Tag Archives: fiction

Too Heathen?

Has a secular writer has ever been rejected because their story was too heathen?

While I don’t want to come across as disrespectful and snarky, I do think it’s important to give some thought to the above question. Christian writers are often cautioned against being too preachy…too explicitly Christian. And, frankly, for some reason something about that concern bothers me.

In all intellectual fairness, it must be stated that there are various ways for a Christian worldview to manifest itself. A great example of this is the (Protestant) Bible. It’s a collection of sixty-six books that contain examples of multiple genres written by a host of personalities–all guided by the Holy Spirit. Some parts are explicit in their God-talk and others are less so. One book doesn’t even mention the name of God at all.

But, when it comes to Christian writers writing stories, what fuels the concern about being too preachy? By the way…[Larry slides out a different soap box and jumps aboard]…as a preacher, I take offense to the way the words “preach” and “preachy” are used. [Larry surveys the room and realized that no one else is here, so he shouts, “Amen! Preach it, brother!” Then, feeling silly, he gets off the second soapbox and returns to the first].

Are we to strike a balance between entertainment and mission?  Or do we have to choose between the two? How much is business-driven and how much is a reflection of the current state of American Christianity?

What do you think?

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Filed under books, Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, Larry W. Timm, reading, Writing

Endearing Characters

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Endearing Characters

The sweet, eighty-seven-year-old woman held my children’s hands and said, “You are so beautiful and so precious. Thank you for coming to see me.”

Kneeling by her wheelchair, I thought to myself, “I’m not going to cry…I’m not going to cry…” My wife did get a tad misty-eyed. I’m getting that way as I write these words. I’ll probably always get that way when I view the photos that someone took of our experience.

Then the dear lady–a national treasure in my book–shook our hands, called us all by name and wished us many blessings. She even signed some pictures for us.

It’s a day I will never forget. My family and I traveled from our home in Kansas to a small city in North Carolina. The city is Mt. Airy, but it’s probably better known as Mayberry. And the precious lady was Betty Lynn…better known as Thelma Lou. And that day at the Andy Griffith Museum was wonderful.

My children live in Kansas but have been raised in Mayberry/Mt. Airy. We intentionally don’t have cable or satellite television, but we do have several DVDs we love to watch, and the favorite is The Andy Griffith Show. The lessons discovered on that series are timeless. As are the endearing characters–like Thelma Lou.

Writers, I’m more convinced than ever that we can change people’s lives, not just by the plots we construct, but also by the characters we create. I want my readers to care for my characters to the point that they say, “I wish that character was real. I’d love to spend time with him/her!”

Recently a lady who read one of my unpublished books sent me an email in which she said, “All the characters are true to life and worth remembering. That sentence meant so much to me.

What characters have you found worth remembering? What characters have left you wishing they were real and could sit and talk with you? Writer, do you long to create characters that will last forever?

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“Plot or Characters?”

Do not fear the road of imagination…walk it boldly…take in the sights, the sounds, the tastes, the smells…the textures. Imagine your characters reaching from the pages of your story, and inviting your readers to take their hand and walk with them. Take your reader somewhere unique and believable. Make them hate to see the journey end, and leave them filled with regret that they have to bid the characters farewell.

I am the least qualified to answer the questions as to whether captivating characters or provocative plots drive a story from The words “Chapter One” to the words “The End.” People more capable than me have plucked the strings of that debate for decades, and the dueling banjos will be heard long after I am gone. But I know that plots without characters are like a musical score without an orchestra , and characters without plots are like an orchestra without any musical score.

Characters move me. Plots move them.

I have several characters packed in my imagination. Some are harmless. Some are funny and fun-loving. Some are broken. A few are well-intentioned but flawed. Some are capable of incredible good, while others sink to revolting depths of evil. Some are born out of the happy times in my life, and others are represent my deepest pains and my most unrelenting sorrows. And others…well, I’m not sure where they came from. But I’m sure we’ve met before.

And I also have stories blooming in my head. I can think of six story ideas that are demanding my attention right now. Two are sequels to books I’ve already written. One is a story idea that was plopped in my lap at a recent writers conference (thanks J. K.). Another is probably going to be the beginning of a series. And two are story ideas that started as contest entries and are begging to be fleshed out.

So, as a writer or a reader, what’s most important to you…plot or characters? Who are some of your favorite characters from books or movies? What are the most intriguing plots you’ve been caught up in?

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“The Writing Table”

Not long ago, I imagined pulling up a chair at a writing-table that stretched out in both directions. It went so far I couldn’t see either end. I looked to my left and was awed by what I saw: all the stewards of story from the past were sitting at the table too. I saw C. S. Lewis, John Bunyan, Charles Sheldon, and many other fiction writers–some I recognized and some I didn’t.

No way I belonged there. I slid my chair back and started to rise to my feet, mumbling apologies.

A scraping sound caught my attention. I turned to my right and saw a man about twenty chairs down rising to his feet in front of the chair he just slid back from the table. Then, beyond him, another man stood. Then a child.

Suddenly everyone’s attention was drawn straight ahead. They went to their knees and bowed their heads. I looked, needing to see what had caused such a  reverent response. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The Lord Jesus Christ approached the table. His kind eyes were set on me. I immediately dropped to my knees. My heart flooded with amazement. “Your Majesty!”

“Larry,” He said, “why are you leaving the table?”

He knows MY name! “I…I…I don’t deserve to sit at this table. I’m just a sinful man.” My heart pounded like a jack hammer.

Somehow, instantly, He was standing beside me. “Look at Me, My child,” the Lord said. Gentleness coated his words.

I lifted my face to see His smile beaming down at me.

“I must have misunderstood, Lord. I thought I was supposed to write for You. I thought…” My words trailed off. My mind swirled.

He reached His nail-scarred hand and brushed a tear from my cheek. “It’s okay, My friend. You don’t have to explain. I understand your heart.”

“But, King Jesus, You must be disappointed in me.”

“No, Larry.” He knelt beside me, then put His arm around my shoulder. “I’m not disappointed. I know you don’t feel like you deserve a place at this table. The only way I would have been unhappy was if you weren’t overwhelmed by this honor. Had you come to this table with pride and arrogance, My heart would have been broken.” He pulled me closer. “You are here by personal invitation from Me. Thank you for appreciating that.”

A river of relief poured from my eyes, tear by tear. I buried my face in His shoulder. Finally I regained my composure. “Thank You for inviting me here, Jesus.”

“Larry, to your left sits every person in the past that I have entrusted with the power of story. They have all finished the journey and have received their rewards. They wrote stories that helped many people draw closer to Me.” I felt him touch my chin. His gentle hand guided my face to look at him again. “People like you, Larry.”

He was right. To my left were people whose books had changed my life and deepened my understanding of truth. They had written stories that had helped me see the many colors of light.

Jesus motioned to my right. “And these dear servants…” He paused, then laughed with the purest joy I’d ever heard. “These are the writers who will come after you. Some of them have not even been born on earth yet. They will continue creating stories that will touch lives…and break the evil one’s chains.”

I looked down the row. “Master? Before You came, I saw a few of them standing…after I stood, that is.” I looked back at Him.

He nodded. His smile faded. “Yes. They are the ones who will be influenced by what you write. In fact, one of them will come to know Me…if you stay at the table. But if you decide to turn down My invitation to share in the power of creating stories that touch souls, they will not hear My invitation or feel My Spirit calling them to the table.”

He took my hands in His and stood, pulling me to my feet.

“Thank you for trusting me, Jesus.”

He grinned. “No one at this table deserves to be here by their own goodness. Each has been–or will be–called by grace.” He nodded toward my chair. “Now, will you sit at My table and write for Me?”

“Yes, My Lord and Savior. I will. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.”

He held the back of my chair as I sat back down.

What’s it like for YOU to have a seat at the writer’s table? How does it make you feel?

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Top 10 Ways to Serve God as a Writer

#10:  Make your writing a celebration of God’s love, not an attempt to earn it.

#9:  Stay amazed by the creative process in which God has allowed you to take part.

#8:  Realize that writing is a privilege not to be taken lightly.

#7:  Be diligent to keep yourself humble & teachable.

#6:  Approach writing as a ministry instead of a hobby.

#5:  Recognize the responsiblity that comes with being a “steward of story” who is entrusted with the power of words.

#4:  Take time to be a blessing to other writers.

#3:  Embrace contentment while pursuing excellence.

#2:  See Writing as an act of worship.

#1:  Know that, as a Christian Writer, you are involved in spiritual warfare. Believe YOUR writing can be a powerful weapon against the forces of darkness, a source of comfort and healing to the wounded, a line of encouragement and strength to other Christian soldiers, and can bring hope and victory to those who need to be freed from the power of the evil one.

 

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Out with the old

Recently I opened a file that contained the start of a novel. It was a project that I’d started several years ago. As I read through the first few pages, I could feel my stomach churning. Several pages later I was cramming Tums down my gullet like they were sweet tarts. A chapter further and I was fighting the dry heaves.

I was stunned that a human being could create something so terrible. I wanted to call 9-1-1 and turn myself in for something. There had to be a law somewhere that banned the writing of such terrible literature. I couldn’t look my James Scott Bell books on writing in the face.

It was a dark moment. Then a realization broke through the shameful gloominess and brought rays of affirmation: I’m not as bad anymore…I mean, my writing doesn’t stink as much now…wait, that’s not exactly what I’m trying to say…you probably understand. Right?

Seriously, I’m glad I put myself through the torture of reading my earliest attempt at novel-writing. It was a start…that counts for something. But more important, it wasn’t my last attempt. I’ve kept writing…learning…writing…learning…and I’ve proven to myself that this writing journey is about growing.

What have you learned from re-reading your first “baby-steps” as a writer? Are you better now than you were? In what ways?

Please take a minute to share the lessons you’ve learned and the ways you’ve been able to measure your growth as a writer.

 

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Bad Book Ideas

Let me bounce a few book ideas off you. Let me know what you think, and feel free to share some of your own.

These first two were part of an article I wrote for The ACFW Journal.

I’m think of writing a book about Amish Vampires, and calling it Buggy Bites. Do you think that would be a book that readers could sink their teeth into?

Then there’s the story idea I have which revolves around the lives of old maids in a church sewing circle. I’m thinking of calling it The Jilted Quilters.

Then there’s the rather risky thriller about a group of Nuns who rob banks and are on the run from the law. Oh, it will be titled Bad Habits.

Next will be the contemporary fiction adventure about men who are in charge of snack food at a monastery. The working title for this sure to be best seller is The Chip Monks.

How about a book that puts the reader in a high seas experience? Yep, got that covered too. I’m secretly working on a story about elderly pirates. It’s going to be called Sunken Chests.

Then, for those who want a story with more Biblical relevance, I’m thinking of stepping into the non-fiction world with a devotional book for people who love Chinese food. The title of this masterpiece will be Wok Through The Bible.

And finally, I’m returning to the realm of fiction with a soul-searching book about an Austrian body-builder turned actor who secretly pursues his life-long passion to be a classical composer. This book will be called I’ll Be Bach.

Okay, your turn. Any thoughts? Book ideas?

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Lest We Forget

“I’m getting you that for Christmas,” announced my daughter, Jayne, as she pointed to something on a store shelf.

“Honey,” I said, “if you want to surprise me, you shouldn’t show me the present three weeks before Christmas, because now I know what it is.” My goal was to help my young daughter understand the joy of surprising someone with an unexpected gift.

It seemed to be a real hallmark moment…until she added, “I’m not worried, Dad. You’ll forget by Christmas.”

Out of the mouths of babes, huh?

One thing I’ve discovered about writing Christian fiction is that there’s nothing new under the sun. I’m not charged with discovering new truths to write about. However my task is nearly as hard (maybe harder). I’m called to reintroduce readers to truths that they’ve already seen before. And I’m expected to do it in a way that penetrates the walls of complacency surrounding their hearts and minds. I’m asking them to reconsider an old truth because I presenting it to them in a new way…wrapped in a story that captures their attention from both sides of their brain. And I’ve only got a few chapters…or pages…or paragraphs to do so.

What books have you read recently that caused you to think more about truths you already knew, but perhaps had forgotten about, or taken for granted?

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A Journey To Remember

My daughter, Jayne, and I have gone many places together. And we’ve repeatedly died.

Often our demise has been chalked up to extreme temperatures. Then there were the times when we accidentally shot ourselves while hunting for food…irinically so we wouldn’t starve to death. Trying to cross flooded rivers has done us in more than once too. And even when we’ve managed to survive these things, we’ve had to stop and bury other members of our traveling party who didn’t. And usually those who are dead or dying have been sick with scurvy, cholera, or other ailments. Then there were those nasty “bites”…mosquito bites, snake bites, and frostbite. Icky.

We’ve encountered flooded trails, polluted water, broken wagons, prairie fires, harsh thunderstorms, blinding blizzards, gnawing hunger, exhausting thirst, blocked roads, steep paths, wild animals, quicksand, dust-storms, high mountains and relentless deserts. Also, we’ve had to deal with ill-tempered travelers, injured draft animals and high prices at hole-in-the-wall trading posts. Double yuck.

I can imagine some people turning to their spouses and saying, “We’re never going anywhere with the Timm family. I’d rather go visit your mother!”

Don’t worry. Jayne and I experienced these journeys from the comfort of our home while playing Oregon Trail on the computer. It’s a game that provides an educational–if not terror-filled–journey demonstrating what early settlers underwent and overcame to reach a new home and start new lives.

Good writing takes a reader on a journey too. Maybe they are emotionally connected to a character or curiosity keeps them turning the pages or a sense of unsatisfied justice makes them need to see what happens to the villain. And the reader is on a journey of our making. And it better be believable. Because time is precious. There had better be something for their heart and mind to embrace. They have to feel a strong need to continue–even finish–the journey with you.

And, as a writer, I want them to make it to the end…better for the journey.

Answer this question: what keeps you turning the pages of a book?

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History is His Story

As far as many children in America are concerned, Mother Goose is more relevant than Father God.

That happens when the Bible’s historical accounts are taught as “cute little stories”, complete with comic strip characters. It happens when our children are taught Bible history that has been revised from fact to fable. It happens when are children are exposed to a system that intentionally expels the Bible from the room when a discussion about “real-life, real-time” world history is about to begin. This is done in the name of tolerance, which usually means that everything–except the Bible–is invited to contribute to the discussion.

As a Christian who writes fiction, I do so based on one non-negotiable conviction: the stories I write are ways to communicate knowable, powerful, and Divinely inspired truths from God. I didn’t say my stories were divinely inspired…I said that my stories ARE BASED ON the truth that comes from God and can be found in the Bible. I believe the Bible is the Word of God in the language of mankind. And any meaningful truth that I seek to highlight in my books can be found in the Bible. I don’t create truth, but I am called to proclaim it.

A Christian writer who does not have a firm belief in the Bible as true and accurate is not Christian at all. They are religious probably, but not Christian. My claim to be a Christian is based upon my response to the Christ that has been revealed in the Scriptures. If I can not trust the validity of the Bible, than I have nothing but religious fancies upon which to base my stories. And that’s not worth my time.

God has dealt with mankind in the context of literal times, places, and events. He made sure those real events we needed to know about have been preserved in His book. And, someday, we are all going to meet the Author.

Oh, by the way, that’s a matter of literal history too.

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