Friday, May 10, 2013

We Are Not Just Our Character’s Gods, But Also Their Satans (So Write Like It!)



One of the things that irks me the most in reading a book, is when the characters are given too easy a time. When the author gets too attached to their characters to want to give them any sort of hardships.


There was one book I’ve read recently, not naming names, that had almost no conflict at all to it. With the exception of antagonistic weather and a fleeting, solitary band of bad guys, the main character was not made to struggle enough. Nearly everything he needed to complete his quest was simply given to him: food, clothing, a comfortable place to sleep, companionship, guidance, items of power to defeat the Big Antagonistic Force. It was made more sad that these things were provided without even the asking for them, much less struggle for, by characters who could have made for great potential antagonists.

Unfortunately I've seen this problem in a lot of Christian fiction. Too often characters are not asked to fight for what they need or suffer without when they lack the ability to gain what they need for themselves. As though the authors were uncomfortable writing a character into a difficult situation and not have God or some other benevolent force/person bail them out. But this gives the story a unrealistic feel. I mean, if you’re a believer, has God taken care of all your problems with no action from you? Not saying that he couldn’t, but I wouldn’t suggest that you depend on it either. 


Whether or not you are a believer, I think most of you can still agree with me when I say life is full of hardships and personal growth doesn’t come from letting or expecting someone else to get you out of them.


I positively squee with delight when I find a Christian fiction book that gives the main characters a hard time. In fact, I had one of those wonderful moments in the book I’m currently reading, when a main character was stabbed and robbed of everything he had, including something highly important to his quest. I think it could have been better, if other characters hadn’t helped him quite so much thereafter, but the balance between difficulty and ease has been enough that I’m not going to complain.

Stories without conflict make for pretty boring reads, if you can even argue that they are stories to begin with.


I say, don’t be afraid to challenge your characters. Be downright cruel to them. Give them an impossible choice to make, a debilitating injury, disability, or fear, let them be taken prisoner by their enemies, be tortured, lose loved ones, fall to temptations, be weaker than those they stand against, have the wool pulled over their eyes, stand in their own way, or fail to gain what they need, etc.

While I have not decided if the series I’m currently working on, The Last Doomling, will be Christian fiction, I do know that my characters will not have a lack of conflict. I’m constantly throwing hurdles in my characters’ way and giving them character flaws that often make their lives harder. The fact that my characters have to fight to survive, often literally and violently, might make my stories too dark or harsh for Christian fiction, but I have to write the truth that I know. And that is that life isn’t all cupcakes and roses.

Please, for the love of good writing and enjoyable reading, make your characters suffer!


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