Updated: Sep 25, 2021
It’s super difficult for most storytellers and writers to find direction. You’ve got rich concepts but no sure theme. It’s like being stuck in a nice boat in the middle of the ocean. You’ve got oars. You’ve got sails. You’ve got charts but no idea which way to paddle. I certainly spent a good while lost like that during those early story writing stages for my upcoming book, Celestial, but I had determined to ground my creativity on a Biblical foundation. I drew most of my inspiration from it. It’s been my guiding star to where my angelic characters could go, and through it, I found my plot’s destination. In short, the Bible is the basis upon which my interpretation of the spiritual world rests, and yet you’d be surprised how often my peers brought outside sources to my attention.
You see, over the course of eight years, I’ve shared about my book with several people, and many times some asked if I drew from places besides the Bible. Jewish folklore, catholic tradition, and even the apocrypha was among those suggested. However, what remains funny to me is that whenever I was asked, most of the time the asker assumed I already did outsource. It was almost like outsourcing my book’s foundation was expected of me as a writer. Now, I know nobody intended any harm with this kind of advice. Still, the sheer number of times I met that presumption kinda tells you something about how much the average person and Christian really relies on the Word for understanding.
Now, in some things, storytellers and artists should seek multiple sources. Creativity always needs inspiration to spring from. It’s a natural part of the creative process. I myself acquired a ton of story ideas from lots of various media from Marvel films to games like Overwatch. Besides, it makes for grander results. However, it’s the foundation of a story or work of art I’m talking about. Because when it comes to presenting something that’s true or establishing core themes, we as Christian Creatives should ask ourselves: Is it wise to consult more than one standard? Because lets be honest here. Human folklore and tradition, even if they do generate imaginative ideas, seldom mesh with good, hard Scripture where it’s crucial.
Consider this hypothetical example. Writing Satan as an equal opposite to God for a supernatural story sounds like a harmless means for conflict, right? It’s a popular depiction and is traditionally accepted to boot. However, it comes with an unintended side-effect. Doing so, even fictionally, demeans God’s absolute omnipotence over everything because it makes Him sound like He’s got a fifty percent chance of losing to the Devil. However, in reality, to simply equal God is Satan’s lowest aim. Thus, any author would risk two subtle yet costly problems by adding it in. One, it presents a Biblical God that doesn’t fit His own description, and two, it perpetuates this flawed view to anyone who might not know any better. It wouldn’t be anything a writer intends, and it’s wise to recognize that nobody can please everyone. Still, it’s pitfalls like this we should avoid.
I’ve heard it said that fiction is mere entertainment. Nobody is supposed to take it seriously, and to a certain extent that is true. On the other-hand, someone always does. How many billions of movie/game/tv based merchandise is bought and sold by the truckload in a day? More than we can count. So lets stop kidding ourselves that fiction is not taken seriously. We do take it seriously. Besides, even if you are largely passive to it, fiction still imbeds its messages deep into your subconscious, and that’s the key factor here. What messages does the fiction in question imply? Because no matter who you are, Christian or not, I think we can all agree that foundational, clear cut truth is necessary yet in lethally short supply.
Now, I’m not breaking new ground to say that the world is deceitful. It always has been. Almost nothing and no one is as they seem, and unfortunately, when truth is as skewed as it is now, it’s exhausting to straighten out. So exhausting in fact, we (including myself) often find it easier to either simply resign ourselves to the first sensible sounding thing without question or invent our own standard. The result? Chaos and spiritual dullness - something the Lord charged us to stand against. You see, God Himself appointed His adopted sons and daughters to be the truth seekers. We’re to bring truth to bear in speech, in deed, and in expression, but we’ve sadly let our personal rest in His grace prompt us not to apply ourselves. Digging out the truth and sharing it, even in fictional form, is a tough responsibility. I’m not gonna lie. We shouldn’t act frantic over doing so either. After all, the ultimate results of our works are God’s. However, leaving the results to Him wasn’t meant to give us license to become careless or unintentional. Nobody intends to be either of those things, sure, but it’s a common fault, even in the global church. I say this not to depress people. I say this to challenge and encourage them as well as myself. For we Christians are equipped with His Spirit and the Word of God. We can discern and harness the truth. We just need to tirelessly keep leaning on the reality of His Word - both in life and make-believe.
Now, before I close, allow me to clarify that I’m not saying Christians can’t love or invent totally unrealistic, alien worlds. Imagination is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. Plus, sci-fi and fantasy are some excellent means to express Biblical thinking in fantastical, refreshing ways. What I am saying is that, unlike what many think, I believe fiction isn’t a dismissible thing. It’s a powerful thing, and powerful things usually lead to one of two outcomes: great good or great harm. While I was lost in the ‘creative sea’, I sat, concerned over what theological issues I could accidentally cause in a project as ambitious as Celestial. I knew people would internalize how I’d portray God and His angels - like it or not. Thus for me, there was no debate about it. There was but one best and surest foundation for my book; one that could adequately test the messages hidden in my world-building: the Scriptures. For when it comes to finding fictional direction, what guide could be better than the one God gave us for reality?
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