Thursday, October 19, 2017

Dirty Nails

Photo by Benjamin Combs on Unsplash

This summer I’ve been doing a lot of yard work. I’m a ‘get my hands dirty’ kind of gardener so I can get pretty grimy. I have observed that, although I may scrub and scrub when the task is done, I still end up with dirt under my nails or even embedded in my nails. I just can’t get it out. Trimming my nails is the only way to eliminate the dirt.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

I have also observed that bad habits and sin can be like that. They’re embedded in our lives. Despite Jesus’ forgiveness and cleansing, their residue remains.

As writers, our goal is to create authentic characters. We strive to populate our stories with people so real, our readers can identify with them, struggle with them, grow with them.

As Christian writers, we also want our characters to reflect the impact God makes in lives surrendered to Him.

And that’s where I struggle.

I have a really hard time allowing my heroes and/or heroines to have dirty nails.

Photo by Eduardo Prim on Unsplash

I’m comfortable with giving them painful pasts to overcome, hurts that need healing. I can embrace bringing conflicts into their lives, obstacles that deepen their faith and drive them closer to God.

But dirty nails? That recurring bad habit, persistent sin—what Paul calls the sin that so easily entangles. In Romans 12:1…

I find it very hard to burden the character I love with such ugliness.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

How do you handle this?
  • As a writer, what dirty nails have you given your characters?
  • Through your story, do you ‘clip those nails’ or do you leave them?
  • As a reader, how do you feel when you encounter such character flaws?
  • Do they help you identify with the characters?
  • Does their removal encourage you?
  • Does it distress you when they are not corrected?

Jayne Self, a Canadian Christian Writer, is honoured to have a short story included in Christmas With Hot Apple Cider, the fifth Hot Apple Cider anthology. Available in Trade Paper and Kindle Edition, this is a collection of stories from the season of giving & receiving, powerful stories of faith, hope & love, by over 50 Canadian Christian writers.


  1. Our church has a motto to the effect that everyone's welcome and nobody's perfect, including us. We strive to be a place of grace and acceptance, not one where people are intimidated by masks of perfection. I feel the same way about writing. Am I trying to pretend that my Christian characters are unblemished? We need to differentiate between glorifying God and glorifying ourselves. Showing realistic characters is not glorifying sin; it's being honest.The Bible is brutally, even shockingly honest about showing God's people and saints with all their worst sins exposed. Why should we, then, be so uncomfortable with less-than-perfect fictional characters. I'm certainly flawed, so why shouldn't my characters be?

  2. I agree 100% but still find it hard to do. What are some of the flaws your characters experience?