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Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements

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mbwest1220

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Beth, in my opinion the line is yours to choose, but you must be sure to define it well.

For example, my current WIP involves lots of Christian history and symbolism as I am a devout Christian, but the story holds very dear to fantasy elements that some may view as magical. But my intention is to show that God gives each of us such unique gifts that we have to utilize in order to be the change we expect or hope for in the world. I show this by clearly illustrating my MC's purpose (which is protector to Earth's gate to Heaven). I  had no issues in having my MC have "powers" b/c they were given to him by God himself. We are each given gifts - talents, athleticism, intellect, etc. I also feel this is the defining trait of HP and why it should not be an issue for Christians to read. The wizards/witches in that book were born that way. It also makes a great distinction between proper magic and dark magic and why one is good and the other bad. And at some point, explanations and definitions have to be the responsibility of the parent. I agree with what Ryan said many posts ago - if you cannot properly answer the questions that can arise by your children reading these books then don't let them read them. It's as simple as that.

But back to the "line" issue, in my first draft I wrote of my MC bringing his love back to life (ala Matrix) and immediately shook my head and revised that back out because, to me, that crossed the line on my beliefs and what I would want children to know and understand. So you have to choose the line for yourself and make sure it is true to your beliefs and what you hope readers will see in your work. Good luck with it! Being Christian is a wonderful privilege, not something intended to thwart you.
#211 - July 09, 2010, 07:53 PM

MacDonald, that is. Who wrote about ghosts and werewolves (among other frightful and delightful things) and was the writer who "baptized the imaginations" of C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, and Tolkien, Charles Williams....and many lesser writers. Like me.  :yup

In fact, this morning I was reading in the excellent "Baptized Imagination: The Theology of George MacDonald" when I came upon this sentence: "A man's own nature must lie at the heart of all he does."

And then, "In its deepest sense, the truth is is a condition of heart, soul, mind and strength towards God and towards our fellow -- not an utterance not even a right form of words; and therefore such truth coming forth in words is, in a sense, the person that speaks."

If as a Christian your *very nature* has been tuned to the heart of the Creator, then that speaks into the stories you write whether they are stories about ghosties, ghoulies, or creatures even more hideous. Like Bible salesmen who steal wooden legs.  :smile

eab
#212 - July 10, 2010, 09:43 AM

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If as a Christian your *very nature* has been tuned to the heart of the Creator, then that speaks into the stories you write whether they are stories about ghosties, ghoulies, or creatures even more hideous. Like Bible salesmen who steal wooden legs.  :smile

eab


Ooooh .. a Flannery O'Connor reference.  I went to college at her alma mater. Visited her grave many times. (I hung out a lot at Memory Hill Cemetery since it was just a couple of blocks from my dorm) Walked past her mother's house in town nearly every day. Have been to Andalusia a time or two.

 I started this thread about a year after I moved into a very conservative anti-Catholic Christian community. Yes, some of you may find the previous statement an oxymoron ... but it's an accurate description. I don't live there anymore. But my whole perspective on this thing has changed greatly since I opened this topic.

I consider my gift/talent of writing to be God given, and I feel it's my duty/obligation/calling to use that gift to make a difference. Not so much in evangelizing .... or proselytizing .... but in just making good use of it ... most of us here were avid readers as children and we all can relate to what books meant to us ... and I figure that's what I'm supposed to do. I can't please everybody, and I've learned that no matter what you do somebody is going to object to it.

Flannery herself was not well thought of in her own home town of Milledgeville, GA. Townsfolk wondered why she couldn't write "nice stories."  When one of my professors, an O'Connor scholar, first arrived at the college she was shocked to find how Flannery's papers were stored at the library ... if my memory serves right .. they were in a box under a sink down in the basement. Things have changed a lot since then. When I attended the college (it's been -- ahem -- a while) there was a small O'Connor reading room. I haven't been back to the campus since Reagan was president, so I can't tell you what's there now.

#213 - July 10, 2010, 10:09 AM
« Last Edit: July 10, 2010, 10:27 AM by lillian »
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George MacDonald is probably my favorite 'spiritual' writer.  I have his sermons and many of his fiction works -- along with a couple of compilations.  His open-hearted, open-minded philsophies on life (and the Creator of Life) have greatly shaped my own thinking.

'no matter what you do somebody is going to object to it' -- boy, isn't that the truth?  :)
#214 - July 10, 2010, 12:22 PM
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eab, thanks for the quotes and link to Flannery O'Connor (I really like that website, by the way, and didn't realize that particular piece was there). She hits so many points so well - not just for Christians, but for every writer.
#215 - July 10, 2010, 05:14 PM
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I asked my dad's advice (he's a writer and a Christian as well) and he agreed with you guys that our morals and beliefs are inevitably revealed in what we write - and to insert them consciously creates the Pullman-soapbox effect. He also said something similar to Ryan about our stories reflecting the truths we hold as fundamental, whether they are about ghosts or witches or superheroes or any other kind of paranormal creature. He thought my story idea did this in the way it illustrated the eternal consequences of our actions here on earth.

I think as writers, fantasy and magic are an amazing tool we can use to illustrate our beliefs and world views without preaching or proselytizing.

So thanks, everyone, for participating in this discussion. Your answers have really helped me to work through these issues and come to some conclusions, and not just about this particular story, but about how God can use my gifts as a writer to further his purpose.

It's all pretty exciting!
#216 - July 10, 2010, 07:59 PM

I asked my dad's advice (he's a writer and a Christian as well) and he agreed with you guys that our morals and beliefs are inevitably revealed in what we write - and to insert them consciously creates the Pullman-soapbox effect. He also said something similar to Ryan about our stories reflecting the truths we hold as fundamental, whether they are about ghosts or witches or superheroes or any other kind of paranormal creature. He thought my story idea did this in the way it illustrated the eternal consequences of our actions here on earth.

I think as writers, fantasy and magic are an amazing tool we can use to illustrate our beliefs and world views without preaching or proselytizing.

So thanks, everyone, for participating in this discussion. Your answers have really helped me to work through these issues and come to some conclusions, and not just about this particular story, but about how God can use my gifts as a writer to further his purpose.

It's all pretty exciting!

I second that.  I'm not so sure anyone who has read my published work will gain any strong insights into my beliefs (Latter-Day Saints, a.k.a. Mormon), but I do try to avoid writing anything I wouldn't want my kids or any other young people to read.  I believe I have a gift that I am under divine obligation to develop into a useful talent.  Our church leaders have often counseled us to read, in addition to the scriptures, "many good books,"  and "out of the best books."  There is a lot of great literature out there, especially among the classics, that will uplift and edify the reader without preaching any doctrine other than the triumph of good over evil and the positive and negative consequences of personal choice.  In fact, C.S. Lewis is often quoted over the pulpit in Mormon congregations, because he did such a great job of illustrating gospel principles in his fiction.  I hope that as I get better at writing, that kids will be motivated to make wise choices and aspire to be better.  The characters in my books, though mostly silly, all have personal flaws that they must overcome in order to learn and solve their problems.
#217 - July 10, 2010, 11:58 PM

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Hi everyone,

I have a question I'd like some imput on. At the very beginning of this thread Jen said something about how what she will read is very different to what she will write - and the latter excludes demons and possession and the like. I'm interested in hearing from Christian writers on how they draw the line in what they write.

It's funny looking back and thinking about how these things change over time, because I don't think I'd consider myself to have any hard and fast lines (though I'm not sure I did three years ago either, though it may have come across that way at the time).  In any case, nowadays, I don't really think there's anything that I would *want* to write that I would actively choose not to for religious reasons, but there are lots of things that I probably just wouldn't be drawn to write in the first place (which I think is true of every writer, whether you bring religion into the equation or not).  Oddly enough, I think I'd naturally veer more away from writing fantasy that IS compatible with/draws from the supernatural aspects of my religion than stuff that's not.  I could probably write demons, but I'd bet that if I did, my "demons" would be a lot more like "synonym for monster" than "minion of heck" (or to put it in television terms, more Buffy than Supernatural season 5).  But this isn't any kind of conscious choice- it's something I actually have to take a step back to analyze, because if I'm not comfortable writing something, I wouldn't get very far in writing it in the first place.
#218 - July 11, 2010, 01:37 PM

Quote
I can't please everybody, and I've learned that no matter what you do somebody is going to object to it.

True! Some people are just going to object to virtually anything that is fantasy. I recall reading about the controversy of E. B. White's STUART LITTLE, over the little talking mouse born to a family (in the movie version, he's adopted). Why get so hot and bothered over something just because it can't happen in real life? Who cares, it made a great story!

Quote
Flannery herself was not well thought of in her own home town of Milledgeville, GA. Townsfolk wondered why she couldn't write "nice stories."  When one of my professors, an O'Connor scholar, first arrived at the college she was shocked to find how Flannery's papers were stored at the library ... if my memory serves right .. they were in a box under a sink down in the basement.

How sad! I had no idea.

Quote
... there are lots of things that I probably just wouldn't be drawn to write in the first place (which I think is true of every writer, whether you bring religion into the equation or not).

This is true for me, too. There's a lot of things I don't have the PASSION for writing about, that have nothing to do with my faith. Also, I avoid writing things that I think has been done to death. Originality is very important to me. I think we all have our reasons FOR writing what we do, and reasons for NOT writing about other things.

#219 - July 11, 2010, 04:28 PM

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A friend of mine quoted this today...

Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed. -- G.K. Chesterton

#220 - July 11, 2010, 07:09 PM
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'no matter what you do somebody is going to object to it' -- boy, isn't that the truth?  :)

Oh, I totally disagree with that...

;)
#221 - July 12, 2010, 06:13 AM

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Haha ;)
#222 - July 12, 2010, 02:24 PM
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Found this interesting thread. It got me thinking and wondering about the "magic" in my manuscript. The "magic" in my story is based on science. Is that okay?

Sorry if the question sounds out of the blue! I'm just curious. . .
#223 - January 26, 2012, 06:25 PM

Just a writer who's a Christian poking my head in here to see if any of you have read a book called GOD OF THE FAIRY TALE?

It's a fascinating study of common fairy tales (to include more modern stories as well) and how each represents some very basic innate spiritual longings for the magic that comes from God. It's begun with a fascinating story of Lewis and Tolkien and their discussions.
#224 - February 09, 2012, 05:30 PM
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Just saw this, but will put on my "read" list.....
#225 - April 17, 2012, 05:35 AM

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So...this proves that God's timing is not our own. ( And when I write in the wee hours of the night, I don't read dates well)....hee hee ho ho  :ram
#226 - April 17, 2012, 07:48 AM

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Hoping to keep this topic afloat, since I've written a middle grade fantasy for the christian market.  No magic in mine, but lots of creepies, including a banshee.  I just found this topic too, and haven't read through it yet, but this is a question that comes up frequently.  In inspy, fantasy is called "speculative."  They're just not warming up to it with any kind of haste but fantasy is big in secular and it's drawing christian kids to those books.  Problem is, a lot of those books also carry other messages that pull kids off the path.  Anyone else out there writing speculative?
#227 - October 10, 2012, 09:21 PM

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By "inspy" do you mean inspirational?

I would think that inclusion of any type of supernatural creature -- including banshees -- would be iffy for a Christian market. Ghosts and stuff would be problematic, I think. But then again, I neither read nor write fiction specifically meant for a Christian market.

I began this thread oh so many years ago --- and I no longer have the same concerns -- I no longer live in the same community either. :) At the time I started this thread, I was suffering from massive cultural shell shock, having moved from a diverse community to an extremely conservative one.
#228 - October 10, 2012, 11:38 PM
« Last Edit: October 10, 2012, 11:41 PM by Lill »
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My upper middle grade has an older important character who goes to church and encourages forgiveness and other biblical principles. There are magical elements, ancient spells...and the mc sprouts wings. It's not a "Christian" book -- non-believers will not be annoyed by "preaching," but believers will feel encouraged. The ms is currently under consideration by a couple of agents. 
#229 - October 11, 2012, 05:54 AM
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Just lightly perused the topic here, but as far as classics go, Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are examples of integrating spells, witches, goblins, orcs,  warlocks, etc. The key is that good triumphs evil.  The 'other worldly' elements really have little power...like the Emperor's new clothes....it's present, but can be overcome (or disrobed so to speak).
And, yes, kids are attracted to secular books like this. There are several aisles at our local big name bookstore. I think that presenting a moral compass is important...in a winsome way.
#230 - October 13, 2012, 07:56 AM

Hoping to keep this topic afloat, since I've written a middle grade fantasy for the christian market.  No magic in mine, but lots of creepies, including a banshee.  I just found this topic too, and haven't read through it yet, but this is a question that comes up frequently.  In inspy, fantasy is called "speculative."  They're just not warming up to it with any kind of haste but fantasy is big in secular and it's drawing christian kids to those books.  Problem is, a lot of those books also carry other messages that pull kids off the path.  Anyone else out there writing speculative?


Hi Iwrite,

I write YA speculative fiction aimed at the inspirational market. It is a tough sell, yes. Period. Still, if done right it could be picked up. Good luck!
#231 - October 15, 2012, 03:15 PM
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I was suffering from massive cultural shell shock...

I'm going through that now, but apparently, in the opposite direction.  I have no problem with diversity--it's the speed and degree of 'erosion' I've seen just in the last 20 years.  Doesn't help that I'm pretty socially isolated and when you have no one to talk to during those bleak times, you sink into that 'dark night of the soul.'  Maybe it's just late-onset mid-life crisis, but when you said "massive cultural shell-shock," I just think that nailed it right on the head.

I think we have a problem we (writers and the market in general) are not really dealing with.  Kids are interested in books with these fantastic elements.  Christian fiction is squeezing them out in drips and dribbles.  The secular market is putting out these kinds of books at the speed of sound but there seems to be no line they won't cross.   Between the two, there's a vast crevasse. 

When good overcomes evil in secular fantasy, it's only at the very end, and in the process, they (the writers) have focused entirely on the dark elements and even glorified and glamorized them.   A book is not evil because it has a witch in it.  It comes down to what that witch does, and when a book has nothing good to express or moral to teach, it doesn't even need a witch in order to do lots and lots of damage.

In my opinion, we pay way too much attention to individual elements and that's why some good books with Christian messages ably expressed don't make it onto the shelves.  Bad writing will do that too, but we're shooting ourselves in the foot with that general mentality.  A lot of kid's books published in the CBA are stuck in the "Goofus and Gallant" level and though parents may snatch them up, their kids aren't cracking them open to read more than the first page or two.
#232 - October 28, 2012, 03:18 PM

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