Writing Tips

Christian Fiction: Should I have an Allegorical God?

Should I have an Allegorical God

For many of us, our first introduction to Christian fiction was The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis chose to create a wonderful allegory for God through a lion named Aslan, and this was a genuinely touching introduction to allegorical Christian fiction. But after our first journey with Aslan, we read many other Christian allegories with less meaningful themes and God-characters that either fall flat or bordered on heresy. The problem with these allegories is that God-characters are difficult to write and often are not the best way to get themes and Christian messages across.

This is a struggle for Christian writers, and we should not lightly undertake writing an allegorical character for God.

God is unfathomably complex, so how do you simplify Him enough for a story while still communicating His specific attributes? And how do you convey the unfathomable nature of God while making the allegorical character personal? Then there is the terrifying point when you realize that you have to put words into the mouth of your God-character. (Yikes!) So we often end up flippantly regurgitating Bible stories and turning them into cliches or tweaking them a bit too much and ending up with heresy. Many characters supposed to be allegorical for God end up looking more like Puzzle’s lion, from The Last Battle, rather than Aslan, and very few writers succeed in writing an allegorical character for God. So how do you know if writing an allegorical God-character is best for your story?

Writing Christian Fiction, Should I have an Allegorical God

Today, I am not going to offer tips on writing an allegorical God-character,  though there are ways to avoid the aforementioned problems (such as using scripture as the basis for dialogue). Instead, I want to help you figure out if having a God-character is best for your story.

In general, the reason why we initially decide to have a God-character is because we want to have a Christian theme. However, a Christian theme does not always require a God character. So ask yourself the question:

Would my themes be more powerful if this character was a normal person and not an allegory for God?

Sometimes substituting in a well-rounded human character for your God-character actually makes a theme more powerful. After all flawed, vulnerable and very human followers of Christ are called to act like Christ to others:

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2

“My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…” Galatians 4:19

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Galatians 5:27

“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us,leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps…” 1 Peter 2:21

By using a human character, we can offer our readers a better sense of sacrifice and love– not that our love is greater than God’s (it most certainly is not), but that the stories we construct often don’t properly show and depict God-level love, and the message become more powerful when a weak, flawed human is able to act as Christ to another through the power of God.

Having a human character also gives us more freedom to develop personality and make the story more realistic– after all, we can hardly know what or why God does what He does, but we can find realistic motivation for human character. Also this strategy allows the reader able to connect better with a complex character rather than a simplified representation of God. Finally, this ups the stakes of your story. With a human character, your readers will worry about them dying or making the wrong choice whereas if you have an allegorical God, then most readers will recognize that He can neither die nor chose wrong.

However, some stories require an allegorical God. I cannot imagine Narnia without Aslan. Just be careful with characters who are allegories for God. Ask yourself if you really even need an allegorical God before you start messing with something that might be beyond you (for now, anyways.) There is no shame in admitting that you are not ready to write an allegorical God. Personally, I have just realized that I am not ready, and that is okay. My story will be better now that I have admitted as much and plan to use a human character to show Christ to others.

So have you ever written a story with an allegorical God? What are your thoughts on these type of strong allegories?

God bless,

Gabrielle

Writing Tips

Young Writers and the Never Ending Editing Cycle

The world needs more young writers– preteens, teenagers, and young adults with passion and purpose that they want to share. But being a young writer comes with unique and difficult problems, and one of the biggest struggles of young writers is never ending editing and revision.

The cycle is quite simple. A teenager writes a longer story– perhaps a novel. As they write, they learn more about writing in school or online, and being young, they learn at an exponential rate, and their writing style changes dramatically in only weeks and months. Once they finish the draft, they read over it, wincing and wanting to apply their new knowledge, and so they decide to revise and edit the draft. If they learned a lot, then perhaps they even need to rewrite the entire thing. The problem is that while they are rewriting, they are still learning and growing, and so once that draft is completed, another needs to be written. Thus the Never Ending Editing Cycle.

I understand. I have rewritten my novel so many times that sometimes I wonder if it will ever be publishing quality much less if I will ever be satisfied with it. One round I fixed my main character so that she was not wooden and actually tolerable. I went through another rewrite when I discovered that I did not just want to tell a fun story but needed to say something important. Now I need to fix my plot so that my readers don’t put my novel down at chapter 6. Is my writing getting better? Most definitely! But will I ever be finished, and will my writing ever be a good representation of what I can actually do?

That is the question we all have, and so I want you to know that other young writers are struggling with this, too.

But now that you know that you are not the only one struggling with constant disappointment and never ending edit, let’s look at our options as young writers. The facts remain: we will grow faster than a draft is written. So let’s break down our choices. It is quite simple: either we can stop editing or keep on editing. And if we stop editing, we can either publish or keep our writing to ourselves.

Young Writers and the Never Ending Editing Cycle

Stop Editing: This is a perfectly valid option– even though you know that the piece is not the best you can do. Do you have other story ideas that better reflect your skill? Do your characters and plot need a complete transformation to reflect your current skills? Is there anything that you absolutely love about the story, or are you simply holding onto it because you are afraid to completely start over? If you are only editing because you don’t have any new story ideas or are afraid of starting over, consider being done with your project and holding onto it as a part of your history as a writer.

Stop Editing and Seek Publication: Perhaps your work is not the best representation of what you can do, but this does not mean that it is not publishing quality. It’s not your masterpiece, but it may be good enough for publishing. It may make you wince, but it might not make others wince. Especially if you are an older teen writer consider this. And if you are still worry about it being good enough, then consider marketing it as middle grade or for younger teens.

Stop Editing and Keep the Writing for Yourself: Maybe you’re sure that your work is not publishing material, or perhaps you are sure that you don’t want to see it published. So keep it for yourself. Progress and old works are sentimental, and so enjoy your imperfect work for yourself. Don’t try to fix it, and simply love the piece as a part of your journey. Maybe in several years, once your writing growth slows down a bit, you can completely rewrite it– but keep the old draft as well.

Keep on Editing: So this may not seem like a solution, but perhaps your problem is simply discouragement and not the multitude of edits. Here’s the thing: I love my story. I love my characters. I love my world. And I am holding out hope that one day, I will finish a round of edits and realize that this is something I can be proud of. This mindset is not unreasonable. One day we will all be mature adults who don’t learn quite as fast, and I love this story enough that I am willing to wait until then. Maybe this means that I won’t be published as a teenager, but I love this story enough that I am fine with that. So do you love your story enough to wait and lose the prize of being published as a teen? If this sounds painful, then don’t wait and force yourself through more and more edits. Write something new and be free of the editing cycle! But if you truly love your story, don’t feel guilty for obsessing over rewrites or give into hopelessness because you can’t imagine your story being finished. Know that one day it will be finished. We just have to wait and keep on editing.

So if you have been edited your story over and over again, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I afraid of completely starting over with a brand new idea and a blank document?
  • Is this work publishable or could it be sentimental and just for me?
  • Do I love this story enough to wait 5-10 years to publish– all the while editing it over and over again?

All three options to the young writer’s editing dilemma are valid; they just depend on you and your story. So what are you going to do?

God bless,

Gabrielle

Writing Tips

3 Tips for Plotting an Action Packed Journey

The plots of most modern novels, especially Young Adult, are centered around action. But the action-centered, fast-paced plot that readers want and publishers demand can be difficult to achieve when the primary goal of your characters is simply to get from point A to point B.

Alas, this is the problem I am dealing with in my current work-in-progress, and for a Tolkien lover, this is especially difficult to accept. But we have to remember that many Tolkien readers never pick back up The Fellowship of the Ring after reading half way through the visit to Tom Bombadil or end up putting down The Return of the King as Sam and Frodo walk and climb and then walk some more towards Mount Doom. Tight plots demand a specific type of action and peril around every turn, and if Tolkien can barely get away with a lagging plot in today’s readership, then you and I definitely cannot.

3 Tips for Plotting an Action Packed Journey

  1. Remember that journeys are highly dangerous without technology

In a time when we travel a couple hundred miles in a day just for a weekend vacation, it is hard to remember that travel used to be highly dangerous. So research travel conditions for the time period you are writing about. But here are a few, general considerations for a fantasy or an ancient journey:

  • No paved roads: Horses and travelers tire quickly. Wagons and carts struggle over the terrain.
  • No government paid protection (Policemen): There will probably be robbers and other lawless men. Your characters will have to protect themselves. Bigger groups are best.
  • No communication: There is no way to call for help (unless you have a magic owl or something). Situations may have changed—including wars starting or ending! Your characters may walk right into a war zone or show up at their destination and find out that there is a new king and anyone who supports the old king are now considered traitors.
  • No refrigeration: Some food can be dried, but you can only pack so much. So for a long journey, enjoy several hours of hunting and gathering a day.
  • No or few reliable maps: Good luck finding your destination if your paper map isn’t even right.
  1. All the action should point towards the climax, and most conflict should come directly or indirectly from the antagonist

For a tight, unified plot, the rising action should point towards a confrontation with the antagonist. Just because you are writing about a dangerous journey does not mean you can throw this away. If your antagonist is not a person and is an idea or force of nature, you may have an easier time making the journey’s trials come from the antagonist. But you must make sure that most of the action is leading to the climax and related to whoever or whatever your antagonist is.

So maybe your protagonists run out of food, but it need to be paired with a threat from the antagonists. Do not let your reader forget who the real enemy is in the midst of the struggles of surviving the journey because if you do, they will get bored and wonder why they even started reading your book.

  1. Keep your antagonist actively pursuing; don’t give your protagonists a break.

If you find that your antagonist is hanging back and plotting for a great trap at the end of the journey, you probably have a boring plot. It does not matter if he has planted a traitor or if he is following their every step. If your antagonist does not show up until the end of the journey, your plot will either be flat or the conflict will be random and unrelated to the real plot. So don’t rein in your antagonist and don’t worry about your heroes being able to fend him off until the end. You will figure it out, so take your antagonist off his leash.

Are any of you writing a story that centers around a journey? As many of you know, I am, and I just received some beta reader feedback that my plot is pretty flat for most of the story. These were the three solutions that I found. Do you have any other tips?

God bless,

Gabrielle