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?

 

Liebster Award!

Adam at Write Thoughts nominated me for a Liebster Award last week! I was quite surprised and honored that he thought of my blog. Thank you again, Adam–I know you’ve been waiting to see the answers to your questions, and I’m sorry it took so long. But first I’d best share what the rules are for everyone else reading this post, and for those I’ve nominated in turn (the list is at the bottom of the page).

– Say thank you to the person who has nominated you for the award.
– Answer the 11 questions the person has asked you.
– Nominate 11 people (comment on their blog to let them know).
– Ask the people you have nominated 11 questions

Adam’s questions to me:

1. What is your favorite book, or if you prefer, your favorite author?

My favorite author is C.S. Lewis—not just for the Chronicles of Narnia, which are dear to my heart, but for the entire breadth of his writing. The more I get to know his body of work, the more he amazes me.

2. Is there a country you have always wanted to visit, if so where?

Ireland! You’d think I would have gotten there while I was living in Germany, but I never made it that far. It is still on my “someday” list.

3. What do you enjoy about blogging?

Connecting with other authors and readers. My blog also gives me a chance to express interests not specifically related to my books.

4. What’s your preferred writing space?

My desk, boring as that is. More important than the space is the atmosphere though. I need a quiet place to write, with soft lighting and no distractions. I have to be able to mentally leave this world and enter another one, so anything that continually pulls me back into reality hinders my progress.

5. How do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in lots of places: my medieval history research, old myths and legends, the Bible, out in nature, and sometimes in the faces of strangers. My starting inspiration for my current book series was an online medieval roleplaying game and all the characters and stories that came out of it. I have a pretty active imagination, so it doesn’t take much of a spark to set it off.

6. What do you like to do for fun when you need a break from writing?

Writing-related research, building cool stuff in Minecraft with my family, playing with our pets, reading, yoga, and going to our local sports club for some much needed time on the exercise machines or in the pool. (I’ve got to get out of that desk chair sometime!)

7. What started you down the road of writing?

I’m not sure—I have been putting creative words to paper since I first learned how to write a sentence back in first grade. There have certainly been people who have encouraged me along the way, and shaped who I am as a writer, but I think writing is just part of who I am.

8. What’s one story you keep recommending to others?

There isn’t really one story that I recommend. If I do this at all, it is when I know a particular book will resonate with the person I’m talking to.

9. How do you keep yourself motivated?

The stories running through my head are motivating enough. Once the ideas start coming together into a cohesive plot, I just have to get them out in written form.

10. What superpower would you choose and why?

I would want the power to move through time, with no ability to interfere—just to observe. I would finally get to experience the daily life of another era; something historians can only guess at. I’d be able to write some really amazing Medieval Monday posts! It would be pretty awesome to go back and visit my ancestors too. Forget digging through old land deeds, obituaries, and marriage licenses. I’d find out who they really were, the good and bad alike, and see where they came from with my own eyes.

11. What four people would you invite to a dinner party; contemporary, historical, or fictional?

I would go to the Eagle and Child and sit down with the Inklings for an evening. I’d be completely intimidated by all of them, of course, and I doubt they would think much of my writing, but it would be a dream come true to just be in their company.

Now here are my nominations for the Liebster Award! (In no particular order):

Into the Writer Lea – Andrea Lundgren
Literature and Lamp Posts – David Wiley
Books and Beverages – Jamie Lapeyrolerie
Lee Duigon
Renee Writes – Renee Scattergood
Robertson Writes – Joshua Robertson
Chris the Story Reading Ape – Chris Graham
Frederick Anderson
Blonde Write More – Lucy Mitchell
Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life – Sally G. Cronin Stories of Adventure and Friendship – Duri Rolvsson

And since I’ve taken a week to get this far, I am going to cheat a little and ask my nominees many of the same questions I was asked (with a few differences). They were great questions, and I’m interested to see how your answers compare with mine anyway! 🙂  Have fun!

1. What is your favorite book, or if you prefer, your favorite author?
2. Is there a country you have always wanted to visit, if so where?

3. What do you enjoy about blogging, and how has your blog changed in unexpected ways since you started it?

4. What’s your preferred writing and/or blogging space?

5. How do you find inspiration?

6. What do you like to do for fun when you need a break from writing (or from your blog)?

7. What started you down the road of writing and/or blogging?

8. Are there any Indie authors you would recommend to readers looking for a good book?

9. How do you keep yourself motivated?

10. What superpower would you choose and why?

11. What four people would you invite to a dinner party; contemporary, historical, or fictional?

 

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

 

How Good Should Your Heroes Be?

Reblogged from Lee Duigon

Fantasy fiction is awash with “heroes” who make everything look easy–especially the writing of fantasy. The Clever Thief With the Heart of Gold, The Roistering Barbarian, and the ubiquitous Invincible Female Warrior: please, No mas, no mas! I mean, what kind of a chucklehead do you have to be, to believe in such protagonists?

I would rather pattern my heroes after the heroes of the Bible, like Moses and Abraham, Peter and Paul–heroes who had to accomplish some exceedingly difficult things, and who keenly felt the difficulty, but nevertheless did what they had to do because they had faith in God and tried their level best to obey Him, whatever the cost.

They weren’t supermen. They couldn’t rely on really great kung-fu, powerful magic, super-powers, or any other kind of unlikely boons the writer might bestow on them. And their own personal flaws created more difficulties for them. Think of Moses pleading with God to get someone else to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and losing his temper when God had him strike the rock to bring out water. No, these weren’t supermen at all. But they got the job done in the end …

Continue reading: How Good Should Your Heroes Be?