Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Gets Worse Before Better

The book of Job is definitely an example of circumstances getting worse before taking a turn for the better. At the beginning of the book, Job has it made with his riches, children, and good reputation. It’s shocking when God actually tells Satan to consider His servant, Job, for testing.

To think that God knew Job’s heart well enough to know he wouldn’t deny Him no matter what Satan would bring upon Job or take away from him.

It seemed that the hard times just piled on, and Job’s so-called friends pushed salt into Job’s wounds. But, in the end, Job was restored and given more than he had before.

True godly character is cultivated during times of testing.

As Christian writers, we must take our characters to low points. We must thrust testing times upon our main characters. These are the scenes in which we can illustrate reliance upon God and the building of godly integrity in the end.

Find the point at which your main character is experiencing a test or low point. Could the addition of further tests and hard times make for a more poignant lesson?

Make a list of possible problems your character could face. Use Job as an example. Are there riches that could be lost? Are there family or friends who could be lost? Could the main character’s health be lost?

Write out the inclusion of an additional problem into your story. Could this addition make your main character’s victory over these tests sweeter? Could a stronger sense of godly character be developed?

As Christians we must often go through the tests to gain more insight and integrity. Christian writers might be tested in various ways to gain these same characteristics. As writers we can share the message that God will see you through tests and that He can bring good from the most horrible situations. Draw from your life experiences. In this way, your reader will sense real emotion and transformation shining through your writing. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Right Time

Esther. Who doesn’t love the story of a Jewish girl turned queen?

This story is about God putting a person into the right place at the right time. Esther must show bravery when the odds are stacked against her. She has to accept the fact that even though she might perish for going into the king’s presence, she must proceed to have a chance at saving her people.

Her uncle uses that well-known line from scripture to encourage her: “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

When writing a story, the writer must also contemplate the right place and the right time in which the story should occur.

If the story needs to maintain a distance between the characters, meaning they cannot have instant contact for the story to work, the modern-day setting may not be appropriate. With the technology of today in which people have instant access to one another from any place in the world, it is less likely that a person could be cut off enough for certain story events to happen.   

Consider this: Suppose a hero and heroine are separated for a time. Even though the hero tried to find the girl, they are only reunited much later.

In this scenario, a past time might serve better since there are so many avenues in which someone could be located through the advanced technology in present day.

Analyze the time you have your story set in. Write out a description of the time your story is set in. Is it modern, historical? Does it make sense for all of your plots and scenes? How would your story play out in another time? Would this time better serve your story?

As Christian writers we obviously want to be able to sell our work. We might be tempted to write what is popular at the time. But, stay true to the message God has called you to write.

Write out a description of the message you feel God would have you to communicate through your writing.

Post this description/calling in a place that you can reread and be reminded of it when you sit down to write.

Who knows that your message could be for such a time as this?

Sunday, May 18, 2014


The book of Nehemiah gives an account of the man named Nehemiah who got a disturbing report from his homeland. He was a part of the exiles in Persia, but he was in service to King Artaxerxes.

One day Nehemiah inquired about Jerusalem and was told that the wall lay in ruins and the gates had been burned down. He wept over the conditions of his home.

When he next appeared before the king, his expression and demeanor gave away his depression. The king asked why he was so sad, and Nehemiah explained about the news he had heard. The king asked what he wanted. Through God’s leading, Nehemiah received letters and permission to return to Jerusalem and repair the wall.

While repairing the wall, Nehemiah and the people experienced much opposition, but they carried on the work and completed the wall in record time.

In our stories, our main character must often display some of this stick-to-it-ness. Sometimes she may even have to be stubborn to burst through opposition.

Study your work in progress and list the various road-blocks your main character must conquer. Are the problems hard enough? Does your main character struggle enough? Though it may seem harsh, the tougher the obstacles means the tougher your character can be and the more sweet the victory.

Let’s face it. By forcing your main character to develop some stubbornness and push on through, your reader will stay connected with that character and pull for her.

How are you with sticking with the task? Do you allow opposition to pull you away from your writing too easily? Are you listening to those negative comments?

Being a writer isn’t easy. Being a Christian writer is impossible, except through the strength and stick-to-it-ness only found in the Lord. Take a lesson from Nehemiah. Stick to the calling of God and see what miraculous feats you can accomplish!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Ezra chapter seven includes a letter sent from King Artaxerxes to Ezra, the priest and teacher. The letter gives Ezra carte blanche on taking people back to Jerusalem to the temple. The king also allows for much money, goods, and precious metals to be given to Ezra in use to God. Basically, the king ordered that whatever Ezra asked for should be granted.

In the last passage of the chapter, Ezra clearly states that God is to be credited for putting it in the king’s heart to honor God’s house. He also makes it plain that because God’s hand is upon him, he would follow the directives.

Can you imagine the surprise when the treasurers read the letter and had to give over whatever amount of precious goods Ezra requested?

In our instant message world, the art of letter-writing seems to be fading. However, have you ever been going through keepsakes only to find an old letter? Maybe it was a love letter. Maybe it was a letter from a dear friend who moved far away. Maybe it was a note from a grandparent or parent expressing some sentiment.

What if a main character in your story discovered an old letter? Where did she find it? Who is the writer and who is the receiver? What shocking thing does it reveal? What affect does this have on your character?

Write out the scene when your character discovers the letter and reads it for the first time.

When was the last time you used your writing gift to craft a letter to someone special? Take a moment to think of a person in your life who could use encouragement today. Compose a letter to that person. Include a scripture and even a personal anecdote.

You may be surprised what an encouragement can come from a snail-mail letter. Always be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading when called upon to spur on another brother or sister in Christ.

Even more pointedly, write a letter to a fellow Christian writer, encouraging him to keep true to the call of writing for the Lord, knowing what a lonely profession writing can be. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Ezra the first chapter introduces us to the King of Persia, Cyrus. Even though he was not a follower of God, he was used by God to fulfill the prophecy that Jeremiah spoke. Cyrus gave the proclamation for the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and build the temple.

Proof that God uses who He wants. No one would expect a pagan king to be the one who fulfills God’s will. But, God will do what He says He will do.

Authors often employ this unexpected twist device in their stories to surprise their readers. Can you recall a book in which an unexpected twist was added? Did this increase your interest in the story? Did it motivate you even more to finish the book?

Choose a section or scene in your work in progress in which your main character makes a decision or is acting on a decision. What would the opposite action be? Would the opposite action be a twist the reader wouldn’t expect?

Another way to employ the plot-twist device is to ask, “What if?” What if my character made the wrong choice here? What if some outside, unexpected character showed up? What if a tragedy or natural disaster happened? Write the scene to test it in your story.

How do you handle unexpected twists in your life? Often writers have other careers or jobs in addition to writing as well as other roles such as parent, care-giver, and any number of other possibilities. When unexpected illness or loss occurs, often the writing suffers or is put on hold. Don’t underestimate the messages God can teach for you to incorporate into your stories. To write about the unexpected twists in life, you must often have personal experience.

Think of an unexpected twist in your life. Describe that occurrence in a paragraph or two. Could this experience be weaved into your story? Second Corinthians the first chapter tells us that God comforts us in our suffering so we in turn can comfort others with the comfort we received from God. Could your unexpected twist be a way to give comfort to your readers? God doesn’t waste any experience, nor should Christian writers.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Solomon is instructed to build the temple in 2 Chronicles. Though his father, David, wanted to build the permanent dwelling place for God, he was not allowed. God gave that task to David’s son. This was in God’s timing. The temple was constructed within very specific guidelines of measurement and materials.

King David was disappointed that God didn’t want the temple constructed in his time. However, he rejoiced in the fact that God used his son to accomplish this task in King Solomon’s reigning years.

Timing is a very important element in telling a story. Your work in progress may occur over a few days or span many years. The key is to make sure the story flows in a linear progression, meaning keep flashbacks and backstory to a minimum. Also realize that you don’t have to drag out and have dead areas in the story for the sake of showing each moment. You can simply use devices to show the passage of time, such as referring to seasons changing or beginning with a time identifier like: by the next Wednesday.

In Todd A. Stone’s Novelist’s Boot Camp, he suggests “making a time line either before or while you create your scene list. This will help you identify key events, keep your chronology on track, and avoid many errors in logic.”

A time line of your story can be created at any time in the writing process. Take a moment to write out a time line of your work in progress. Jot down events, specific days mentioned, as well as time of year.

When you have this time line complete, study through it to insure that you have no errors in dates. Also notice if you have long stretches of your story in which there are no identifiers of time or time passing. Check for logical and chronological order. Make corrections as needed.

As a writer who wishes for publication or maybe to repeat publication, waiting for God’s perfect time can be difficult and disappointing. Understand that God has the plan for your writing and His timing is perfect. To rush ahead could mean wrong decisions. Stay obedient to what He is calling you to do at this time.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


First Chronicles 4:9-10 records a momentary stop in the listing of the family tree. All of the sudden there’s a short blurb about a man named Jabez who prayed a bold prayer.

The Bible says Jabez was an honorable man, more honorable than his brothers. But, his mother had tagged him with the name Jabez which means pain. She explained that she had given birth to him through great pain.

Though Jabez could have lived up to the name he was given, causing pain or wallowing in it, he chose to rise above it. He prayed for God to grant him blessing and territory with God’s presence and protection. Obviously, Jabez was right with God and his request was in line with God’s will because God granted what he asked. 

In the writing of fiction, characters have to be chosen and given names. Are names of importance or will just any name suffice?

Pull out your work in progress and list all character names thus far, including last names. Do you have characters with names which start with the same letter or have a similar sound? This can become confusing as a reader. Similar names can make it easy to mix up characters.

Say each of your characters’ names aloud. Do they sound like the character you have described? For example, Butch probably wouldn’t elicit images of a docile man. The only exception would be if you are trying to create humor with the use of ironic names.

Use the internet or purchase a cheap name meaning book. This can be extremely helpful when choosing names for your characters. Some authors will choose character names based on their meanings. This can also be helpful if you have a character of a particular ancestry and want to give a name that would be from that specific country or family lineage. Some name books even give other forms of names in case your characters are named after a certain family member.

But, do remember, no matter what the name given, God is the one who made each one unique. This can be shown through your characters. However, remember this when it comes to you, the author, too. You are who God says you are.

For fun, look up your name’s meaning. There are books that give Christian meanings with verses as well. How true is the meaning to the person you are?

Keep a list of names that intrigue you as you hear people addressing one another in life or even on television. Keep this list handy in a file when you are creating your next cast of characters.