Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What's to be the pill in all this jam?

When a random person chucked us a random magazine that had something to do with Creationism, the very last thing I expected to find inside was a very lucid article regarding the topic of How To Write Christian Fantasy. A very good article, by-the-by, and one I found most intriguing. The writer had several points I hadn't considered. But the one thing I found myself nodding along to was the mention he made of common pitfalls in writing Christian Fiction. As in any sort of writing, there are ways to do it and ways not to do it.
So how does one write Christian Fiction? I'll give you a few tips.
"Rule Number One: Obey All rules."
Now how did Barney Fife get into this post. Honestly. I believe the Crustimony Proseedcake in such cases is to over-moralize. The first thing is to be sure you don't over-moralize. There is nothing worse than a moral tacked onto the end of a book. Or the beginning of the book. Or all through the book. The thing is, morals don't have to be taken like pills. I shall revert to the Duchess of Wonderland's advice on this:
"'Tut, tut, child!" said the Duchess. 'Everything's got a moral if only you can find it.'"
That is the key to writing good Christian fiction. A moral or two jabbed on the plot at a jaunty angle does not make your book "Christian." A mention now and again of your characters saying grace before a meal makes for a weak testimony. The fact that they go to church and a scriptural allusion now and again is not much more helpful.
Inversely, books like C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe never once out-right say they are "Christian" and yet one can't help but see the parable all through. That book is simply dripping with a rich understanding of Christ's kingdom. The morals in that book are quite obvious because they are distilled like a sweet fragrance all through the tale.
Honestly, who wants to be served a dish of morals on a silver platter? How would you like it if you came to read a story that chopped along something like this:
"He raised his sword and poised it at his enemy's throat--"You will die, villain, because you are prideful--Pride goeth before a fall...well....I'm your fall."
That is plain and simple awfulness. You don't need to be so obvious in your writing. You see, it all comes down to a simple question of world-view. If your mind has been exchanged from a callow, worldly mind to one focused on heavenly things and on glorifying Christ, His standards will flavor every word that comes out of your pen. You don't need to constantly try to plug in Bible verses in every other sentence because the whole of the book will reflect your world-view. If your world-view is flawed, so will be your morals. If it's a good, healthy, well-developed world-view than that will carry your standards into the plot. In fantasy this is particularly important, as you don't usually have the option of deeming your characters devout Protestants who always pray before every meal (even snacks) and quote Scripture at each other all the live-long day. ;) (Not that quoting Scripture is wrong. It has it's place, definitely, but I detest books where the dialog is entirely made up of try-to-fix-holes-in-the-plot quotations.)

To again reference the Duchess, "everything has a moral." Even things you don't think have morals. They are either good morals or bad morals. The key is to finding the moral and sprinkling it evenly through the plot, not building sandcastles with it at either end of the book. Do that, and people are likely to doubt your sincerity. After all, what sort of person forgets about their objective till the very end of a thing? Obviously they mustn't care too much about the point.

Just a thing or two to think about. :)

1 comment:

Rachel Hope said...

Oh such a good post. I have been thinking alot about this lately, christian fiction should not only be written for us christians enjoyment, but also for non christian folk. what better way to be an example and share the beauty of our faith than through stories.
I'm so glad you used C S Lewes as an example, I love his novels for that very reason, that the christian aspect is breathed throughout the story in a way that seems so natural, like its just as normal as the characters taking a breath, and you know that each twist and turn will show you deeper and deeper the love of God in a simple and beautiful way.
I enjoyed this post.
blessings ~ Rachel Hope