Ladies, we’re going to take a little detour from speaking and focus for a few minutes on writing fiction. And even though this post talks about writing for children, the message is still the same. The truth is, we can teach biblical truth through our secular fiction, whether we’re writing for children or adults.
Teaching Biblical Truth Through Secular Fiction
Today’s fictional children are invincible. They’re smart and calculating and wise beyond their years. They’re totally independent and answer to no one. They nab the bad guy and save the planet and solve the world’s problems through their ingenuity and insight. And where are today’s fictional adults while all this is going on? They’re standing in the corner, picking their noses–inept bystanders in the crises of life.
Truth is, real kids need us adults. They need us to listen and understand and offer guidance. Fictional kids need adults, too.
When I decided to write my first book, Bitsy and the Mystery at Tybee Island, I wanted to create a story kids would love, one with adventure, danger, and mystery. But I wanted more than just a good story. I wanted to teach something in the process.
1. I wanted kids to see cause and effect. As adults, we know there are consequences for poor choices in life. You choose to be tardy at work, and you get fired. You choose to eat the wrong kinds of foods, and your health suffers. But the truth of consequences is often missing in children’s fiction. Many children’s books have kids doing a variety of dangerous and unhealthy things, with no undesirable effects. I wanted kids to experience the consequences of poor choices through my characters. And remember, consequences don’t have to come at the hands of adults. Natural consequences may be punishment enough and are often more effective. Kidnapping, false accusations, and loss of trust are a few of results the characters suffer in the Bitsy series.
2. I wanted to kids to see that adults are usually pretty smart people. Fictional adults are often portrayed as oblivious to danger, or if they are aware, they’re unable to do anything about the problem. Parents are stupid, teachers are idiots, and authority figures have their own wicked agendas. Sure, a good mystery must have good guys and bad guys, but I still wanted the majority of adults to be intelligent and have the kids’ best interest at heart. In each Bitsy mystery, the kids are the ones who ultimately solve the puzzle, but it’s done without sacrificing the primary adults’ integrity.
3. I wanted kids to see that family is an important, desirable part of life. Bitsy has an intact family who, like all real families, has blemishes. They argue and fight, but there’s no doubt they love each other. Bitsy may resent her siblings’ intrusion in her life and may wish for freedom from family constraints, but in each book, she learns one more reason to appreciate them.
4. I wanted kids to see a Christian family who isn’t perfect, but who believes in a God who is. In contemporary fiction, Christians are often presented in one of two ways–either as Bible-thumping idiots or as saccharine-sweet saints. The truth is, we’re just like everyone else. We struggle with right and wrong. We face difficult situations, and we can’t understand why some things happen in life. In the Bitsy series, Bitsy and her family struggle to do right when it would be so much easier to do wrong.
As writers of children’s fiction, we have a responsibility to our readers and their parents. Can parents trust our writing? Can children trust the story we’ve created? Will they learn and grow and experience life by reading what we’ve written? I certainly hope so. If not, we’ve contributed to the idea that children are invincible and they don’t need us old people to help them along the way.
And we all know that’s a lie.
But what if you’re not writing for children? Do you think this instruction isn’t for you? Think again. Whether you’re writing for children or adults, the protagonist of every story must learn something. He or she must change and grow over the course of the book. So regardless of who you’re writing for, remember that you can teach Biblical truth through your secular fiction.
Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:15-16 (NIV)
Grace and peace be yours in abundance,