Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No More Wimps

Sometimes I'm a real wimp. I admit it. There are certain things I would love to run from. But that kind of attitude doesn't accomplish the goal. And it doesn't change things. And it doesn't please God.

So I can stand up and cheer when Jack M. Bickham says (InThe 38 Most common Fiction Writing Mistakes) that, in fiction, MCs can't be wimps. MC's have to be active. Risk-Takers. Highly motivated to accomplish their goals.

Fiction characters simply can't depend on fate or accidents, or even God, to magically determine the outcome of the story. Can't. Absolutely. If things always happen to our main characters our readers will slam those books shut. Or, more likely, send those mss back to us in those little SASEs. Don't click that little X yet. Hear me out, please.

Bickham says that readers want to cheer for the MCs. They want to root for someone who is going to get in there and DO something. Someone who takes his/her fate by the horns and does something with it.

As a Christian writer I don't want "fate" to determine anything for my characters. And, technically, I don't want them to determine their own destinies. Sure, I know that have to be DOERS. They have to take some risks. They have to STEP OUT IN FAITH.

Readers of general market fiction want to believe the MCs are in charge of their own fate. As Christian writers, though, we want our inspirational or Christian market readers to believe that GOD is in charge of our MC's life. We want our readers to see that God is in charge and that He is working in that MC's life AND that He wants to work in the readers' lives, too.

So, how do we balance these two things? How do we create characters who are not wimps, not spineless drifters on the sea of life, but who are NOT in charge of their own lives? Hmmm?

That is the challenge.

Yes, we must create believable characters who are up to the physical, emotional, professional, personal, and spiritual challenges we throw at them.

But, we must also create characters who change and grow in their faith as they step out in faith. We must show our readers how God works through their steps of faith to bring them to His plan or place for them, to accomplish HIS goal in their lives. We must show that it is God who is working things out for our MCs' good. BUT, that He does it through our characters' willingness to listen to God, to follow His lead, and live with risky faith.

And just what in the world do I mean by "risky faith?"

In all great fiction the MC must have a goal, a need that he/she is desperate to accomplish or meet. Desperate. Wow! Desperate people are the only kind of people God can actually help. Right? In real life, and in our fiction.

I don't mean to imply that the object of their faith is risky. Oh, no! We want to subtly show that, if Christ is the object of their faith, then their futures are safe with Him. Rather, I mean that our character's steps of faith require courage, strength, and a willingness to risk their futures, their successes, their hearts, or their lives by placing them in God's hands.

It's like walking in a pitch dark cave. Though you have a guide ahead of you, there are still no lights. You know he's there. You know he knows the way. But you can't see him or anything else. Each time you put your foot down expecting solid ground to be there, you are taking a step of risky faith.

That's the kind of characters we need to create for our readers. Those who walk in risky faith. That is one of the subtle differences between Christian inspirational fiction and general market fiction in my opinion.

I agree with Bickham. My MC must be a person capable of action. And I have to hit her with lots of opposition, threats, decisions. And I must give her a game plan, a goal, responses to those obstacles. She must have a goal. And she has to act. Do something. Confront. Change. Grow.

But I disagree that it is all up to her, the MC. As a writer of Christian inspirational fiction I must show my character's spiritual dimension. I must, I want, to show the God behind the wimp.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

What an interesting post! I struggle with this here and there because I want my characters to be unique. So I don't want their journey with God to be like my journey with God. I don't want too much of me reflecting in my story.

But if I can understand their vulnerabilities and where their desperation for God is, then I can walk with them on their own path and have a very strong, unique character that has grown and hopefully influenced the reader.