Real Life Informing Fiction
We’re told that good stories are about the characters, and good characters are supposed to be relatable. But what about when your characters are riding dragons or breaking free from a prison planet on the outer rim of the galaxy?
I’ve always had a love for over-the-top fiction. A book is a journey, and if I’m going to embark upon one, why not make it a grand and exotic journey? Suspending disbelief is seldom an issue so long as the rules underpinning an author’s world are consistent. As such, when I began writing my own stories, I naturally gravitated towards high fantasy and far-flung science fiction.
As I soon discovered, crafting relatable characters in otherworldly scenarios can be somewhat of a challenge. In the beginning, it wasn’t a problem that I really gave much thought to. Sure, my characters needed to be interesting, but relatable? When one of your protagonists is a 10,000 year-old immortal with a sword that tears open seams between dimensions, it’s hard to imagine anyone relating to him.
And yet it can be done. As it turns out, it’s as easy as giving your immortal, dimension-hopping protagonist a weakness for cheesecake. Being relatable doesn’t have to mean that your character works in an office all day and struggles to pay the bills (although you can certainly go there). Often, it simply means that he or she has loves and hates that correspond to the things we love and hate.
It’s wise to let a bit of real life creep in, both to color your characters and the themes that shape your story at large. You might have written a tale of dark sorcery and ancient demigods resurrecting to devour the mortal world, but what is your story really about? What do you want to say? This wasn’t a question that I broached at all when I first started writing. The adventure was everything. As a result, my stories felt exciting but ultimately hollow.
I’ve heard it said that depressed people make the best writers. I’m not so sure that that’s true, but I can see the rationale. When you’ve got strong emotions to pour out onto the page, readers can tell, and since most of us have seen hard times at some point in our lives, depression and despair are easy themes to relate to.
With my novel Dead & Godless, I decided from the outset to draw inspiration directly from life experiences. Being raised in a Christian home and living in a post-Christian society, I’d spent much of my early life arguing the case for God against my atheist and agnostic friends. I wanted to infuse my story with the spirit of those debates, while keeping it very much an adventure, not an apologetics textbook. Doing so meant capturing both the logical back-and-forth – the sparring of ideas - and the emotions stirred by existential questions.
Whether or not I’ve succeed in that endeavor is another question, but even if some critics tell you that your story lacks brilliance, a tale imbued with your life’s struggles and passions won’t lack heart. And when it comes to connecting with readers, a little heart does the job better than a boatload of lucid prose.
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Genre - Christian Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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