When I was younger, I wrote without any intention of showing my stories to anyone outside of my immediate family (and sometimes not even them). The stories were for my enjoyment only, since I was tired of borrowing books from the library that I would have to set down because of bad content.
Then one day I discovered the power of storytelling. Without my knowledge, my grandma loaned the book I’d written to a friend who was an English teacher. Later she told me what she had done, and the feedback I received from the teacher was positive and incredibly motivating. I decided I wanted to share my stories with an audience larger than my relative fan club, so I began to explore how I should approach writing as a Christian. In doing so, I encountered more and more questions concerning acceptable vs. unacceptable content until the list became daunting and seemingly endless.
Everyone seemed to have different answers, which confused and overwhelmed me. Maybe that’s because I process things twice as slowly as the average person and four times as slowly as philosophers who can nail down a solid answer in two minutes. But I knew I needed to resolve my uncertainty because my representation of a Christian author would be judged by readers. Here are the seven steps I took that helped me to grow through the journey.
1. Don’t Be Afraid
When I jumped into a community of writers (yes, you KeePers!), I was hesitant to respond to questions because I hadn’t formed my own beliefs about writing yet and I felt unqualified. I wanted to bypass the learning process and skip right to the answers, like avoiding the problems on an Algebra test and opening up to the answer manual instead. But that’s cheating. Other writers were learning alongside me, searching for the same answers, and I realized I wasn’t alone and that it was okay if I didn’t have all the insight.
My dilemma was that I wasn’t sure how to find those answers for myself.
You’re probably wondering whether someone has written a book about these moral quandaries. There’s only one resource in the world with perfect answers, and it’s at our fingertips. Now you might be thinking I’ve done all the research so you don’t have to. As much as I’d like to outline dos and don’ts for you, I’m not here to do that. That’s your responsibility. Once you’ve conquered your fear, you’ll need to seek out Scripture for advice.
2. Search the Bible
God’s Word has all the commands and principles we need to live as Christians. But how does this translate into our writing? In accordance with “thou shalt not steal,” should we never write about a thief?
Even if Scripture doesn’t specifically condone or forbid certain types of content, it contains guidelines that will apply to any question we may have. Start with understanding how God views an action (stealing is a sin that reaps consequences) and always portray it as He views it. Writing in literal obedience to God’s commands will bore readers to tears (no theme, no conflict, no character change) and also won’t ring true. God gave us His Word not only to show us His awesome holiness and how far we fall short of it, but to display His amazing act of redeeming us from sin. It’s not possible to have a conversion scene without first demonstrating a character’s need to be redeemed. That’s why even the Bible describes evil deeds.
Am I implying that we can write anything we choose as long as it has a redemptive message? By no means!
3. Consider Your Testimony
Here’s where the rubber met the road. I kept returning to one question: how will certain content in my book affect my Christian testimony?
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
One of the issues I struggled with was violence. How much is too much? Where should I draw the line? The Bible is replete with accounts of violence. Romans 3 says that man is filled with evil, and that “their feet are swift to shed blood.” Therefore it would seem natural for my characters to behave immorally, but the rest of Romans 3 focuses on how Christ redeemed us from evil. The evilness of man was clearly yet briefly stated, but the emphasis of the chapter was on Christ’s redemption of man.
Graphic scenes may turn readers away from the story, leaving them with the impression that the author is concentrating on darkness. As a Christian, I don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to man’s depravity. I never want any violent act to be so horrific and gory that it shrouds the light of my theme. It doesn’t take much description to indicate what happens in a scene without disgusting the reader with explicit details.
4. Honor Your Parents
Would you feel comfortable with your mom or dad reading your book? Reading chapters aloud to my mom was one sure way I could gauge whether I had included too many details in one of my battle scenes. When you have to stop reading in the middle of a scene, it’s a sign you need to tone something down.
If you’re searching for an answer, there’s no better person to approach than the One who knows all things. Ask God to make the truth of His Word clear. I’m amazed by how many times I’ve prayed about a particular question and then received an answer through a verse I found or a conversation with a friend. When I pray I am more conscious of how God is at work in my life as an author.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:5-6).
6. Get Involved in the KP Community
The Kingdom Pen staff is here to encourage teens to write well and always write for Christ. To get you thinking about biblical solutions to difficult writing questions. To give you the opportunity to connect with likeminded authors who may have already settled these questions in their minds and are ready to pass their experience on to others.
One of the most helpful resources for me has been the forum. Many of the discussions are about book content. Even when convictions differ, the exchange of viewpoints is encouraging because each forum member helps others to learn. Often I’ve seen writers (including myself) conclude on an answer by the end of a discussion. If you’re trying to wrestle through these issues, consider joining our forum and posting your questions there to hear the opinions of other Christian writers.
7. Commit to Your Answers
Congratulations! You’ve reached an answer. Now, go jot it down.
The note could be as simple as two sentences, or as extravagant as a ten-page article. Writing it down will ingrain it in your mind. For me, writing what I’ve learned helps me process it. I carefully choose words that describe the subject best. Then when another author poses the same question, I can quickly relay that nugget of wisdom.
Discussion will also reinforce your convictions. Once you’re committed to an answer, don’t be afraid to share it with others (the KP forum is the perfect place!).
Remember, sometimes authors will disagree on matters. You’ll run across content that someone else deems acceptable to write about, but it may not be for you (and vice versa). That’s going to happen.
Be Willing to Change
What’s important is that we are willing to continue learning and adjust our convictions, if necessary, after further study of a question. Writing will challenge, encourage, and change the reader’s heart, and your heart. God will use our creations to point His truth out to us and urge us to deeply examine the content in our stories.
Writing matters to God, and since we’re accountable to Him for what we say (and write!), let us abide the charge of Romans 12:1-2:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Then we will be able to write for Christ’s glory and answer even the toughest of questions.