quite literally! A “magic wind” transformed her into other people, and sometimes even animals. New age-iness aside, I believe that the switches were intended to teach a lesson, one that was echoed in a quote from my favorite classic, To Kill A Mockingbird. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (3.85-87).

I also remember feeling connected to the protagonist, Katie, because she was a lot like me. We had a lot similarities and her two closest friends, Suzanne and Jeremy, reminded me a lot of my closest friends at the time. I also loved that while the books were short enough to finish in an afternoon, there were a lot of them to read; over thirty, according to Wikipedia.

Now a young adult, I admire the author (Nancy Krulik) for doing such a good job writing the children’s series. Though I’ve obviously outgrown these books, they heightened my interest in reading and taught some great life lessons in a child-friendly way. Through this series, I believe that the author intended to instill compassion in young readers and get them to consider life through another’s eyes, or “Walk around in their skin,” as Atticus Finch said.

If you had any favorite books as a child, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section! I always love hearing from you guys!