Friday, January 15, 2016

Write Fiction for God's Sake

Writing fiction gives you a God's eye view of the world.
It doesn't matter if you don't consider yourself to be a literary master or only capable of writing the literary equivalent of a stick figure. Writing fiction is good for the soul, and the more you write it, the better you will become at doing it. The more you write it the deeper your understanding and appreciation of the way God works will become.

When I first began writing fiction, I wasn't doing it to connect with God. I was doing it for the joy of doing it and for the enjoyment of the story. It was a tool to amuse me, and if I was lucky, it might someday be a tool to make money. That was the whole idea.

As I began writing fiction, though, it helped me to get a God's eye view of life. I began to see things in a whole new light, and to understand parts of Scripture that were a mystery to me before. I began to look at the details of life and to notice the relationships between things. If you haven't written fiction before, I strongly recommend you start. Here are seven things that writing fiction will teach you about what it's like to be God.

Your Characters Will Not Follow Your Plans

As a writer, you spend time crafting this beautiful universe and world for your characters to inhabit. You give that world rules, and you give each character a unique set of traits and a purpose which only they can fulfill. Then you set them down in that world and you tell them about your plans for them. You expect them to follow those carefully laid plans.

Except they don't.

Not even close.

It's not that it isn't important to have those plans. Those plans are what get you started writing and guide you toward the conclusion. It's just that you need to understand your characters aren't going to follow those plans, and that you will need to adapt your story accordingly.

Pick a target, a reason why those plans exist, and then let your characters wander as far from your plan as long as they stay headed toward the target. Your story will be better for it, and your readers will get more out of it. 

Until you've actually written your first piece of fiction, this won't make a lot of sense to you. It didn't to me. I heard about characters coming to life, and I didn't understand what it meant. Then I began writing and found myself butting heads with my own characters - the ingrates! - and discovered that what you have created takes on a life all its own.

You Love All of Your Characters

You will love each and every character you create, even the ones that you know are going to cause the most devastation to the other characters. You will love them and you will hurt for them and you will want the best for them. That love will lead you to bring some good to even the worst of your characters, because you can't bear the thought of their life having passed by without some goodness in it. It will also lead you to the next lesson.

You Love Them Enough to Let Them Suffer

Suffering brings out the best, and the worst, that is in your characters. It is when they are suffering the most that they are pushed the hardest to find the key to their victory. Unless you're willing to allow them to suffer, that story is going to stink. It's not going to be everything it could be, because your characters won't be their best selves.

Your Characters - and Your Readers - Are Going to Hate You

Both your characters and your readers are going to rail against you, they are going to hate you, and they are going to think terrible things about you because they don't see the big picture. They don't know why you're doing what you're doing. They don't understand how this particular thing must be allowed in order to bring about something even more beautiful than they could imagine. 

You have to let them hate you. You must let them be angry with you, curse you, and turn away from you. You must allow it and be strong enough to handle it so that you can give them that incredible, life-giving, life-altering story that only you have within you. And you must love them enough to deliver them to it when the time is right.

Only You Will Ever Truly Understand Your Villains

You are the only person who will ever truly understand your villains. You can give your readers and your characters hints and clues, you can drop bits of backstory like bread crumb trails, but only you will ever know the pain and the torment and the brokenness that led your villain to make the choices he or she did in life. Nobody else is fit to judge that character's heart, because nobody but you is going to see the full truth of it.

Entering Into the Darkness Is the Only Way to Heal It

Scripture tells us that Christ descended into darkness for three days. He did it to save the souls that were trapped in it, to lead them into the light. He wasn't afraid to enter into the darkness because He knew it was the only way to heal it.

You're going to have to do the same thing. You're going to have to enter into your own darkness, to confront the worst part of yourself, if you want to write the villain your story needs with any kind of conviction and power. You're going to have to dismantle the part of you that tells you "I could never do something that bad" and confront the ugly truth about yourself: You not only can do something that bad, you can do worse than that, too.

By acknowledging your darkness and bringing it into the light, you kill its power over you. You prevent it from being able to sneak up on you and control you when you're not paying attention. You prevent it from getting a foothold because you keep your guard up and you watch for it. 

You Will Never Make Everyone Happy

One last lesson before I go back to writing some fiction for the day: You will never make everyone happy. No matter how great the story you've told, no matter how compelling the characters may be, you just aren't going to be able to make everyone happy. Someone will always find fault with the direction you've decided to go. Go anyway.

Go Write Some Fiction for God's Sake

So go write some fiction for God's sake. Go experience what it's like to be Him for a while. Your relationship with Him will improve, and so will your ability to love others.  

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