Every story starts with an idea.
Sometimes it takes effort to put an idea together. Other ideas seem to pop into place more or less fully formed. My ideas often come to me at inconvenient times (i.e., middle of the night, in the shower, when I’m busy at work), and it can be a struggle to get the minimum necessary information written down somewhere so I can go back to the idea later.
But this post isn’t so much about how to foster ideas or jumpstart your creativity if you’re going through a dry spell. What I’m after is the “should”. “Should I pursue this idea?” While my own personal standards will undoubtedly be reflected in this post, I don’t want to approach this topic in a legalistic fashion. If I can’t conclusively prove from Scripture that my standard is the biblical requirement, it’s okay for you to have a different standard. And I welcome feedback if you think I’ve overstepped some Scriptural line. With that said, let’s move forward.
My first thought whenever a new idea comes to mind is to turn to Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.” (NET). At first blush, one could argue that nothing should be written outside of flowery, beautiful, pie-in-the-sky stories. Those are all well and good, but they do not adequately capture reality. The world is a messy, broken place after all, and part of writing a story is to have people read it, which probably means given them something to which they can relate.
Even fantasy, science-fiction, and speculative fiction, to name a few genres, can serve a purpose in this fashion. C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia are one example of a fantasy world that served to speak of a higher matter. Most stories have at least an element of good vs. evil or sacrifices made for the greater good; those concepts are woven into the fabric of our being and are played out ultimately through the pages of Scripture. Thus, one could argue that any story is redeemable, though I would not claim this is the case.
As a Christian author, what is the purpose of the story you are telling? If you are ultimately demonstrating the grace of God in redemption or exploring how to practically apply the teaching in Scripture, I would say you are on the right track. Are stories that are purely entertainment wrong? I’m not fully prepared to say “Yes”; it’s a concept with which I wrestle often.
Who is your intended audience? The depth of depravity that you are willing to show will vary depending on the readers you are targeting. Older audiences, by and large, should be able to handle more complex themes and situations, yet even still I would never suggest that sex should be graphically depicted and would caution the use of violence and gore. Swearing is another area of concern, and it is something that I would personally avoid (I might make an exception in a fantasy series where essentially nonsense words are used rather than known curse words, but still, I would exercise caution in their use).
Your genre may have an impact on whether or not to follow up on an idea, too. I struggle with a fantasy story idea I’ve had in mind for years simply because I’m not sure how to incorporate Christian themes into the story, and I don’t know how I feel about writing a story involving magic. This isn’t to say that I absolutely won’t write the story, but unless there is a realistic way to make it into some sort of allegory or metaphor for the Christian existence, I would of course not market it as Christian fiction…which begs the question, “Should I write it at all?”
These are all things to consider. Again, if Scripture is not outright stating to avoid a particular topic, I am not saying you should not go ahead with your story. If you want to bounce ideas back and forth or hash out a particular idea and its implications, comment below or send a message to email@example.com and I’d be happy to be involved.
In all things, remember that we are to give God the glory. Seek that, and I think you will be well on your way to writing something wonderful.
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