Dark Christian Fiction: A Contradiction in Terms?

When you pick up a work of fiction at your local Christian bookstore, you can probably expect a couple different things in it.  You can expect it to center around Christian characters that run into some kind of a problem.   You can expect there to be either a really nice atheist or a really mean atheist who ends up converting by the book’s end.  You can expect the main conflict in the book to be challenging—but not overly so, because by the book’s end, everything will need to wrap up in a happy ending.

And it’s because of this that some of you may be doing a double-take upon reading the term: “dark Christian fiction.”  Is Christian fiction really allowed to be dark?  Doesn’t writing for the Kingdom and shining Light in our fiction mean that we want to avoid writing fiction that’s going to be really dark?darkchrisitianfictionpinterest

There can be some fair cautions that should be taking when portraying darkness in fiction that I’m going to address later on in this article.  But what I want to argue in this article is simply this: Darkness must not be excluded from Christian fiction.  We can have a lively discussion how darkness should best be portrayed and how much of it should be shown.  But a refusal to accept dark tones in fiction is problematic.  And because of this, dark Christian fiction is therefore not a contradiction in terms but one that we ought to accept not only as a valid category, but also a necessary category in the world of Christian fiction.

Darkness in Christian Literature

Let’s go back to the hypothetical bookstore that you’re perusing.  You pick up a random book off the shelf, read a couple pages, and soon discover that the book is about a man who was unjustly imprisoned for twenty years and who, upon being freed, proceeds throughout the rest of the book to take revenge on everyone who had wronged him.

Perhaps a bit shocked, you put the book down and pick up another, hoping for something better.  But in this book, the main character is a college-dropout without a real job who within the first several chapters ends up murdering his landlady with an axe for a variety of reasons and as the book progresses, goes on to fall in love with a prostitute.

Both of these books would perhaps be tough sells to make in today’s Christian market.  [Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf started reading when he was four, started writing fiction when he was six and hasn’t stopped doing either ever since. After growing up with seven younger siblings, he eventually found himself graduated and attending Patrick Henry College, where he plans on majoring in literature with a minor in pedagogy (it’s a fancy Greek word for education).
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels that have worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as fun as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. Plans for obtaining those impossible goals include listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer, ignoring college work so that he can find time to write, and avoiding coffee at all costs.

A Three Tiered World

By Hope Schmidt 

I’ve created three fantasy worlds in the past four years. Designing worlds, writing legends, holding the first printed copy of your book…it carries a thrill of creation. Of bringing to light something which didn’t exist before.

For those on one end of the spectrum, creating worlds is exciting and it can be tempting to avoid actually writing the story while forming layer upon layer of details worthy of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. On the other end of the spectrum are those who want to get the world building over as quickly as possible so they can move onto the story. In either case, it’s important to have enough development in your world so the story rings true and yet not get so bogged down or glide so high that you don’t ever move on with the story by which this world will be known. 3tieredworldpinterest

It may be easiest to view your world like a three-tiered structure and, while I’m focusing on fantasy worlds here, this same template could work if you are writing about our own world in the far future.

 

3 Tiers to every story world

 

1. The Foundational Tier

The first, or bottom level is the Foundational Tier of your world. This is your geography. The lay of the land. Whether you have one nation or several, there are the same basic formations such as rivers, forests, mountains, cities and roads. National lines need to be drawn and the nations themselves named (there’s no need to worry about national flags and cultures yet…that will come in a bit).

Also part of this first layer are fun details, like how many suns and moons your nation has. And then there are other aspects which you may or may not decide to develop depending on whether you need them or not…details such as what stars travelers use to guide them, nighttime constellations, weather patterns, unique storms, and length and type of seasons.

[Read more…]

Profile photo of Hope Ann
Hope Ann is a Christian wordsmith, avid reader, and dedicated authoress. Her time is taken up with writing, reading, archery, knife throwing, playing with inspirational photos, helping care for the house and eight younger siblings, and generally enjoying the adventures of life on a small farm at the crossroads of America. She has self-published fairy tale retellings on Amazon and is currently working on several projects including a fantasy novel and futuristic trilogy. You can find out more about Hope and her work on her website as well as links to download her first Legends of Light novella for free!

Writing For Christ By His Guidelines

I always need renewed vision when I’m writing. I’m constantly needed to be reminded of my purpose in why I’m writing in the first place. And recently I’ve been challenged to stop and think…

Why is writing so important to me? Why do I spend hours at a time clicking away at the keys to add words to another page?

Or maybe the question should be: why should writing be so important to me?

Is the answer “because I love it” good enough? Or “because I have something to say”?Writing For Christ Pinterest

Should these be the answers that justify the hours and hours of time we pour into our stories? I suggest that they should not. There is so much more to writing than our love for it and because we have something to say. And it all lies on this one fact; that we belong to Christ. (“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead: And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.” 2 Cor. 5:14-15) Therefore we represent Him in all that we do.

So how should we reflect, nay, radiate whom we represent?! I would like to propose this idea, which has given me new inspiration to continue writing for Him.

Why not let God’s Book be our inspiration?

Think about God’s Book. Since God wrote it, the book is perfect; therefore He is a perfect author. And we don’t have many of those in our culture today, do we? In fact, He’s the only perfect author I know. Which also means His book is the ultimate example for me, in everything I do, including how I write.

So how do we create our books in light of His perfect Words? How do we radiate His Words in the words we write?

[Read more…]

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Rolena is a homeschool graduate who has been carried away by her imaginations since long before she could read and write. So it was only natural when she learned to use a pencil that she wrote down all the places she dreamed up. Since then she’s completed quite a few novels and short stories and became a published author when she sent her third novel out into the world of Amazon. When’s she’s not lost in thought over her latest story development, you’ll find her directing a drama, instructing her vocal students, hanging around the KP forum or “extroverting” (both in the real world and her imaginary one). Her long term plans are to be challenged and changed by God’s Word each day, learning to bring Him glory through each season and moment in life.

What Does it Mean to Write for Christ?

Write For Christ PostWe talk about this idea a lot around here at Kingdom Pen, but what does it really mean to write for Christ? How exactly do you write for Christ? Does your story have to be out-right religious or blatantly about God in order to write for Christ?

I think the mistake we as Christians so often make when creating “Christian” stories or art in general, is we feel the need to proclaim that our work is Christian. We put God in a nice churchy box called “Christian” and make sure to parade this box around throughout our stories. As a result, quality is usually sacrificed on the altar of “a good Christian message.”

The reality is that God is so much bigger than we often make Him out to be in Christian fiction. Your story doesn’t need to be openly “religious” or even mention the name of God in order to write for Christ, and bring Him glory. Additionally, if you are writing for a non-Christian audience, sometimes it might be best to leave the name of God out of your story, as it could potentially alienate the ones you are writing for.

What? I’m confused. How can you write for Christ without talking about God? 

I am definitely not saying you should leave God out of your story. In fact, doing so would make your story unrealistic. However, God is so big, He’s everywhere and anywhere at any given time. We can write for Christ without blatantly coming out and talking about God or using His name in our writing. To write for God, we merely need to do one thing: Glorify Him. To glorify God, we need to reflect His character.

We reflect God’s character in two ways: quality and truth.

Quality

Our writing needs to be of the best possible quality. We need to write well, and do our best. God is perfect, so to reflect God, we need to get our writing as close to perfect as we can. A great message does not trump story, nor does a great story redeem a horrible message. Both are vital.

As a quote attributed to Martin Luther goes,

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

Of course, we will never be able to attain perfection, and getting frustrated with our work will not help things. Sometimes, the only way we can get better, is to let ourselves write poorly. Practice is the only way we can get better. So we don’t have to be perfect to reflect God. We just have to do our best, and always strive to get better, never resting on our laurels. That honors God.

Truth

We also reflect God in our writing by demonstrating His truth.

What is God’s truth, and how do we demonstrate it?

God’s truth is truth. Anything that is true is of God. Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). God is described as “the Spirit of Truth,” (John 16:3). God is truth; therefore, by writing about and displaying truth, we are writing for Christ. So many dark and disturbing stories today claim to be about truth, even ones written by Christians, but they are not displaying the real and ultimate truth, but a temporary distortion of the truth which Satan has wrought on the world through our sin. These dark stories which claim to be about “real life” are really just depicting a temporal illusion.

As C.S. Lewis’ Aslan points out in “The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe”, yes, there is a deep “magic” which decrees that the White Witch has ownership over Edmond for his treachery, but what the witch did not know was the deeper “magic” which proclaimed that if someone willing and blameless took his place, the death would be reversed. In other words, God’s truth is the “deeper magic” which cancels out and surpasses the false reality sin has created in our world.  

Displaying truth can take many forms, but ultimately, our stories should advance a theme which corresponds with God’s truth. In other words, yes, our stories should have a positive and moral message, but this should arise from the plot and characters, and not sacrifice quality by being tacked on unrealistically.

One example of displaying God’s truth is how we portray love. Love is often displayed in novels, and in our culture, as a feeling. I feel this, and I feel that. And the other person feels this about me. Love has come to reflect a very selfish idea, and it is true that there are different forms of love. However, the idea that true Love is about, “how much pleasure can I get out of this relationship or the other person?” is completely false. The world says love is about consuming. Writing for Christ could mean showing that true love is about sacrificing, which is what God proved love to be on the cross. John 3:16 describes it very well. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Another example of displaying the truth of Christ is advocating truth itself. In our Postmodern world, many people are denying that objective truth even exists. People like to say, “well that’s true for you, but that’s not true for me.” Objective truth exists, it’s God’s truth. So by writing a story with a moral showing that truth is truth, regardless of what people believe, you are writing for Christ.

By writing stories displaying and promoting Hope, Joy, Courage, Perseverance, Humility, Faith, Altruism, Peace, Mercy, Grace, etc. we are writing for Christ because we are reflecting the character of God. We may or may not include God in our writing, by name, but by displaying His truths and saying, “this is true,” we are putting God in our writing, and we are writing for Christ.

Also, if we strive to write for Christ, we will not be writing alone. If we abandon ourselves to God, then He can use us for His glory. He will guide us as we craft and develop our stories.

If you think about it, there are infinite ways to write for Christ and to glorify God. By writing for God, glory will not only be brought to Him, but we will be taking part in the spreading of God’s kingdom on earth. We can spread truth, and free the culture from its pervasive lies.

The beautiful reality is people are starving for these kinds of stories, and not just Christians. Truth and reality are far more wonderful than the fake. By combining God’s truth with a high quality story, we can write novels which deeply impact Christians and non-Christians alike. The Lord of the Rings, and the Chronicles of Narnia are two great examples of this playing out. Writing for Christ is truly a noble pursuit.

Writing for Christ = Glorifying Him = Reflecting His character = Doing our best to demonstrate His truth and wonderful mastery.

When Is It Okay To Kill?

If you’re writing an adventure novel, the odds are high that someone is going to die. Not only that, but your protagonist may have to be the killer. This raises the question, when is it okay for your protagonist—the good guy (or gal)—to kill? Is it ever right?

When(1)

Is killing always wrong?

 

The difficult thing about killing in fiction is that wartime ethics have a lot of grey areas.  Biblical principles arguably go against the extremes of a pacifistic attitude where all killing is wrong and of a more utilitarian approach that treats all killing as fine.  That being said, settling on a middle course that properly avoids either extreme can be much more difficult to determine.  Given that many philosophers and theologians have had difficulties coming up with a single answer to this question, it is likely that, to some extent, it’s likely that we won’t be able to get rid of all the grey areas that can be present in this difficult issue.

That being said, there is a biblical basis for taking a life.  In Romans 13, God declares that he’s given the government the power of the sword.  So in cases of just war (although what exactly qualifies a just war is another discussion entirely), the taking of life is justified.

[Read more…]

Should You Include Cussing in Your Story?

“What the BLEEP!”

 

SONY DSCI’ve wanted to write a post for Kingdom Pen on this topic for about three years now, ever since a debate I got into on the One Year Adventure Novel writing forum. Is it okay to include cussing in your story? Or is it always wrong?

Is profanity a sin?

Of course, to determine if it is wrong to include profanity in your novel, you first have to believe that it is wrong to use profanity yourself. The Bible makes it clear that profanity is a sin (Ephesians 4:29, Ephesians 5:4, Colossians 3:8, James 3:9-12, 1st Peter 3:10, etc.)

While there are those Christians who would dispute that cussing is a sin, it is not the purpose of this article to make the case profane speech is sin. For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume we all agree that cussing is a sin.

But is it wrong for your characters to cuss?

So, swearing is wrong, but does that mean we can’t use it in our stories? After all, we display other forms of sin in our stories. Theft, murder, abusive anger, lying, jealousy, the list goes on. As we spoke about regarding the need for more strong female characters in modern literature, there is a difference between depicting something, and glorifying it. What is so different about profanity? Can we not include profanity in our stories, but simply not glorify it?

I came very close to including a cuss word in one of my novels once. I wasn’t planning on having this particular villainous character swear. I didn’t write in my outline that they would use this particular word, but as I wrote this rather intense scene between my protagonist and this villain, and as the conflict heated up, and the accusations flew, it just came to me that the villain should swear. It fit. She was the kind of character who would use a cuss word, and since I had included no profanity anywhere else in the story, the word would gain shock value.

My scene froze as I debated with myself over whether or not I should include this particular swear word, and the old discussion that I was involved in on the OYAN forum came back to me. There is a time and a place for everything, right?

Though this seemed like the time and the place to include a curse word, I eventually decided against its usage for a number of reasons, five to be exact, and I figured I should share them to help any of you who may be struggling with this dilemma in your writing.

 

5 Reasons not to include profanity in your story

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Women In Combat: We Need More Strong Female Characters – Part 2

This post is a collaboration of thoughts from the KP Team, building off of part 1.

How should the Christian writer handle the prospect of female characters in combat? 

Strong Female Characters Part 2

Strength comes down to how well someone or something fulfills the purpose it was created for. Men and women were created to fulfill different roles, each reflecting one-half of God’s character. A woman doesn’t need to pick up the sword, or express military prowess to be strong.

Does this mean we can’t depict women in combat? Not at all!

As writers, we need to draw a careful distinction between aspects of the story that are there just because it reflects reality, and aspects that we’re trying to glorify.  In the context of whether not we should write stories with women in combat, this distinction can become pretty crucial.  There is nothing wrong with writing about “gung-ho, beat-’em-up female characters taking part in combat” necessarily. To the extent that our culture is moving in that direction, those sorts of people do exist in real life to some extent.  The real question then, is whether or not we present it in a positive light in our stories. Gender roles and gender callings are a tricky subject to wade through, especially in light of a culture that’s very hostile to drawing any distinction between men and women.  It therefore becomes imperative to focus on biblical commands to guide us through these discussions, and not on cultural standards.

The real question then becomes, “should we be glorifying women in combat?”

[Read more…]

We Need More Strong Female Characters – Part 1

“We need more strong female characters!”

I’m sure you’ve heard this battle cry before. Whether it be in books or movies, we hear the mainstream media and our peers clamoring for more “strong female characters”. And you know what? I agree with them; we do need more strong female protagonists in our stories.

Strong Female Characters Part 1

Of course, I disagree with the Feminists over what “strong” looks like for women and girls. For the Feminists, a “strong female character” is a woman who knows martial arts, and can beat up all the men with kicks and punches. She wears a sly, confident grin, and never needs any help, especially not from men. She is Independent and deadly.  She is equal, if not superior to, men in physical strength, and she curses just as crudely. This is a “strong” woman. In other words, an arrogant self-centered man…in female form. This is not strength, but brokenness and weakness.

 

 When “Strength” is Weakness

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Re-imagining The “Damsel In Distress”

WARNING! This post is politically incorrect and may be offensive to some audience members.
Reader discretion is advised.

 

The damsel in distress; oh what a symbol of misogyny and oppression.  This ancient trope of a male hero saving a woman from imminent harm is arguably the most bemoaned in our culture today. I’m sure you have all heard the frequent criticism of Disney animated films featuring princesses, “Why do they all need a man to save them?” Mainstream media clamors for female characters who can save themselves, are independent of men, or better yet, save a man in distress! Although, it is a bit strange that you never hear people say how demeaning it is to men that the male lead must save a woman in order to have value. Hmm…

Reimagining the Damsel in Distress Post Graphic

Is the modern day scorn for the damsel in distress well deserved? To a degree. Like any story element, the damsel in distress plot-line can be written poorly.

As many point out, the Damsel in Distress trope can sometimes paint the woman in distress as being one-dimensional. Some fear that this trope sends the message that, “women are inherently weak and their only strength is their beauty.” If a particular story creates a damsel that is weak, pretty…and that’s it, then I would agree that this is a valid point.

Making the damsel in distress weak and one-dimensional is bad not so much because it’s insulting to women (even physically weak women still have worth), but it is bad in that it is just poor story writing. No one is one-dimensional. No person is simply just weak and that’s all there is to them. People are complex, so to write a one-dimensional damsel, a one-dimensional character, is not realistic, and harms a story.

When one makes the damsel one-dimensional, the Damsel in Distress plot then becomes a mere cop-out. Instead of doing the work to create conflict and tension, the writer simply makes the Hero’s love interest fall into enemy hands and boom! Instant conflict and tension! But the story will ultimately fall flat, and seem unbelievable.

That said, I don’t think the Damsel in Distress plotline is inherently evil. What is more, despite the criticism, the reality remains that we love the Damsel in Distress plot!

“The reality remains that we love the Damsel in Distress plot!”

[Read more…]

Magic, Fantasy, and the Christian Writer

When you think of the fantasy genre, three things probably quickly come to mind: swords, elves, and magic.  And it’s the latter that can become a problem for the Christian writer.  We’ve all probably read, or are at least familiar with, the passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy that condemn magic and warn God’s people not to practice it.[1]  Yet, we’ve also read fantasy novels where magic is used, whether it be in The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or The Inheritance Cycle.  And while perhaps it may be fine to read books with elements that you disagree with, when it comes to what’s okay to write as a Christian, the fantasy writer may have a more difficult problem with this issue.

Magic, Fantasy and the Christian Writer courtesy of sattvaThere are many different positions taken and answers given by Christians on this issue, ranging from those who say any “good magic” in fiction is wrong, to those who say that anything is permissible in a fictional universe.  My hope is to not gravitate to either extreme.  Given that, in this article, I’d like to present a defense of magic in fantasy from a Christian worldview.  I’m not going to try to defend every instance of magic in fiction; rather, I wish to provide a perspective from which magic in fiction can be understood.  To do this, I’ll begin by looking at what magic actually is, before moving onto when it may be appropriate to use magic in fiction.

While we all know what magic is when we see it, actually defining magic is difficult.

As we seek for a definition of magic, we quickly run into a problem.  While we all know what magic is when we see it, actually defining magic is difficult.  Is magic simply a disruption of the natural order?  If that’s the case, the question must be asked about what the natural order is.  In addition, this definition would also seem to define many of God’s miracles as magic, which may very well make us uneasy.  Another problem arises when we look at how far technology has brought us in the past four hundred years.  If you were able to time-travel to the Medieval Ages, and you showed people an object that could listen to someone talking hundreds of miles away, you may very well have been burned at the stake for being a witch, even though it was just a phone.  Often, magic is simply that which we can’t explain; thus, not all magic systems really deal with the supernatural.

[Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf started reading when he was four, started writing fiction when he was six and hasn’t stopped doing either ever since. After growing up with seven younger siblings, he eventually found himself graduated and attending Patrick Henry College, where he plans on majoring in literature with a minor in pedagogy (it’s a fancy Greek word for education).
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels that have worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as fun as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. Plans for obtaining those impossible goals include listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer, ignoring college work so that he can find time to write, and avoiding coffee at all costs.