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Celestial Diaries: Building an Existing World

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

[Entry #2; Continued from Entry #1]

Has anyone here seen Sharkboy and Lavagirl as a kid? Yeah, that cheesy film is pretty dumb for the most part, but it did have a singular merit. It emphasized how selfish daydreaming isolates you; while unselfish imagination builds bridges. And, well, I may or may not possess some rather embarrassing notebooks of story scribbles and character drawings that mini-me wrote thanks to that movie’s influence. What can I say? Building a fiction world appealed to me. Of course, when I decided to seriously pursue story-making, I knew slapping together whatever first popped in my brain wasn’t going to cut it. If my ‘angel project’ was going to effectively reach others for Christ, I needed to intelligently knit creativity and Biblical truth together. Somehow.

The most straightforward part was learning Biblical truth. I simply needed to sit down and prayerfully digest every verse the Bible had on angels, demons, and the supernatural. It wasn’t easy, though. I wrestled with super deep theological questions—the kinds that make even the most mature Christian’s head spin. That, however, will be the topic of the next Celestial Diaries entry. This entry is about the much less defined road: the creative process. I started developing Celestial’s atmosphere thinking I had it easier than most world-builders. It wasn’t like I was creating entire universes from scratch like Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Tackling the invisible side of real life was the only big hurdle. Right? Boy, do I laugh at my naivety now. Yeah, I wasn’t building countries. I was just—oh, I don’t know—literally attempting to contextualize invisible beings that are closely tied to God’s character! Making any misstep risked confusing God’s personhood to anyone who doesn’t truly know Him well. What’s more? Even after learning what Scripture revealed, there was only so much I could concretely glean on angels. Filling in the the blanks (like their abilities and interactions) required extremely careful and informed guesswork. And yes, I suffered many a headache over it.

To help, I sought other angel fictions to see if anyone else handled them in a truly Biblical way. Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness I thoroughly enjoyed. Most of it fit Scripture pretty well, save for a few details. Trouble was, his humans carried the spotlight more than his angels did, so his depiction didn’t go as far as I planned to. I kept looking for other fictions comparable to mine. Sadly, time and time again, I ran into disappointment. You don’t know how many angel books and movies I immediately disregarded thanks to its description alone. I’m not saying they couldn’t be good or enjoyable. They just weren’t Scripturally sound... at all. Eventually, I gave up looking and accepted the facts. My ‘angel project’ was going to be a class of its own with extremely unique needs. That was encouraging in a way. Standing out would be pretty feasible. Unfortunately, it also meant I picked a largely unmarked, unpaved road that no set of fantasy/sci-fi writing tips could help me fully navigate. With that, there was only one thing God put in my head to do; roll up my sleeves and put my Scriptural training, gaming chops, and apologetics skills to work. I know that sounds odd, but you’ll understand in a sec.

You’ve probably heard the saying ‘write what you know’. Well, at that point in Celestial’s development, it was going to be a video game, not a book. So my writing skills were pretty basic at the time. I studied game design, and I learned Christian apologetics. Thus, I didn’t follow writing techniques. I simply wrote based on what I knew, and I knew great games meant nailing the gameplay. This factor helped me build up the angelic types and how they’d function. The Bible already narrowed down at least six angelic kinds for me. As for function, Scripture revealed their many tasks but didn’t always share exactly how they did them. The speculation part then rested on my gaming sensibilities. Gamers love variety and usually prefer characters that both befit their play-style and aren’t too overpowered so the challenge is then preserved. Each angelic kind then took on classic and hybridized gaming-styles that befit their Biblical profile; along with the specific skillsets they needed to balance each other out. I’d share the specifics, but that would take hours to explain. Later on, after Celestial transitioned from game to book, I was supremely thankful my game designing already produced the right levels of power and limitation that were key to generating truly engaging conflicts.

The next creative hurdle, though, proved much tougher. I needed to determine how angels might interact with the earth. Unfortunately, while metaphysical history is trackable in Scripture, when it comes to the rest of history and the present day, it’s largely blank. Good thing my apologetics training came in handy. You see, I learned from Answers in Genesis how to defend God’s Word by using God’s Word by evaluating academic info through a Biblical lens. (Check their website out! They’re awesome!) So when it came to deciphering recorded phenomena, critical Biblical thinking came into play. What some people called ghosts, the Bible identified as demons. Mythological creatures—from a Biblical view—could have been things that existed that we misconstrued or something we once could see. All in all, the Bible helped me find supernatural possibilities to inexplicable events. You see, thanks to Scripture, I knew demons, and I knew angels. I understood what they’re about. I also knew God. He conducts all things for the hardening and softening of hearts. It then just boiled down to studying God’s consistent character, His methods, and how what He allowed to happen changed lives in specific ways. Yes, it’s a monstrous web. You don’t expect to detangle every misguided fact in a week much less a lifetime. Still, this ongoing process gave and continues to give me all kinds of plausible scenarios I can use.

Of course, random scenarios and a balanced angelic hierarchy does not a story make. I needed a theme. Something at the center. Something that’s going to tie every character and event together. Something that’ll turn this imaginative venture of mine from something personally gratifying to something that’ll connect with people for God. This missing piece eluded me for a while. That is, until my Bible excursions provided that pivotal part the ‘angel project’ needed, and changed Celestial forever...

[to be continued...]

I hope you liked this entry of Celestial Diaries! There’s more to come! Please consider liking, sharing, and leaving a comment. And if you’d like to see more of what I do and my book, Celestial, visit my Celestial book page for info and shopping links and consider subscribing for my free, non-spammy newsletter below for updates and possible prizes! Thank you!

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