To be a Christian and a Writer…

Is NaNoWriMo supposed to be this much fun?

So let’s see…it’s Sunday. Since November 1, I’ve written about 8477 words so far, a full chapter and a half. I haven’t been worrying too much about content or getting the words just right. Right now, I just want to lay down the main emotions, main thoughts of my characters. It’s like laying down a foundation of a house. I want sketch out the bare bones of the story before I start shaping and molding its flesh.

With all the writing I’ve been doing, I’ve been neglecting my normal computer stuff, like reading emails, websurfing…er, blogging. Maybe that’s a good thing; I’m learning to budget my time better. But writing the latest Willow chapter also got me thinking about my writing in general.

In my overstuffed inbox, there’s a thread about being a Christian speculative/fantasy writer. From what I’ve skimmed through, it’s mostly debating about how Christian writers should use their writing to either a) glorify God or 2) use writing to evangelize his Kingdom. It’s quite a heated thread, and, in a way, I’m glad I’ve been focusing on Nano too much to throw my measly two cents in. That’s what blogging’s for, right?

But I have been wrestling for a few weeks now about it. It’s a question that interestingly enough, started up on another list. Does my writing glorify God? Am I using it to glorify his Kingdom?

Boy…pretty tough questions. Especially since I got into some pretty interesting writing as of late.

I’ve been working on a short story that I’m a little stumped on. It’s about a man who suddenly have aliens appearing on his doorstep. He tells his niece about it, who, of course, thinks he’s crazy. Pretty standard fare, so far. However, the man and his niece also swear throughout the story. In my first draft, it was just the man doing the swearing, which fit in with his character–he’s a guy who loves to drink beer, sit on the couch and flick through the TV. In the first draft, his niece was a classy woman using more sophisticated language, and she pretty much stayed that way throughout the story.

However, when I rewrote the story, I reached a part where the niece completely tells her uncle off, using some pretty strong language. I mean, real strong. I’m not the sort of person who swears. I’ve pretty much lived with the motto of ‘weigh your words carefully–let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ or your ‘no’ be ‘no’.’ But in making this change to the niece, I’d showed that the niece was, in a sense, like her uncle, something she’d been in denial over. It strengthened her character overall, I think–and made the message of the story a lot stronger.

(Oh yes…I know what you’re thinking. This is the same woman who dissed most of the stories in the The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 18th annual collection because most of the stories were expletive-laden. Boy, oh boy, do I see the irony…)

There are tons, whole tons of wonderful stories out there that don’t use swearing or characters doing horrible things. I like writing those kind of stories. However, there are also wonderful stories, absolutely wonderful stories where the characters are completely flawed, but by the end of the story, they come to a redemption of sorts. I think I like those stories better because, storytelling aside, they instill hope for a reader that even flawed characters like this have a chance to love/live/get better, etc. And I think that those stories show that humans to be true, real people, with real struggles, real vices can get the message of God across just as effectively–maybe even more so.

Lately, the term ‘Christian writer’ seems to mean ‘a writer who mainly writes for a Christian audience”. I don’t want to be that. If I’m truly called to be a writer to evangelize the kingdom, then how would I get God’s message out to the masses who are not Christian? I want people to read my stories and think. “Huh…I never thought about <insert topic here> that way before.” Most of all, I want to write what I want to write, not what people say I should write. I’ve written stories with a decidedly Christian bent. And I’m in the middle of writing a story that’s pretty dark, by my standards (no…not the alien story–actually that one’s pretty funny–if I get around to finishing it…). In the Willow chapter I just finished, one of the characters is a spoiled lordling who parties and mistreat his servants, particularly the female ones. He’s a pretty sordid guy, but he’s also pretty essential to the plot. If he didn’t do the things he did, he would be a pretty weak character, not one to be feared. And he needs to be feared.

In writing such things, I as a writer need to remember that what I put on the page is just a story. It’s not me. I also need to guard my mind as well–the characters don’t reflect me as a person, but I’m still prey to the same temptations. I think that’s why it helps that when I write such things, I usually pray before sitting down and writing. It helps me to keep myself separate from my characters. Sort of putting on the armor of God before heading into the fray. Reading the Bible and knowing His truth also helps.

So, basically, I consider myself a writer and a Christian. The two are intertwined. It all depends on who the story is meant for, that’s all.

But enough rambling for now. I need to get back to writing!