Writing Tips for Christian Fiction Writers

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2010 Christian Writer's Market Guide


 "It's All My Fault"
by Carole McDonnell  

“It’s all my fault!!!!”  

How many times have you heard a movie character say this? Often, the speaker follows her self-blame with tears and sobs. And a comforter is always near to wipe those tears away.  

Now, if you see as many movies as I do, you will probably know what comes next: the comforting character who has heard this bit of guilt-speak is sure to add: “No, it’s not your fault at all.” Then comforting character proceeds to list all the psychological reasons why the film’s main character is faultless and really not to blame at all for the sorrows of the offscreen minor character. This happens so often, it had me wondering.  I came up with four possible reasons for this creative cultural phenomenon:  

The first possibility is that Christendom in general simply doesn’t like dealing with guilt:  

Perhaps we believe that no one is really guilty of anything. Perhaps our history of rugged individuality has convinced us that every sufferer is responsible for his own troubles and, even if others have contributed these sorrows, the sufferer is ultimately responsible for the way others have affected her emotions or her life’s path. A corollary of this particular belief is the psychological idea that life itself is affected by culture, society, nurture and life will always lead people to make certain decisions. How, then, can people with no real choice really be guilty?  

Or maybe the Christian culture thinks that assigning guilt to a particular person’s behavior would be judgmental and non-Christian, and the best, most enlightened and “good” thing to do would be to wipe away the repentant person’s guilt and sense of responsibility to another’s life or even to her own?  

The similarity between real life and a Christian-influenced culture shows also in normal life where tendency to swiftly push away a “good” character’s repentance is even more prevalent than it is in movies. How many times have we seen real life situations where people have dug holes for themselves – very deep holes– only to be comforted with a gentle “Honey, it wasn’t your fault: you didn’t know better?” Of course we know full well the person knew better! Everyone and their grandmother had been warning them against overeating, or having promiscuous sex, or taking drugs, or working too hard, or being cruel to their aged mother. But the idea of telling a repentant adult child that she drove her mother to an early grave by her cruel behavior just doesn’t sit well with most of us.  

And so, in films, the cry of repentance is often a cue from the main character that she needs to be told that she was indeed “good” and “kind” and “decent” after all. This Christendom effect happens although most people would not call themselves Bible believers.  But such is the power of popular religious culture.  

The funny thing about all this soft-pedaling of the good guy’s guilt is often strangely mirrored in the treatment of the bad guy’s malfeasance.  

How many times have you seen movies in which the comeuppance of the main antagonist is both brutal, shameful and public?  What happened here? Why the vindictive public humiliation? Why the hateful sneer at the script’s ending? Where, brothers and sisters, is the love?  

This vindictiveness is sometimes so over-the-top and meanspirited, one is tempted to ask, what has the bad guy done to create such a lack of ...well, commiseration and forgiveness?  

Sure, the bad guy has – as in the case of the demonized Cruella DeVil– killed puppies! Or, as in Working Girl (Remember Sigourney Weaver’s hateful boss character), been plain nasty with evil plans. But come now, aren’t we supposed to be as forgiving to these characters as we are to the characters we love? In the grand cosmic scheme of things, some of the bad guys’ crimes are not as heinous as the good guys whose slates have already so eagerly wiped clean. Again, I ask...where is the love?  

It seems to me that the two reasons we withhold comfort from bad guys is that A) we simply have been trained by the story’s author not to like them and B) the baddie has not said “I’m sorry; it is all my fault.”  Our reaction is childish, of course. For this reaction is an odd mix of Christian spirituality, pop religious culture, and human nature.  

It is Christian because we acknowledge the need to repent. And with repentance comes our forgiveness. It is pop religion because we feel bad guys really should be punished...if not with hell, well dang it, with something pert near close. It is human nature because it is iniquity – false scales. We forgive and excuse the sins of a friend and we demean and punish relentlessly the faults of an enemy.  

As Christian writers, we are not only the Living Word of God to others, but the words we use to create stories and characters are also Living and Alive. We must at all times be mindful that this Word we write is both Christian (good) and all-too-human. In short, in blaming or loving our characters, let us blame and love all of them equally. Let us aim to write true Christian writing, and all the while, let us pray that God bless his true word and blow the cultural chaff away.

Copyright Carole McDonnell. All Rights Reserved.

Carole McDonnell’s fiction, devotionals, poetry and essays have appeared in many publishing venues, in print and online including
www.compulsivereader.com, www.thejoyofmovies.com and www.curledup.com. Her works appear in various anthologies including “So Long Been Dreaming: Post-colonialism in science fiction,” edited by Nalo Hopkinson and published by Arsenal Pulp Press; “Fantastic Visions III,” published by Fantasist Enterprises; “Then an angel came along,” edited by Julie Bonn Heath and published by WinePress Publishing, “Jigsaw Nation” published by Wildside Press and “Seasoned Sistahs: writings by mature women of color.”  She is currently working on two Bible studies: “Hagar, Vashti and other Scapegoats of Bible study” and “The Easy Way to Write Bible Studies" and two SF/F novels based on the Bible, "The Daughters of Men" and "The Windfollower.”  Her website is www.geocities.com/scifiwritir/OreoBlues.html She lives with her husband, their two sons, and their ferocious tabby Ralphina in upstate New York.  

Be sure to check out Carole's popular e-course "Easy Way to Write Bible Studies" --


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