May 27, 2011

Ink Blots and Wordcrafter

Wordcrafter hasn't gotten as much press on here as The Soldier's Cross and The White Sail's Shaking but it is my favorite novel so far. Probably the main reason why I don't mention it a whole lot is that I don't want to yammer on and on, which I could easily do. But I thought that I would fill out this questionnaire and shed a little "inklight," as Jenny says, on my recently-completed novel Wordcrafter. Prepare to drown in ink pools.

1. What’s your word count?
Approximately 152,000.

2. How long until you finish?
No book is quite finished until it’s published, but Wordcrafter is ‘completed’, edited, and all that jazz. It’s now in the querying stage.

3. If you have finished, how long did it take you?
Pssssh... A year? Eight-ish months? I’m bad with keeping track of time, but I think it was about ten months.

4. Do you have an outline?
Not as such. I had a list of chapters, and that was my outline.

5. Do you have a plot?
One would hope so!

6. How many words do you typically write a day?
Nyeh... For Wordcrafter I wrote about a thousand a day, more or less.

7. What was your greatest word count in one day?
I’m not sure, but perhaps 5,000?

8. What was your least impressive word count in one day?
Again, I’m not sure. 103.556?

9. What inspired you to write?
My sister, Jennifer Freitag, inspired me to begin writing. I always wanted to be able to make up my own stories the way she did. As for Wordcrafter, the idea came, oh, several years back—the idea of a story about two friends from different worlds. And then the plot just began to unfold from there.

10. Does your novel/story have a theme song?
The best I can come up with is Heather Dale’s Brother, Stand Beside Me.

11. Assign each of your major characters a theme song.
One step ahead of you! Check out my Characters and Music post.

12. Which character is most like you?
Justin King is actually more like me than I would have expected when I first began.

13. Which character would you most likely be friends with?
Ethan and Justin both.

14. Do you have a Gary-Stu or Mary Sue character?
Not according to the tests.

15. Who is your favourite character in your novel?
Justin and Ethan tie. I love them both, though they are nearly opposites. The story wouldn’t exist without them both.

16. Have your characters ever done something completely unexpected?
Not really, I don’t think. Sometimes I wouldn’t have an idea of where to go next and the story just had to go along by itself, but the characters were all pretty well behaved.

17. Have you based any of your novel directly on personal experiences?
Only Justin’s being an author. I’m afraid I’ve never gone to another world.

18. Do you believe in plot bunnies?
The writer who doesn’t is in a state of denial. That’s all I have to say.

19. Is there magic in your novel/story?
No.

20. Are any holidays celebrated in your novel/story?
Christmas is mentioned, but not really celebrated. Harvest-time is a “holiday” in Tera.

21. Does anyone die?
Well, you know, death happens...

22. How many cups of coffee/tea have you consumed during your writing experience?
Caffeine in large doses does weird things to my heartrate, so although I like the taste of coffee, I rarely drink it. I do drink tea, but not often.

23. What is the latest you have stayed up writing?
I don’t often stay up late writing even during NaNo, and since Wordcrafter was not a NaNo project, I don’t think I ever stayed up past my usual bedtime writing.

24. What is the best line?
“Drop dead.”

Or perhaps, “Hummingbird…silver…”

25. What is the worst line?
Having edited the story, I sincerely hope there’s no “worst” line. I tried to get rid of all those. Let’s see, uh... “Do you like pasta?”

26. Have you dreamed about your novel/story or its characters?
I wish! But no, I’m afraid I haven’t.

27. Does your novel rely heavily on allegory?
No, it does not, but I found after I was already deep into the story that it has some similarities to the biblical account of the friendship of David and Jonathan.

28. Summarize your novel/story in under fifteen words.
Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (16, but whatever.)

29. Do you love all your characters?
Yes, definitely. They are all very much a part of me.

30. Have you done something sadistic or cruel to your characters specifically to increase your word count?

Methinks this question speaks of NaNo. But no, I’ve never done anything (as far as I can recall) merely to boost my wordcount—during NaNo or at any other time.

31. What was the last thing your main character ate?
Uh, I think the last thing I mentioned was venison. No, it was pigeon.

32. Describe your main character in three words.
Loyal. Steadfast. Wordcrafter.

33. What would your antagonists dress up as for Halloween?
Phew, hard one! I think perhaps Boudicea.

34. Does anyone in your story go to a place of worship?
Not explicitly.

35. How many romantic relationships take place in your novel/story?
Some. Now be content.

36. Are there any explosions in your novel/story?
No.

37. Is there an apocalypse in your novel/story?
No...

38. Does your novel take place in a post-apocalyptic world?
NO...

39. Are there zombies, vampires or werewolves in your novel/story?
NO. No, no, no.

40. Are there witches, wizards or mythological creatures/figures in your novel/story?
Do unicorns count?

41. Is anyone reincarnated?
Nada.

42. Is anyone physically ailed?
I still fail to understand what this “physically ailed” is supposed to mean—I mean, really! Who uses terms like that? If I do understand this very odd question correctly, I think I can say that no character is permanently “physically ailed,” except for a minor player who is blind.

43. Is anyone mentally ill?
Justin does occasionally wonder about Ethan’s sanity.

44. Does anyone have swine flu?
Yep, you have definitely hit upon the underlying theme of my story right here.

45. Who has pets in your novel and what are they?
Justin and Ethan both have horses of unicorn blood.

46. Are there angels, demons, or any religious references/figures in your novel/story?
There is a subtle reference to “the death of a Man on a cross.”

47. How about political figures?
There are kings, a prince, and a lord. Not necessarily all at once. There is also a running joke between Justin and Ethan concerning their last names.

48. Is there incessant drinking?
Yep, the characters are practically fish in that regard. No, no incessant drinking, or drunkenness, or whatever this question means.

49. Are there board games? If so, which ones?

None.

50. Are there any dream sequences?
References to dreams, but no actual dream sequences.

51. Is there humor?
I hope so!

52. Is there tragedy?
To quote something or other: “THEY DIE! There was no other solution!”

53. Does anyone have a temper tantrum?
The closest any character gets to that would be the king’s tirades, and they aren’t really tantrums.

54. How many characters end up single at the end of your novel/story?
I love that. ‘End up single.’ I’m...not really sure how to answer it, though. I suppose you’ll have to see.

55. Is anyone in your novel/story adopted?
No.

56. Does anyone in your novel/story wear glasses?
No.

57. Has your novel/story provided insight about your life?
I think so. I want to think so.

58. Your personality?
Yes, I believe so, especially through Justin’s character. However, it was not intentional.

59. Has your novel/story inspired anyone?
Pff, can’t answer that.

60. How many people have asked to read your novel/story?
Several? Just let me get a publisher on this list.

61. Have you drawn any of your characters?
Alas, I have no drawing skills and I would hate to butcher my beloved characters by subjecting them to such treatment.

62. Has anyone drawn your characters for you?
Yes, I have implored Jenny on hands and knees (essentially) to draw Justin, and she was very nice and did so for me. I’m still working on getting her to do Ethan, though.

63. Does anyone vomit in your novel/story?
Oh, yes, several people! I love getting characters to vomit. Funny, though, I absolutely abhor it myself. I know some people say it makes them feel better, but I would rather keep feeling awful. But anyways, totally beside the point.

64. Does anyone bleed in your novel/story?
Blood is such a pretty, ruby colour, don’t you think?

65. Do any of your characters watch TV?
Nope. Justin couldn’t afford it in Edinburgh, and it’s not quite the thing in Tera.

66. What size shoe does your main character wear?
I haven’t the foggiest idea, I’ve never looked at his shoes.

67. Do any of the characters in your novel/story use a computer?
Justin prefers paper and a pencil.

68. How would you react if your novel/story was erased entirely?
Please. Please don’t even mention it. It’s not funny. (“It’s not a pretty picture... I don’t like doing it!”)

69. Did you cry at killing off any of your characters?
I’ve shed a few tears over this novel, I’ll say that much.

70. Did you cheer when killing off one of your characters?
No, I’m afraid that killing off any character generally makes me pretty depressed.

71. What advice would you give to a fellow writer?
Oh, why bother coming up with my own when Jenny voiced her advice so nicely? “Persevere. Don’t be content with the mediocre and cliché. Read good literature.”

72. Describe your ending in three words.
Sweet. Satisfying. Warm.

73. Are there any love triangles, squares, hexagons, etc.?
I’ve got a great dodecahedron going on. No, I do have a few geometric shapes.

74. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the least stressful, 10 being the most) how does your stress rank?
Regarding Wordcrafter? Probably a 3 over the publishing stage.

75. Was it worth it?
Absolutely. I love Wordcrafter and all its characters like children; I can’t imagine not having them. Yes, it was completely worth it.

May 25, 2011

Sing, O Goddess...

Nearly every book has a protagonist, but they don't all have heroes - not real heroes. There are two definitions of the word:

hero - hɪəroʊ –noun, plural -roes; also -ros.

1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

2. the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc.

But being the second doesn't make a character the first. In ancient literature the leading player was almost always a hero - a great and courageous fighter, like Achilles for the Greeks or Cu Chulainn for the Irish. "Noble qualities" did not necessarily entail high morals; rather they were those virtues that were considered manly, like cunning and daring. If a man made a name for himself through his warring exploits, through the taking of more booty and spilling of more blood than his companions, he was a hero.

The influence of Christianity has changed the concept of "hero" in real life and literature. Take superheroes, for instance. Sure, they have great powers and strength, but they are not given the title "hero" unless they use those powers for "the greater good." Those who use their powers for their own ends are villains, whereas in the ancient epics, most of those men who were called heroes were focused wholly on self-aggrandizement. I'm currently reading The Odyssey, and Odysseus is a prime example of this. I had always thought that the story was about him facing the odds and enduring hardship to return home to his wife and son. Not the case. He kind of dawdles around the Mediterranean, collecting loot; spending a year with Calypso, then a few weeks with Circe; collecting more loot; and then finally deciding that he might as well head home to his own land now. But his wiliness and courage make him a hero by the Greek definition.

The difference between how we view a hero now and how he was viewed then can actually be seen in Disney's "Hercules," where Hercules progresses from "zero to hero" by the popular definition, but never becomes a true hero until he sacrifices his life for Meg. Being a hero means more than defeating your enemies; to be a hero is harder than that. It is easy to kill, but harder to show mercy. It is a simple thing to destroy, but a harder thing to exercise justice. Even gaining riches is easy compared with the hardship of giving up everything for another.

Some of the best tales are ones that combine these two elements of a hero. Adding the thrill of a victorious warrior to the depth of a godly man makes a truly great character, like David. Not every protagonist will be a fighter, but every hero ought to that inward strength that sets him apart as a great man, a man who reflects Christ. For who so completely embodies the heart of a hero as our Lord?

May 19, 2011

Small Enterprises and a Book Trailer

Last week my friend Megan posted her "Soundtrack to Minor Endeavours," a writing exercise. The rules are:

1. Take a Technological Purveyor of Music (such as an iPod) and set it to shuffle.

2. As soon as the first song starts playing, start writing. Don't put too much thought into the process, and don't bother trying to force the writing to the song -- just let the music carry your pen along.

3. When the song stops playing, stop writing. Don't edit anything.

But I cheated (as usual). I picked out the songs I wanted, set the song on repeat instead of stopping at the end, and edited. I can't stand not editing. But anyhow, despite those rather wide departures from the rules of the game, the result was three blurbs from three separate stories inspired by three different songs. The first is for my work in progress, The White Sail's Shaking. The second is for my story Sunshine and Gossamer, still in the percolating stage. The third is for my nebulous idea Ginger, a Victorian tale that is simmering (if that) on the back-back-back burner.

So with that, let me introduce my small enterprises.

Vanilla Twilight - Owl City (The White Sail's Shaking)

The ocean was sobbing tonight. He sat on the brig’s side with one leg thrown over it, black boot dangling over the depths below, his hand clenched around the ratline. Deep blue sea met lighter blue sky on the horizon, but around the ship it turned violet and rushed like voices. One soft voice in particular. The night smelled of jasmine in summer, and his chest ached with the sweetness; he breathed it in, trying to grasp it and hold it forever, but it was grasping at a dream. He moved his hand over the rope fibres, whistling a breath out through his nose as he thought of how often that motion had felt another hand instead. He missed it more tonight than he ever had before, for he knew he would never touch her hand again. He would never smell the jasmine in her hair. He would never see that strangely adoring look in her eyes turned to his...

“Darkwood?”

He drew a breath and glanced sideways at the familiar white figure. “Yes, Bent?” he asked back, a little sharply.

“Sorry. Were you thinking of someone?”

Darkwood laughed softly, dropping his gaze to the violet sea once more. “Always,” he replied. “Always.”



Children - Escala (Sunshine and Gossamer)

The green expanse rolled heavenward, the grass and the spattering of flowers dancing in the breeze. At first Sunshine tried to avoid stepping on the blossoms; she walked carefully, higher and higher, with Gossamer whisking along at her side like a lithe black shadow detached from its owner. But the wind grew as she went on through the pasture. The trees at the hilltop were dipping and rising in it, the grass was rippling in softer greys. It caught at Sunshine’s hair and blew it back from her face; it ruffled the black tuft that was Gossamer’s tail. A bird skimmed by, a flash of blue on the landscape. Sunshine’s heart began to rise and she lifted her gaze from her feet to the skyline, which had begun to burn with white fire as the dawn approached. Her pace quickened—she was running, Gossamer ever at her side; a cloud of yellow butterflies burst up before them and scattered into the blue. The wind rushed on by her or she by it, and she threw up her arms to skim the air as the bird had done. On and on, ever quickening, racing the sunrise to the top.

In a moment she gained the summit and crested the hill just as the sun, yellow like the butterflies, shot over the horizon and flooded the Welsh countryside in light. Sunshine’s heart pounded with exhilaration, arms still outstretched, drinking in the dawn with her whole body. “Oh, Gossamer!” she cried, half-sobbing, “what beauty! Oh, what beauty!”


Chi Mai - Escala (Ginger)

She would have to lead the dance, she and Mr. Ransom. Inside her new white dress she was all a-flutter, and she was blushing for no other reason than the newness of being at the centre of such an event. She had just a few more minutes to stand here out of the way before the waltz would play—the waltz she had picked out herself—and Mr Ransom would take her hand, and they would step to the floor together. No! Not even a minute; there he was. Her heart gave a leap like a frightened deer and heat washed over her skin.

“You’re blushing,” he said as he held out one gloved hand to her, and she put hers in it. “Are you nervous?”

“A little,” Ginger managed, answering his smile with a quivering one of her own.

“Why? This is your favourite; you’ve danced to it before.”

“Yes. But never in front of all these people.”

“Then pretend they aren’t here. Just you and the music, Ginger: just you and the music, like it always is.”

Yes: just her and the music. It was beginning now, the soft, slow rhythm she loved so well. It was like a dream; Ransom was putting his arm around her and she rested one hand on his shoulder, the other still in his, her white dress swishing over his black boots. His eyes smiled down at her, and they and the music became all the world to Ginger as the waltz began. He was steady, completely unselfconscious, and slowly she grew less agitated as well.

Around, back, stepping lightly on the flats of her shoes—tip, tap... Like a heartbeat the melody went on. Now it was more than a dream. Everything was real, beautifully real. This was her night and no one else’s. She closed her eyes and breathed. It was just her and the music; her and the music.

-

And in addition to those, I have a larger endeavor: a book trailer for The Soldier's Cross. Credit: Iardacil-stock at deviantART (for the woman); dead-brushes at deviantART (for the cliffs); night-fate-stock at deviantART (for tree and landscape); and Kevin MacLeod (for music). Enjoy!

May 16, 2011

Technology, Outlines, and FreeMind

FreeMind is dangerous to one's productivity levels. It eats its way into your good intentions and leaves you wondering just where the time got to. But...it's really fun. And perhaps even helpful. After noticing it on Ara's blog I downloaded it, but expected that it would go the way of other such programs - down into the deep, dark depths of the computer where it would languish until the computer crashed. That happened after I tried yWriter (except for the computer-crashing part); it was just too segmented and demanding.

But FreeMind did not turn out to be that way. I began poking about, trying different buttons to see what they did, and became quite absorbed in the task. I found that at the very least, it is a convenient place to lay out one's plot in outline form, keep track of characters, take notes on locations, and arrange facets of the story in a way that flows logically. I can't say how beneficial it would be for developing the plot, as I already had mine laid out, but it is an excellent means of keeping track of little elements that might otherwise get lost in the clutter.
This is the (mostly) finished product of my endeavor, based on Ara's mapping technique for her novel Riven. On the right I placed the actual outline, separated into the broad segments Beginning, Middle, and Climax; and on the left I put the other information I wanted for quick reference: the Main Characters, the Secondary Characters, the Tertiary Characters, and the Locations. This is a pretty basic layout, but its simplicity makes it easy to follow.

Plot Outline Confession: I don't read books on writing. The great writers like Dickens and Austen didn't, and I don't see why I ought to. I've studied (and continue to study, although not in the stricter sense) grammar and I glean from the books, fiction and non-fiction, that I read, but I don't read books on writing. However, I do know that most authors of writing books discuss how every story is separated into three sections: Beginning, Middle, and Climax. The Beginning and the Middle each have their conflict and climax, which are then tied off in the final Climax. (Ara just wrote an article on outlining that featured this, under the amusing title When Skeletons Dance.)

My first reaction to that hard-and-fast separation was, "Bah!" I'm still not sure that every story has to be set up in that manner, but when it came down to doing a FreeMind outline for The White Sail's Shaking, I was forced to conclude that it, at least, is. As Elizabeth Bennet says, "That would be the greatest misfortune of all! - To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! - Do not wish me such an evil." But anyway, I accepted the sad truth that my novel had defied me and set to work outlining the three different parts. The Beginning is the largest, perhaps mostly because everything is being set up in that part. The Middle, however, bears the brunt of the action, the conflict, and the tension, and there are more branches off the chapters here as more things are packed into a shorter amount of time. The Climax, which I did not enlarge in the picture for spoilers' sake, is the smallest; it has only three chapters. They are large ones, however, and their branches have branches.

Information I don't know whether I actually needed this section, as it is more firmly cemented in my mind than the actual outline was, but I found it fun to add the different "nodes" and separate everything out. The Main Characters section is closed in the above image because it has spoilers, but there I listed all the major players - Tip, Charlie, Lewis, Darkwood, Marta, and Scipio. I did not do any smaller branches with information on them, as it wasn't necessary, but you could if you wanted. The Secondary Characters is for supporting people, such as Decatur (listed with a Number 1 because he is the "major minor" character); I may add to it later on. I also did a Tertiary Character list for the families of the main characters who appear every now and then and who made the characters what they are. I picked out Tip's and Darkwood's to show what I did here; again, not much detail, but you could add more if you wanted to.

The Locations section I separated into Land and Ships. Neither is all-encompassing, or at least is not yet, but I put the major spots, such as Gibraltar, Syracuse, and Tripoli. This was perhaps the least really necessary part of the mapping, but I admit that I did it because it was fun, and I like having things laid out in an orderly fashion. Most of the time.
Bent regarded him, eyes shifting back and forth between Tip's, and then asked, "Are we?"

"I don't know. I've always thought it takes more than one to make a friendship."

May 11, 2011

From the Shelf

I love books. I love buying them, I love reading them, I love smelling them, I love looking at them. They are, hands down, my favorite things to purchase. However, I am also cheap. Really cheap. I think all the Scottish blood from my mom's side of the family was somehow concentrated in me, for it is rare that I will buy a book for over $4 - to the point where, at birthdays and the like when I give books as presents, my family asks, "Did you pay more than three dollars for it?" Condition isn't very important to me, except in gift-giving - I prefer my books used - so I have a rather battered collection of books on my shelf. And the nice ones? Oh, those are the ones that friends and family have given me.

Shelf One - Left Side: I have a lot of C.S. Lewis, and not nearly as much as I want. The Parable of Joy by Michael Card, on the far left, isn't really mine; I just absorbed it into my stash. Letters of C.S. Lewis came out of a house that my dad and brother bought and renovated, and The Screwtape Letters and The Joyful Christian were presents. I'm not sure why I still have I Kissed Dating Goodbye; I'm not very fond of it. The Four Loves I bought, back in the day before I knew of the wonderful site called Alibris and bought books from Barnes & Noble. The other books I either bought, acquired for free (no, I didn't steal them), or were presents (like the Norsk dictionary over on the right.)

Shelf One - Right Side: Most of these are historical fictions, as the histories are getting squeezed out to go on my other bookshelf. I've been building my collection of Sutcliff novels for the past few months; Frontier Wolf is missing from this picture because I'm still reading it. I actually spent over $7 each for that, The Shield Ring, and The Mark of the Horse Lord, which just goes to show how much I wanted those Front Street editions. (And don't get me started on all the trouble I went through to get Mark.) Let's see... There are still some research books there, but The Influence of Sea Power upon History is in use. Couple of Costain novels, but I didn't care for Below the Salt and so haven't gotten around to reading The Black Rose.

Shelf Two: Did I mention that I like C.S. Lewis? Many of the books on this shelf were gifts, including the three on the left: The Thirty-Nine Steps, The Pilgrim's Progress, and The Chronicles of Narnia. (Yes, I do still have extras of The Chronicles. I can't seem to get rid of them.) Those hardbacks of Out of the Silent Planet, That Hideous Strength, and the three Chronicles books were from the same house as Letters of C.S. Lewis. The Silmarillion my dad bought for me. I have most of L'Engle's Time Quintet, but I didn't care for the last one and so never bothered to buy it. The green book to the right of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is The Gammage Cup; I rather wonder how I managed to keep Jenny from taking it with her when she moved out. Over on the right are mostly "girly" books, like Little Women.

Shelf Three: Lamplighter Publishing books on the left, random-assortment-of-classics-which-would-not-fit-on-my-designated-classics-shelf on the right. That copy of Ben-Hur I'm only holding until a friend comes in June and I can give it to her. Most of the other classics I picked up cheaply at booksales or on Alibris. The Lamplighters, which tend to be expensive, I mostly acquired as presents.

Shelf Four - Left: In case you couldn't guess, that Barnes & Noble copy of The Iliad and the Odyssey was - yes - a gift. The lovely edition of Ben-Hur I got from Jenny's mother-in-law; Beowulf was one of Jenny's 3+ copies, and she deigned to let me have it. Shakespeare's works I absorbed into my own collection, as with that hideously orange copy of Wuthering Heights. The Woman in White and Bleak House were both gifts, hence their new condition. I did actually buy Gone with the Wind...for ninety-nine cents. Yes, I'm cheap.

Shelf Four - Right: This Oxford Illustrated set of Jane Austen's novels, a birthday present from my dad, is probably the nicest collection of books I own. (Pride and Prejudice is missing from the photo because I was rereading it at the time.) The copy of Daddy-Long-Legs I picked up at a used-book store; it has a lovely smell. The other cloth-bound books were mostly absorbed from other shelves in the house. Mother West Wind's Children, the blue book, was a childhood favorite.

Shelf Five - I don't have a good photo of this one, but that's all right: I can't reach the shelf without the aid of a step, so it's primarily made up of books that I don't care about very much. I do have three old G.A. Henty's, Les Miserables, Chaucer, A Tale of Two Cities, and some more Shakespeare up there, banished to the top shelf because they wouldn't fit on any other.

Bookshelf Number Two - This is actually an entertainment unit, but who cares? If it can be used for holding books, it will be. This holds my mysteries, histories, and a random assortment of other books that would not fit on my big bookshelf, but were too good to go into storage, such as the Anne of Green Gables series. Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Dorothy Sayers, and one Mary Stewart novel make up most of my mystery collection.

Those are the books on my shelf. What about yours?

May 6, 2011

We Have the Mind of Christ

This school year I have been taking a course on Philosophy, and my term paper happens to be on the question What is Truth? I started out with much fear and trembling and intense feelings of the paltriness of my mind, wondering how on earth I could produce a worthwhile ten- to thirteen-page essay on such a difficult topic. I've actually found, however, that writing this report is easier than my other essay for History, primarily because of the large amount of literature on the topic. The issue of objective versus subjective Truth has been around for ages, expressed by Pilate so famously in his brief, skeptical question to Jesus: "What is Truth?" Nowadays, with destructive postmodernist philosophy strong in the world and in the Church, the common answer is that there is no truth. Or, at least, there is no objective Truth. Truth is what you make it to be; it's all a matter of perspective.

This view has worked itself into the modern Church with alarming success, resulting in the widespread belief among professing believers that the Bible is not God's objective Word and does not need to be obeyed. Phrases like "Well, that's true for you..." and "That's just your opinion" tumble easily out of the mouths of the majority of professing Christians. This disbelief (usually subconscious) in the existence of objective Truth in the moral realm then also manifests itself in the types of entertainment that are accepted - in music, literature, art, what-have-you - because if there is no objective Truth, there is no standard and everything is simply a matter of personal opinion.

It's understandable that because of this ecclesiastically-accepted postmodernism, more reformed churches react against it and begin to lay down rules as to what things Christians should listen to or compose, read or write, admire or draw. We begin to see the development of the use of "Christian" as an adjective - "Christian" novels, "Christian" music, etc. - and even if what are termed "secular" forms of entertainment are not wholly condemned, we are encouraged to stay primarily within those categories labeled "Christian." These are considered healthy and safe and God-honoring.

Unfortunately, this reaction to the looseness of modern Christian morality is just that - a reaction. It moves to the other end of the spectrum and begins to construct definitions of "good" and "bad," "healthy" and "unhealthy," "God-pleasing" and "God-dishonoring," that are not found in the Scriptures. Some body of officials is set up to say that this book is good because the author mentions God a few times, but that book is bad because the characters don't profess to be Christians. That music is bad because it uses drums, but this music is sacred because it is in the hymnbook. But do all men not have the Imago Dei? And isn't it possible that the image of God that they bear comes out in a beautiful or powerful or even truthful way in their work, whether or not they are a believer? Paul himself quoted a pagan poet in addressing the Athenians and gave the man credit for speaking truth. Is it not possible for a thinking Christian to find diamonds of truth in the works of Plato or of Marcus Aurelius; in Charles Dickens and in Shakespeare; in works of fiction and works of history?

But you might say, "Well, surely there are a great many bad books and music and art in the world." And I say yes, most certainly; and there are a great many bad books and music and art that call themselves Christian, too. The point is not to be lulled into comfort by tags and labels, not to be trusting because a CD has "CCM" on it or because a novel is in the Christian fiction part of Barnes & Noble. Believers must be thinking men and women - thinking and fearless. When you combine a sanctified mind with trust in God, there is not only no danger in "secular" works, but you will often find good challenges and truths.

In case you think I am saying that Christians can benefit by every genre of book and style of music and ought to read and listen indiscriminately, I'm not. I think that being critical of what you read is as important as being critical as you read. But this critical thinking should not be guided by what the Higher Ups have in their great and boundless wisdom termed "Christian"; it should be guided by a firm knowledge (and by that I mean a scriptural and well-considered knowledge) of objective good and bad.

Naturally, the first question is of the morality of any work. If the lyrics of the song are obscene or the content of a book is immoral, there is no reason for a believer to waste his time in listening to the music or reading the book. But something may be decent without passing the test of objective worth; it may simply not be any good. Personally, I think many "Christian" novels fall into this category. (Sadly, most of the ones I have read fail to pass the first test, either.) The plot is so old that the author is not just beating the dead horse, he is, as my sister likes to say, "beating the greasy patch where the horse used to be." Or the writing is flimsy and unpolished, with no beauty or truth or impact. In one area or another, or perhaps a whole bunch, the book isn't good. Why waste time with such a thing when there are thousands of other objectively good books to be read and enjoyed? Or perhaps a song is clean - perhaps even a rendition of a hymn - but the music is discordant, or the singer's voice is horrid. Is this beauty? Is this worth spending time listening to?

The very fact of the presence of the Imago Dei in mankind that I mentioned earlier demands better things than this. We ought to search for beauty and cherish it when we find it, and not be content to sit in the mud and make pies. It may be that subjectively you don't care for Bach or for Jane Austen, but the mind should be attuned to the objective worth of such works of art. In I Corinthians Paul talks about the wisdom of God and the unsearchable, unknowable depths of His mind, then says powerfully and succinctly: "But we have the mind of Christ." That is a deep thing, having the mind of Christ. I cannot imagine that having this mind of Christ, we are meant to let it stagnate by remaining always in our comfort zone and never exercising the power we have through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We ought always to be searching out good things and enjoying them as gifts from God, and honoring Him in that enjoyment as the Giver of every good gift.
 
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I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings






The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings






Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing



Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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