My young daughter climbed to the top of the slide and announced, “I’m the princess, daddy! Come save me!”
My first reaction: I don’t want my daughter waiting for anyone to save her. I cringe at that. I am not against feminine roles; I believe God set up different roles for men and women. However, that doesn’t mean she sits and waits for the man to save her.
She quickly came down the slide, grabbed my hand, and led me to sneak around the invisible sleeping dragon.
The incident was over and soon we played other games, flitting from topic to topic like a three-year-old girl does. She wasn’t thinking about planning out her life or making a blueprint for her relationship to men; she was just playing a game and wanted Daddy to come rescue her.
My reaction was knee-jerk and stupid. I’m her Daddy; I’m allowed to rescue her. (And you bet I will rescue her if she’s in trouble!)
I wanted to mold her totally into my idea of what she should be. She just wanted to play.
OK, what does my navel-gazing over-reactive daddy-ness have to do with a blog about writing and Christian worldview?
What do you do with your characters when they disagree with you?
I’m not talking about the villains or antagonists. What about your heroes? How do you treat them when they disagree with you? Do you allow your characters to talk back? Do you allow them to be different from what you like?
If you want good characters, don’t do what I did with my daughter and have a knee-jerk “Oh Noes!” moment. Let them talk. Explore those characters and find out what makes them tick, even if they say something you vehemently disagree with.
I’ve noted before that I find Joss Whedon to be a great writer. He exhibited that with Captain America in The Avengers: “There’s only one God, ma’am.” Yes, quote goes on to a great joke, but that simple line goes against everything I understand Joss Whedon believes. He is an atheist, after all. However, he allowed his character to disagree with him.
I find Christian authors in particular have a very hard time allowing their protagonists to disagree with anything from the Bible – or if they do, they come around by the end of the book. It’s infuriating that so much of Christian fiction is stuck in that rut.
If you’re a Christian writer, can you write someone who isn’t Christian? Will you allow someone who has a bad theological view to be the hero? What if the main character is someone who struggles with a problem you find completely reprehensible?
If you can’t… it’s time to practice your writing skills. If the only people you can write well are clones of you, all you’re doing is writing a boring world. That doesn’t mean you’re boring, but you need to understand that the world isn’t made up of clones. God made us all different. Let those differences appear in your writing.
Allow your characters to be real. That means they’re going to disagree with you. And that’s ok. It’ll make for better and more realistic writing.
And next time my daughter wants me to rescue her? I won’t fight it. I’ll go slay the dragon and be her prince. After all, I can only do that for so long before she wants some other boy to save her!