I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, May 7, 2012

Faith and Fictional Characters


by Beth K. Vogt


As novelists, we get to decide a lot of things about our characters:

  • name
  • occupation
  • appearance
  • quirks
  • happiest moment
  • greatest dream
  • darkest moment
  • wound
  • lie
All of these details help us develop a well-rounded protagonist, one that our readers connect with. There's something else we also determine for our characters: their faith.


My debut novel, Wish You Were Here, hit the shelves May 1. It took me three years to write my first novel. I was a fiction-newbie, crossing over to the "Dark Side" from writing nonfiction. I had a lot to learn -- and to unlearn. I needed every day of those three years to write a publishable novel.                                                                  

Early on in the process, I knew what kind of faith I would "give" my hero and heroine. I wanted Daniel and Allison to both believe in God, but to have skewed perspectives of him. To be confused about who God really is. 

Why?

Because I've been there. I've been a woman of faith who had to admit her beliefs were messed up. That my rock-solid truths about God were faulty. There came a season in my life when I dubbed myself an "Accidental Pharisee." As much as I talked (and even taught) about God's lavish grace, I discovered I was quite comfortable with law, thank you very much. 

In Wish You Were Here, rather than have a character with a journey of unbelief to belief, Allison's and Daniel's spiritual journeys involved recognizing how their misperceptions affected their ability to see -- to understand -- who God truly is.Then I created situations where they discovered the truth about God. 

For me, writing fiction is writing real life. Not everyone I know believes in God. Most everyone I know -- dare I say all? -- who does believe in God also misunderstands him.                                               

Consider your work-in-progress: What kind of faith have you"given" your characters? None? The barest beginning? Rock solid? Is your hero a voice of truth to another character -- or is he the one asking the questions, the one that you, as the author, will be leading one step closer to God with each turn of the page? 

13 comments:

  1. I usually explain my genre as "Christian romance" because I want my characters to grow closer to God as they grow close as a couple. So often my characters are believers. But they've got something to discover about how they view God, or what God is trying to teach them. Funny thing is that it's often what God is teaching me.

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  2. Love your insight, Roxanne, about wanting your couple to grow closer to God as they grow closer together. Isn't that true in real life too?

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  3. I think I usually have characters with shaky faith...maybe they grew up believing but have strayed away...or maybe they're regular churchgoers, but like you said, have misconceptions about God. It's so true...we all have times when our view of God is skewed by a "lie we believe," in MBT-speak. :)

    Loved Wish You Were Here! So excited to see it on bookshelves!!

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  4. Such a great post, Beth. My characters both have flawed understandings of God too. They both have to come to the place where they see God as someone they can trust. Both have truth speakers in their lives with solid walks with God (as well as voices of passion who portray another perspective). :)

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  5. Thanks, Melissa, for the encouraging words about WYWH.
    And I think it's so vital to discover the lies our characters believe so that we can know what truth they need to discover. These key elements drive the whole book -- and our characters actions.
    And these things are also true in real life.

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  6. Jeanne,
    Thanks for bringing up the value of "truth speakers" -- the people (or characters) who speak the truth into our hero's or heroine's lives so that they can finally see God as someone they can trust.

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  7. Being raised in a Christian home, I was under the impression that I had all the answers and knew all there was to know about God. The greatest step in my faith walk was coming to the humbling realization that my understandings were not all correct - in fact, God had to bring me to a place of complete brokeness before He could rebuild my faith without all the "religion" I'd been taught. I learned that if I want a real, living relationship with Him I needed to be a pliable piece of clay, open to new insight and understanding.

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  8. Gabrielle,
    I so, so understand your faith journey.
    And I think so many people have to unravel the "truths" they've learned along the way and discover Truth.

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  9. I LOVED the faithwalk of your characters. I thought it was spot on.

    For my WIP I have chosen to have both protagonists "Unsaved" but the heroine believing she is. Of course that leaves me with a Voice of Truth who must stick pretty close to them. It is amazing in their lives as ours that God is able to break through the fog of lawlessness with his amazing truths.
    I am enjoying the journey with both my characters and with the Lord.

    Ps. Can't wait for the next book Beth.

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  10. You did a beautiful job w/ this & paralleling your own journey.
    I'm still further defining my 2 protagonists. Your list above helps. I know attention to such details will add much depth.

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  11. Developing my characters is probably my greatest challenge, but my protagonists are usually believers, struggling with their faith through challenging circumstances. I find my characters go through things much worse than I've ever dealt with, but the crisis of faith is the same. And I like to write about it because reading believers need the encouragement that God is listening and working in their lives as well.

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  12. Thank you, Ginger. I enjoyed developing Alli's and Daniel's faith journeys.
    And I think it's intriguing for you to have a character who thinks she's in a right relationship with God -- and then discovering she isn't.

    Dee, I admire how you persevere at taking your WIP deeper and deeper.

    Marji, I like how you've developed your characters -- and that you want to encourage believers that God is listening and working in our lives, no matter what.

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  13. In my new WIP,I'm just now laying the Spiritual thread. Both hero and heroine are saved, but have issues. Great article at a good time for me.

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