Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Truths I Tell

If you read the About Me page when I rebooted my blog, some of this may sound familiar. But I wanted to make an “official” post about my purpose for writing: Why I write, and things I will or won’t write, or how I write certain things.

I’m not here to spark debate or conflict. I’m here to state what, I believe, is the purpose God has given me for writing. I do believe God has given me the gift for stories for a reason, and I think I’m beginning to learn why. I’m still learning, still navigating these waters and realizing it all.

So while I’m not trying to find conflict, I am not opposed to polite discussion. We can do it in comments, or if you’d prefer, we can find someplace to discuss it privately. I’m open to discussion, but only if it is polite and civil. I’m not here to argue, and I ask that if you disagree with me, that any comments are civil. :)

So with that, may I begin? ;)

I love writing stories. I love when an idea sparks and I love playing it out in my head, mulling over a variety of possible directions. Sometimes I don’t act on these stories right off. I have so many, it’s hard to pick which ones to work on!

I want to write to share these stories. To share the adventures, to share the characters. Sometimes I have a specific message I want to share in mind, other times I don’t (but usually there’s a message that quietly makes a place for itself anyway). I want to share my stories so others can read and enjoy them, and maybe find something in them that will offer help with something they’re struggling with. I want to write stories that offer fun, adventure, family, maybe a bit of romance in some, and above all, hope (more on that part later!).

Like I said, I believe God has given me the gift of words and storytelling. And so I want to use it to the best of my ability, to glorify Him. To do that, I must write honestly, and write His truths in the correct way. I see a lot of things in storytelling that I don’t agree with. I am a Christian, so there’s bound to be a lot of things the world and I don’t see eye-to-eye on in the art and content of storytelling.

So with my stories, I want to glorify God and show the world His truths. What pleases Him.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean I write Christian fiction. Or Christian fantasy (fantasy being my niche). This doesn’t mean I’m against it, either! I’ve written a Christian fantasy novella and I LOVED it. I’d do it again. Christian fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction/your-genre-here has its place, no doubt. I love reading it, and I enjoy trying to write it. ^_^

But my writing tends to not have directly religious references. Instead, I’m learning how my writing can glorify God in how I present the content I do write: the truths I write vs. how I must write about sin.*

*Story worlds are never perfect. There’s going to be sin. What I mean here is how I portray sin, by not condoning sin.

·       TRUTH VS SIN
I write to portray God’s truths, the things He declares good and right.

I will not portray sin (these God has declared sinful) as right or good.
            (Before we dive in let me clarify this: I mean larger issues, I don’t mean clean or unclean foods, fabrics to wear, etc. I mean the bigger things. I will offer a few examples later so you understand the subject.)

I see many authors writing about topics that don’t align with what God and His word says. Please note, though, that I’m not bashing these authors or hating on people who hold a different stance. I am simply seeing things in storytelling I don’t agree with. I must write truth, and that will probably be controversial for many people. I don’t mind. My stories aren’t for everybody. But I want to write these stories the way God would have me write them, even if they might include an approach that a lot of people don’t like. Writing for God will likely do that.

Among the things common in stories today is sexual sin. It seems to be a big element in many stories in YA (that I’ve seen. I understand that this is my own opinion and that this is not a hard fact). Sex out of wedlock, homosexuality, and other sexual sins are things I will not condone in my writing. For the latter, I will likely not have any homosexuality at all in my stories, as I do not believe it to be a lifestyle God is pleased by, and I am not comfortable including it. Instead, romantic stories of mine will be between a man and woman. Male and female.

As for sex out of wedlock… I can’t say for sure there wouldn’t be any. My characters are as flawed as I am, ladies and gentlemen. I have characters that have and would commit this sin. But this doesn’t mean I approve. I don’t. If a character of mine, villain or hero, behaves thus, I hope I will be writing it in a manner that informs the reader that this behavior is wrong. Both will have to face the consequences of their sin, and either they will ask forgiveness (which is good), or they won’t (which is not good).

This doesn’t mean I’m not showing any gestures of love ever. I will write kisses, or affectionate gestures (that are not crude). There may be stories where two characters do have sex, but doors will close. It might be implied, but I won’t write it. Love is a real thing, so is sex. But sex is something I personally don’t think needs to be shown “on-screen.”

Another example would be wanton killing. Killing the bad guys, killing for the greater good, etc. I do think there is a time and place for it (in self-defense, defense of others), but it should be a last resort, which the attacker is not stopping, and has been warned. In stories, sometimes killing is seen maybe not as good, but “normal,” without consequences. There are consequences. Killing someone changes you (though I don’t know this from experience, mind!), and I doubt it’s for the better. So though the intentions may be good, it shouldn’t be a “normal” thing. I have MCs who kill. My assassin is one (as the title implies). In Empire of Blood and Shadow, he admits it changes a person. He admits it’s changed him. I also don’t condone his behavior. I love the character, but I don’t approve of his lifestyle.

Also, I should say that I am certainly not perfect in this area. I’m sure there are times when I fail to apply this thinking to my stories. If I do, I hope someone will remind me, and I can make appropriate edits.

However, this does not mean that my characters will be without sin. My characters will be sinful little beans.  My heroes will sin, my villains will definitely sin. But, like I discussed earlier, it’s how I write the sin. If my heroes sin, they may ask forgiveness/be forgiven (depending on where they are in their arc), and/or they will discover the consequences, which likely won’t be good ones. It’s the same idea for my villains, although most likely they won’t recognize their sin. Either they’ll be redeemed (sometimes they are, which is something I love to see!). But the sin won’t be praised (or if it is, it’s very clear that this is a bad thing the characters are praising).

So I’m not saying I ignore the sin. Sin is a very real thing in the world, and so it’s bound to be a part of my stories (as I’m sinful too). My stories aren’t going to be happy 24/7. Life’s gonna suck for the characters sometimes. There may be a lot of violence, too. Characters will die, or break a bone, or be tortured. Sometime my characters will do things they’ll regret later. But this is honest storytelling.

But it also means that I get to show hope.

As I’d mentioned back at the start of this post, I hope that my writing will show hope to readers. I want to glorify God, and one of the ways I can do it is by communicating hope. Healing and forgiveness, just as God offers to His children.

I believe in happy endings. In “happily ever afters.” God has one planned for us. It’s why He sent His Son to die for us. He set the stage for the happily ever after to come. So I believe those kinds of things exist, even on a smaller scale. They reflect what’s to come. True love, happy endings (which aren’t really happy endings, but, like OUAT described it, a “happy beginning”).

And also the Doctor. He speaks wisdom too.

I write about family, and how important family is. The people you befriend and meet along the way can be as much your family as the people who share the same roof as you do (the people you’re related to). They’re so, so important. My stories show that. I write it unconsciously, even. It just pops up, and I think it’s beautiful.

I’ve been incredibly blessed with a loving, connected family, both in my home, and my church family. I know I’ve been incredibly blessed, far more than I deserve. I think part of the reason for why I write is for the people who haven’t been so blessed. For the readers who are hurting. I want to show that there is hope, even for the sorriest of states. There can be a happy ending there too, God willing. God is the source of that hope. He is where hope and love and forgiveness and healing can be found. For example, in my WIP novel, Empire of Blood and Shadow, there’s plenty of that to be found. Gabriel, Lilly, Mordir, and Hakor are some of the characters who experience healing and hope. They all make big mistakes that nearly cost them their lives or the lives of others, but they find forgiveness. Gabriel and Lilly find a family again. EOBAS, I hope, will communicate how important family is to readers, how they can be so much support and a source of love and healing.

I want to write happy endings (I might have another post on that some other time). They’re crucial, and they offer a reflection of the happy ending with God to come. :3 Because today’s world isn’t the end. Darkness isn’t the end. God’s got something much bigger planned. So why not step into His light and His hope and join Him? That is what I want to convey. Even if I don’t directly mention God, even if my characters don’t mention God. I want my words to spark curiosity, somehow, I hope. I want to show the world hope in God and in His Son. And I want to do it honestly and truthfully.

I glorify God with the truths I tell.

That is why I write.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Book Review: Where the Woods Grow Wild (Nate Philbrick)

The woods are no place to be wandering alone. But when Martin loses his hand to something in the woods, he and his best friend Elodie are plunged into a world among the trees he didn’t realize was there.

I really enjoyed this book. It has the whimsy of, like… Alice in Wonderland and Narnia, maybe? Martin and Elodie step into a world mere yards (give or take?) from their normal lives. The plot takes us through Martin’s and Elodie’s attempts to find each other after being separated, and the incidents that come along with it. The characters are taken all over the forest, and things seem to just get worse instead of better, thus rising tension and a feeling that time is running out.

The worldbuilding was really neat. The wood is its own world, apart from Bardun Village where Martin and Elodie come from. It has its own array of flora and fauna, and you have to be careful where you go. It’s not a place to be taken lightly, and it has its own lore about a mysterious and powerful shape-shifter called Nayadu, who is feared by the inhabitants of the woods.

There isn’t really a specific antagonist (none I can mention without being spoilery, anyway), but there were plenty of things to get in the way of the characters. The king of the dryads was a bit crazy, and has a bit of magic that made him a little intimidating too. There was also the difficulty of Martin’s search for Elodie, and always seeming to be one step behind her. And there’s also the problem of his maimed arm… ;)

Speaking of, I liked Martin’s arc. It was simple, and didn’t manifest itself often, but his struggles grew as his problems grew, until it, like his problems, kind of… overcame him. It all snowballs until he’s not able to handle it well, which is where Elodie comes into play. She doesn’t really have an arc (that I’m aware of), but she’s more a grounding point for Martin, which is something he desperately needs after his world is violently shaken up. The pair of them are still so young and innocent, but they need each other. :3 I liked seeing their relationship and how it changes with them.

The cast of characters are colorful and charming in their own ways, with a vast array of personalities and quirks that make them so fun to read. And it was interesting, that they all seemed to change in little ways, even if they didn’t have much of an arc. Martin and Elodie touched the lives of many. ;)

Also, I hadn’t noticed it when I beta read WTWGW, but when I reread it now and knew in advance about the plot twists, I found a really feelsy parallel between two of the characters and their development (I won’t say who, because spoilers. You’ll have to find out!), and I really liked that. :3

All of the characters were charming and fun and colorful, but, I think, I’ll always have a soft spot for Bramble. XD He took my heart the second he hit the page the first time I read this book, and rereading now refreshed my life for this furry creature who speaks in third person. X3

That is all. XD


Violence/gore: There is some violence, but it’s not very unsettling. There are fight scenes with certain nasty creatures that get a little bloody, but it and any wounds aren’t detailed.

Profanity: None.

Sexual content: None.

Other: Nothing else that I can think of… Elodie tells a fib or two in Bardun Village to get Martin away from work for a while, and steals a ring from the Mayor’s house, but otherwise, nothing of much note.