Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Writing God into Our Stories, by Jaël Roy

When we write, we spend time making every word count, meticulously checking our grammar, building character arcs, researching setting, and adding tension to every scene. We may even plan out how we are going to market our novel.

Comparatively speaking, how much time do we spend putting God into our stories?

As Christian authors, having spirituality in varying degrees in each story is a given. Christian characters that pray, go to church, and are familiar with key Bible passages are expected. A good Christian message is a must. Yet even with our attributions to Christianity might we unintentionally let our story and characters trump God’s?

Do we research, seeking to represent God as He has revealed Himself, or do we write based on what we’ve heard others say about Him? I grew up in a Christian home—both my dad and my mom’s dad were pastors. Plus, I’ve done a few years of Bible school that had mandatory daily chapel services. So I’ve heard a lot of sermons. A LOT. Their echoes follow me whenever I think of God. And they haunt the pages of Scripture as I read. The worst is when two or more of these ghosts debate how a certain passage should or could be interpreted. All that to say, our understanding of God’s Word can be influenced by the things we have heard—or the things we have read.

A writer has the same impact as a preacher to their audience.

When we listen to sermons, we pay attention not only to the words spoken, but also to the implications of what is said. We try to understand it and to apply the message to our experiences past and present. We also learn from what is left unsaid. The same is true for our readers. What we say, what we imply, how we represent God, even what we refrain from saying, tells the reader what we really think of God, and tells them what we believe they should come to realize about Him.

Is God a character in our novels?  Do we give Him the role of prop? Backstage director? Producer?

I’m not saying that God needs a direct speaking role in every novel. Though as I’m reading through Jeremiah I am struck by how much He verbally interacts with His prophet. But we must keep in mind that we are His ambassadors. We are truth-teachers.  We are held more accountable. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

The “fiction” part of our writing should never apply to God.

His thoughts, ideals, actions, and essence need to be clear throughout any novel, whether it be biblical historical, fantasy, or romantic suspense. We must put a touch of the hidden reality behind our “realistic” novels, include His actions in our thrilling tales, show His ideal of love in our romances, and stay anchored to a portrayal of the One True God, even as we write fantasy.

Do we leave room for God to speak though our novels?

When we write, our message should be one of God’s choosing. Often it may be a message from God to us. Other times a message from Him to others. Many times both. But it shouldn’t flow from the culture around us. Even the Christian culture. Like an ever-flowing waterfall, our message should pour from God’s Word, over our hearts, and into His world.

"Using humor and romance to reach the mind and touch the heart.”

JAËL ROY has recently discovered her love of writing. After years of reading novels, especially romance novels, and wishing the authors had written them a little differently or wanting to add sequels, Jaël realized she could tweak a story any way she wanted—if she wrote it herself. So one morning she picked up her laptop and wrote “The Bridesmaid's Escort,” about a professional escort given the task of accompanying a reluctant bridesmaid who sees more in him than he wants her to. Since finishing that first manuscript, she has written six others and is working on an eighth.

Jaël appreciates a well-written story. She enjoys making readers laugh and giving them the opportunity to think deeply about their Christianity. For her, writing stories is an outlet as she contemplates issues that touch her heart.


  1. This is a blog worth rereading from time to time...even Christian writers, or especially Christian writers, need to keep a sharp focus! Thank you!!

  2. A beautiful reminder to keep God at the centre of all. Thanks!

  3. Great reminder, Jael. Something to consider regularly. Thanks. :)

  4. Jael, great post to start the New year with to help us remember that we're writing stories the Lord has put in our hearts. I've been reflecting a lot recently on Jesus' words in John where He says He only does what He sees the Father doing. I think that's a good starting place for we authors to consider when we sit down each day to write.

    Wishing you a productive year of writing, Jael.

  5. Hello Jael. Thank you for these thoughts. I agree with you that as Christians God will make His way into our books - and He certainly does with mine. But it's very subtle. Although I'm published by a Christian publisher I write for the general market. So I don't agree that it's a 'given' that our Christian characters should be seen praying, going to church, reciting or knowing scripture etc. That is one way of representing God in fiction but there are plenty of other ways too. I do agree though that as Christians we should put God at the centre of our lives and that that will spill over into our books - but to what degree and how that is represented is not a given. God bless you in your writing and thanks for the thought provoking post.

  6. A great post, Jael, and I agree that as Christian authors we need to convey God's love to a needy world. However, the days of standing on a street corner with a sign saying 'Repent' (as was prevalent back in the 1950's and '60's) is anti-productive.
    As the author of a number of books, I have plenty of non-fiction Christian testimonies to my name (which say something similar in one way or another) one of which went into the bestseller list. God's command to me then (and now) was to write to 'comfort others with the comfort I had received' - through debt, divorce, my daughter's drug addiction, and her death.
    In the belief that I have now been told by him that I am to 'entertain my readers so that they might accept truths they might otherwise resist' I now write fiction and my approach has had to change. It is a fact, I'm afraid, that there are plenty of people who need to know of the grace and redemptive power of God's love for them, who would simply not buy or read an overtly Christian message. As my latest book, Time to Shine conveys, women subjected to psychological abuse in marriage, need to learn that 'we are all children of God' and we are 'all meant to shine' (to quote Marilynne Robinson). They are the ones I want to reach. Author Mel Menzies

    1. Hello Mel,

      I think perhaps I wasn't clear enough in my focus, and that is that we always portray Him as He has revealed himself to us. A character may see God as vindictive or cruel, but by the end of the story I would hope that, at least in the reader's mind, it would be clear that the author doesn't agree. There is always at least a hint of the writer's worldview (and generally much more) on a variety of subjects throughout their story. So the question becomes, "Are we writing enlightened by God's perspective of the world (which we should be doing, even subtly), or are we writing what we think the world will accept? I didn't mean we should be including the plan of salvation under every cover. But we need to carefully assess whose worldviews are being presented to a truth-starved world.

  7. A very interesting post, and challenging too. If we are writing for the general market, and have a Christian worldview, we walk a tightrope between appealing to our target audience, whilst also being true to our deepest convictions, and being "heavy-handed and preachy". In my new novel A Passionate Spirit I walked this tightrope. I deliberately reduced the explicit Christian content of the novel, after comments from beta readers and editors. Yet my novel is about spiritual discernment. I have retained my MP's fledgling Christian faith; she meets a huge spiritual challenge head-on; she does pray, and she does use the Lord's Prayer and the words of Psalm 23. She also cites the character of Jesus in her headlong confrontation with evil. One of my beta readers (a Christian) speculated who the "passionate spirit" of the title was, made 2 suggestions, and then added a 3rd: the Holy Spirit, working through the least likely person. As Christian writers we live constantly with this tension. I do believe there are times when the secular world needs us to be explicit, and times when we need to be subtle.

  8. Awesome post. Here's my favorite part: "When we write, our message should be one of God’s choosing." He has a job for each of us, a plan, a person/people we are to reach. For some of us, He will give the job of writing Christianity "lite" and for others He will say share the gospel, and there are infinite messages in between that He may use us to share. As long as we're listening to His will, we're writing the right thing. Thanks for this :)