By Jennifer Hudson Taylor
I'm going to share a secret. My real source for creating the characters in my books--is the Creator. Who better? God has more experience in creating people than any human author dead or alive.
He gives me ideas through biblical characters, dreams, people I meet, and other stories I've read or watched, whether it be a book, movie, news, or the daily newspaper.
The key to developing characters is to make sure they have one or two flaws that hinders them from immediately achieving their goals. This gives your characters something to overcome and helps readers identify with them. These flaws are spiritual or personality weaknesses where the character can grow in Christ.
The complaint that many have had with Christian fiction is that it lacks characters with realistic flaws. This is not necessarily due to the authors lack of trying, but more to publishers reluctance to test the CBA market beyond tradition. While it is true that a Christian should not commit certain sins, it is also true that some Christians do. This is where we sometimes have trouble reeling in a nonbeliever. Non-Christians either think a sinning Christian is a hypocrite, or they think a perfect Christian is too hard to live up to. So how do we reach them? By teaching the truth and showing it in our writing.
In 1 Corinthians 15:31, Paul said, "I die daily." Why would he say this? Because salvation isn't a one time thing. The first time we come to Jesus, is the beginning of our salvation. Like nonbelievers, Christians sin. Sometimes we know it and sometimes we don't realize it. However, unlike nonbelievers, the part of us that sins dies daily with our repentance and through the spiritual washing of the blood of Jesus.
This realization of sin, and the growing pains of mercy and forgiveness, to the goal of defeating that sin is what we have to show in our stories. If we are going to write about the truth, we cannot hide it behind unrealistic characters. Instead, we must show the true flaws in our characters, and allow the Holy Spirit to give us creative ways to bring our characters back to God in our stories. This can be through a nonbeliever who finds salvation for the first time, a person who has returned to their faith, or a believer who learns a new and valuable lesson. The result, is that through their circumstances, characters either find Christ or grow closer to Christ. This is what makes Christian fiction different from other fiction.
We writers must keep writing the books that are born from our hearts, and in the right season, these books will produce fruit. What kind of struggled have you experienced in creating characters?