What Makes Effective Christian Fiction…And What Doesn’t?

In this article, Lee Duigon discusses what makes effective Christian-based fiction by way of a book review of the Chronicles of the Nephilium by Brian Godawa. Even if you don’t know the book, this is a very well-written article worth taking a look at–particularly if you read and/or write Christian fiction. It was published in Chalcedon’s online magazine. You can find out more about Lee Duigon and check out his book series, Bell Mountain, through his personal website and blog.


A Review of Chronicles of the Nephilim by Brian Godawa by Lee Duigon

Who doesn’t want to know more about those “giants in the earth”—Nephilim in Hebrew?

I couldn’t wait to read these books. Biblical mysteries elucidated! The bare-bones narrative of Genesis fleshed out! What really happened in that age before the Flood? It’s quite a draw.

And what a disappointment, when I finally read them.

But first I read the appendices attached to each book. These were fascinating, compelling. Delving deeply into Biblical and extra-Biblical scholarship, Godawa relocates Genesis into its original historical and cultural context, that of the Ancient Near East: Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaanites, and how ancient Israel itself was influenced by these neighboring civilizations.

This led him to make an intriguing argument that there are other spiritual beings, angels, some good and some evil, some subordinate to God, Yahweh Elohim, but others in rebellion against Him; and that these rebel entities came down to earth and set themselves up as false gods, worshiped by the heathen nations; that these beings sought to control human history; and that they interbred with mortal women, producing a race of giants and assorted abominations.

He supports his argument with both Scripture and other ancient sources, such as the non-canonical Book of Enoch, Jewish tradition, and non-Jewish mythology. I have not the scholarship to debate his conclusions.

But whatever the value of the scholarship behind them, I cannot endorse these novels.

A Movie in Your Mind

Godawa is a Hollywood screenwriter by profession. His work is in the movies, he thinks in terms of movies, and he writes his novels hoping that his readers will experience them as a kind of movie in the mind.

What he does is string one movie cliché after another. He’s got them all: wise-cracking heroes getting off zingers as they march into mortal danger, like any pair of cops in a buddy movie; beautiful young women who are really good at martial arts; rapid shifts from one scene to another, action-movie style; sneering villains who are only one short step removed from snarling “Curses, foiled again!” My impression was of a comic book without pictures. Godawa prefers to think of his novels as movies without film. Maybe it would be fair to liken them to movies based on comic books.

And of course, as in any movie pitched to eleven-year-olds, these novels feature endless slangy, smart-alecky dialogue. What is the point of having characters that are supposed to be immortal spiritual beings, or great heroes of the Bible, if they’re just going to talk like a twenty-first century screenwriter thinks teenagers talk?

Really—it just seems wrong for archangels to say things like “We saved your rear ends.”

Literary Offenses

Two more literary offenses must be noted here.

These books present a bad case of “adjectivitis”—way too many adjectives burden the text, most of them unnecessary. There is no need for the author to editorialize about his villains. What they say and do establishes them as the bad guys. There is no need to label them, repeatedly, as “diabolical” or “sadistic.” Not when they’re always shown doing diabolical or sadistic things.

Worse, Godawa puts into the mouths of rebel angels, immortal beings living centuries before the Flood, actual quotations from present-day leaders of the Democratic Party. To list just a few examples, with their original speakers:

“Hope and change” (Barack Obama)

“Fundamental transformation” (Obama)

“I feel your pain” (Bill Clinton)

“It depends on what ‘is’ is” (Bill Clinton)

“You didn’t build that” (Obama quoting Elizabeth Warren)

In addition to verbatim quotations from the twenty-first century, Godawa’s wicked spiritual entities also spout modern catch-phrases of feminism, “gay rights,” “animal rights,” and accuse God of such modern trespasses as colonialism, imperialism, sexism, and being “macho.” As a reader I found this very hard to bear.

Godawa says (in an email to me: I thank him for taking the time for it) that he has done this to demonstrate that wickedness, tyranny, and flimflam have always been with us, they originate from spiritual wickedness, and they haven’t changed. To use current political leaders’ quotes, he says, is to demonstrate that the same sins that afflict us today afflicted us before the Flood.

Fair enough. You can make that argument. But maybe Godawa doubts the readers’ ability to come to the desired conclusion unless he makes things thunderingly obvious.

Elsewhere he himself has written, “Christian movies, though well-intentioned and sincere, often suffer from heavy-handedness in their desire to convert the unbeliever through art.” And he adds, “Which is more to be avoided: a pagan movie that rings true, or ‘Christian’ propaganda that rings false?”1

Physician, heal thyself.

Why Does It Matter?

I’ve taken time to discuss these literary faults because I think it’s important.

Why?…..

Continue reading: https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/a-review-of-chronicles-of-the-nephilim-by-brian-godawa

 

Inspiration Sunday

Thanks to Lee Duigon for sharing this post–very inspirational, and a much needed reminder for so many of us!

Daughter, Rest.

1 minute read.

I don’t want to write about rest. I’ve been putting it off because I haven’t had time. Ironic.

Rest sounds weak, selfish. The sabbath is an outdated tradition and I’m a 21st century Christian. If I rest, I am doing this Jesus thing wrong.

Actually, if I rest, I realize I am doing this Jesus thing wrong. If I pause for five minutes, I learn how exhausted I am, how hungry I am for these words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you…

Rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NIV)

Rest. If I do it, I dare to discover my great need for Jesus. I learn the victory of the Gospel is not up to me, but up to Him. Yikes. Say hello to my ugly pride.

Get this: when I refuse to rest, I lose sight of the entire purpose of my work. When I am too distracted by my to do list, I miss what, or rather, who is sitting right in front of me: my Savior, calling out to me, “Julia, Julia, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed, only one.”*

What am I working for? For my glory or His?

…Keep reading Daughter, Rest.

 

How to Write a Fantasy Novel by Lee Duigon

How to Write a Fantasy Novel

In reclaiming cultural ground for Christ’s Kingdom, even small gains count. Besides, one never knows what even the smallest victories might lead to.Fantasy literature has long been popular, especially among young readers, twelve years old and up. When J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series made publishing history, it gave birth to a boom in fantasy. Here, at last, was something that young people really wanted to read!But an examination of the shelves in any bookstore will show that fantasy, for all its popularity, has a major downside for Christian readers. The market is dominated by unwholesome content—books glamorizing witchcraft, vampirism, zombies, etc.

C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien have long held the fort for Christianity in the realm of fantasy. It’s time they received some reinforcements.

A Darker Message

Why write Christian fantasy? The reasons are simple enough.

*Fantasy, like poetry, appeals to a region of the mind not easily reached by other types of fiction. Would it not be good ministry to sow some seeds there?
*Why let the field be monopolized by work that is anything but Christian?
*An effective use of fantasy in Christ’s service will make some readers more receptive to the gospel.

Finally, much fantasy is being used today to deliver a darker message…

Click to continue reading: How to Write a Fantasy Novel

Why Is It So Hard to Write Good Fantasy? by Lee Duigon

I’m always looking for more fantasy fiction to read, to inspire my own work and, hopefully, to teach me how to do it better.

I’ve read hundreds of mystery novels of all kinds, and can count on my fingers the ones that have been truly awful. It’s not hard at all to find a good mystery. But with fantasy it’s the other way around.

Why should that be? There are authors who have made prodigious amounts of money writing fantasy that is at best half-baked. And there are lesser fantasy writers who produce stuff that’s hardly fit for the bottom of a bird cage.

Good fantasy fiction, obviously, will have things in common with quality fiction in any genre: an interesting plot; well-drawn characters who have some depth to them; situations that engage the reader’s emotions; a smooth flow of the language. But in fantasy–and in science fiction, too, by the way–books that lack those features are, well, plentiful…

Continue Reading: Why Is It So Hard to Write Good Fantasy?

 

Book Review: ‘Into the Shadow Wood’ by Allison Reid

Thanks to Lee Duigon for writing such a wonderful review of my companion novella to the Wind Rider Chronicles. Lee is an amazing author in his own right, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying his Bell Mountain series (YA Christian Fantasy). For him to read and review my writing is a real honor! (Click the source link at the bottom to read the entire review.)


isw-cover-medThis is Book 3 of the “Wind Rider Chronicles” by Allison Reid, also known here as our esteemed colleague, “Weavingword”–and it’s a corker.

When I reviewed Book 2, Ancient Voices, last winter, I predicted that these books, already quite good, would get better as the series went on–and how about that, I was right.

To get the most out of this book, you ought to read Book 1, Journey to Aviad. That’s because Into the Shadow Wood is sort of a mini-book, a little over 40,000 words long, written to tie up some loose ends left over from Book 1. But this little book is anything but an afterthought.

These are solidly Christian books, suitable for readers 12 and up, based on a fully Trinitarian theology, and increasingly well-written. More than that, they are important books…

Source: Book Review: ‘Into the Shadow Wood’ by Allison Reid

 

Review of Bell Mountain by Lee Duigon

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Review of Bell Mountain, by Lee Duigon.

bell-mountain-Cover

I will admit that as an adult, I still enjoy reading young adult fiction—I even studied it as part of my writing major in college. Whether you like to read young adult books yourself, or pass them along to a young person in your life, I can sincerely recommend Bell Mountain as one book that should not be missed.

Jack’s dreams have been haunted by the legendary Bell Mountain—a place shrouded in both mystery, and a thick ring of clouds that obscure its peak from view. But Jack isn’t the only one who has been dreaming about the mountain, or wondering what the dreams might mean. Some said that there was an ancient bell on top of the mountain that could bring the whole world to an end if it was struck, but others disagreed there could be any such bell. Tormented by his persistent dreams, Jack was determined to find out for himself. He and an equally determined young girl named Ellayne, set out on the journey together. And though their purpose was to solve the mystery of Bell Mountain, in the end what they found went deeper, and spread farther, than they could have ever imagined.

There is a fairy tale quality to Bell Mountain that instantly captured my interest. Right from the first page, I settled in comfortably, ready to enjoy an adventurous tale as seen through the eyes of a young boy named Jack. It is told in a time-honored style that is familiar to all those who love both children’s fantasy and fairy tales. There are plenty of fantastical creatures to spark your imagination. Some are benevolent, like the small, hairy animal named Wytt who befriends the children. Others are terrifying, like giant birds that attack horses and eat them for supper. Peril and excitement abound in this unique story unlike anything else I have found. As a youth, this would have been a favorite book that I went back to read again and again. As an adult, it makes me feel like a kid again, sneaking off with a new book fresh from the library to get lost in world very different from my own.

Best of all, Bell Mountain is not just an ordinary story. It has a strong Biblical foundation that introduces some of the basic concepts of Christianity in an easy to understand, non-threatening way. I anticipate that as the series continues, the children’s faith will continue to grow and mature, becoming an increasingly important part of their lives and the lives of those around them. I look forward to picking up the second book, The Cellar Beneath the Cellar, to find out what is in store next for Jack and Ellayne.

Character Interview with Fnaa from The Fugitive Prince

Lee Duigon wrangled this interview with Fnaa, a supporting character in his Bell Mountain series. Fnaa is only ten years old when he first appears in The Fugitive Prince, so Lee asks that we cut him some slack.

Q: Fnaa, mostly what you do is impersonate King Ryons. In fact, you’re a dead ringer for him–even I can hardly tell the two of you apart.

Fnaa: Well, you should learn how. We don’t want to get stuck because you forgot who’s who.

Q: What’s it like to have a whole city full of people thinking you’re the king–when you aren’t? [long pause] Do you want to stop fidgeting and answer my question?

Fnaa: The little girl who’s a prophet or something, she said I could do it. She said God wouldn’t mind.

Q: But all those people cheering you–isn’t it kind of overwhelming?

Fnaa: What’s ‘overwhelming’?

Q: It means ‘too much to take in all at once,’ overpowering, awesome–

Fnaa: [Rude noise] I know what it means! It’s fun to take the tax money and throw it back to the people on the street. They really go for that! And it’s fun to call those high-and-mighty big shots names like ‘Fatty’ and ‘Baldy.’ Yes, I love all that–but it’s not like I want to do it all the time. Let King Ryons be king for a while.

Q: Didn’t you feel a bit guilty, allowing that good man, Prester Jod, to go on thinking you were King Ryons?

Fnaa: I’ve got to go now.

Q: But we’ve only just started the interview–

[Fnaa ducks back into the book and disappears. He makes one last comment: “If people want to know about this stuff, they ought to read the books! Why don’t you sell them some of your books, dummy?” And that was that for the interview. ]

Purchase Bell Mountain

http://leeduigon.com/books/

Other Books in the Series

The Cellar Beneath the Cellar (Volume 2)
The Thunder King (Volume 3)
The Last Banquet (Volume 4)
The Fugitive Prince (Volume 5)
The Palace (Volume 6)
The Glass Bridge (Volume 7)

Book Covers

The Temple (Volume 8)  
Just Released in 2015!

The Temple

Connect with the Author

Website/Blog: http://leeduigon.com/