Our logo truly became a reality to me last Saturday as I attended the online Fiction Master Class taught by the gifted Joyce Moyer Hostetter. Not only has she written a popular MG Historical fiction series, but she is able to impart her knowledge of writing to her students in a simple and engaging way.
TIP #3 Don’t avoid tough literal situations by referring to them only as metaphors.
Taking literal language metaphorically is equally problematic.
Kids can be masters of metaphor. Ask “Didn’t I tell you not to play in the mud?” and they answer, “We weren’t playing, we were making a snack for the frogs.” One child, sent to the principal for throwing food in the cafeteria, protested, “I didn’t throw food. I catapulted it!” Somehow, it sounds much better to use a word with visual and historical connections to ancient weaponry.
A lesson from children’s literature
Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine, a Caldecott winner by Evaline Ness, shows the danger of misrepresenting literal and metaphorical language. Sam, the opening line tells us, is a girl who is prone to lying. Instead of acknowledging her mother’s death, she says her mother is a “mermaid.” She tells everyone her cat, Bangs, can talk. But the cruelest, and most dangerous lie is the one she tells repeatedly to Tom, the little friend who believes everything she says. He longs to see the baby kangaroo she tells him she has, and each day she sends him on a wild goose chase to find it in a park or other location in their seaside town.
Tom’s problem is that he takes every word Sam says literally. Sam’s problem is that she prefers living in the metaphorical world she creates instead of in the literal world. Her father calls this “moonshine” (yes, a metaphor) and warns her that she needs to distinguish “real from moonshine.” Not until Sam’s lie nearly causes Tom’s death does she realize the importance of literal truth. This story is a great tool to help children recognize problems caused by lying.
Examples from Scripture
The Bible cautions that “the letter kills but the Spirit gives life “(2 Co. 3:6}. Yet God also confronted people who rationalized a way out of literally obeying His Word. The tithe (10% of earnings are God’s) is a practice people easily find reasons to question. (God can’t really expect 10% of my income, can He? I need to pay my bills . . . ).
Jesus called out the Pharisees’ method for circumventing the commandment to “Honor your father and mother.” If they “dedicated” a resource (even herbs like mint and rue) to God, they subtracted it from their income for tithing AND funds available to care for aging parents. They called this LITERALLY complying with the commandments for giving and caring but their METAPHORICAL interpretation produced the opposite of honoring and tithing.
The Parable of the Talents illustrates another metaphorical spin on literal words and acts. The man entrusted with only one talent does not invest it, as those given ten or five did, and return it to the master with interest. Instead, he buries it and says he’s giving back exactly what he had received. Why is the employer displeased? This employee claims literal compliance, but he has actually evaded the real command. Denying his responsibility to manage the money responsibly, he metaphorically shifts the literal assignment to “take care” of the owner’s property and replaces it with hoarding, as though both are equivalent. The master recognizes this employee’s dishonesty and calls him a “wicked servant.”
The right mix of literal and metaphorical
Like Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, anyone can fall into this sin of metaphorical word-twisting. Hoarding resources (time, money, possessions, labor) isn’t the same as being frugal and careful.
Imagination is one of God’s wonderful gifts, exercised in all kinds of art: visual, musical, theatrical, and literary. But changing literal truth into rhetorical equivocation or metaphor is different from using metaphorical language to convey truth. Some deny biblical miracles by explaining them away as metaphors. God often uses natural phenomena to bring about His will. However, accepting God’s acts only when they fit literal “rules” observed in nature, substitutes human reason for God’s, and rejects His divine attributes.
Do adults or children ever misuse language in your stories? Do they encounter others who use words carelessly or deceptively? What consequences follow, and how do readers and characters discover the need to distinguish appropriate literal and metaphorical words? Comment below, on Write2Ignite social media, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The high seas of the writing industry are tumultuous at best with raging competition and a strong current of marketing demands. Within the last few years, one of these waves has taken the Christian fiction market to a low. As a result, publishing houses are merging or narrowing their acquisition criteria, Christian brick and mortar stores like LifeWay are closing, and self-publishing is becoming all too tempting.
But don’t fear, fellow Christian writers! We have the ultimate Life Preserver. Yes, it’s Jesus! With a few simple truths to remember, He will help us refocus in order to navigate even the bleakest of waters.
Truth #1: Remember Who called you.
While we are all different, a common theme among us faith-based writers is the belief that God called us to write. After all, He gave us the skill, the desire, and the message to do so. While that calling doesn’t give us the liberty to do whatever we want with it, we can be certain that God wants us where we are until told otherwise.
And while we’re trusting in The One Who called, we can focus on constantly learning and producing quality work. Jesus understands the obstacles we’ve faced to get where we are, and He will see us through the obstacles heading our way.
Truth #2 Remember the Why
If we believe we’ve been called, we should also believe in the reason we’ve been called. God has cultivated in us His wisdom and His message and we have been charged to reveal it the best way we know how, creatively.
We have a genre, a target audience, and a need that have a special place in our heart. If you’re reading this, that audience might be YA, MG, or children’s books. If you’re like me, the needs of emerging adults inspire your writing. We long to make a positive impact in the lives of our readers and one that goes deeper than just a good story. Let the ‘Why’ be a driving force in your work even if the vehicle changes from time to time.
Truth #3 Remember the Priority
As Christian writers, we don’t just spill words on a page just because. Writing not only scratches that inner itch, but it also helps us communicate to a world that will always need someone to point them to the truth of Jesus. Though the market may seem low, I believe the spiritual demand is at an all-time high. The world is consumed with entertainment for entertainment’s sake. The next generation is growing up with fewer morals, fewer role models, and fewer reasons to be close to Jesus. If we use our words to entertain, educate, and encourage people for Jesus’s sake, we will be providing a worth that cannot be matched.
When you feel lost in the sea of rejections, when you can’t keep up with the new tide of trends, or when the culture drowns your ambitions, you know what to do. Let the culture and the industry do what they do, ebb and flow as always. Fix your eyes on Jesus, The One Who calms the sea, and He will make sure you stay above water.
Leah Jordan Meahl writes Christian fiction and nonfiction for new adults. Click here to learn more.
If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you. Maybe it’s not quite that easy, but if you want to learn something, go to the source. —Natalie Goldberg
My name is Karley Conklin, and I’m a new blogger for Write2Ignite.
I’ve been able to attend Write2Ignite on four different occasions, and I must say, it’s been one of the best parts of my writing journey. The first time I participated in the conference, I was a timid high school senior, with no experience and no idea what to expect. Despite my fears, the conference planted in me a grain of confidence. As I introduced myself to editors and agents, I began to see myself as more than just a dreamer. Professionals in the publishing world were offering me consistent encouragement and affirmation, and I left the event feeling certain I was called to write.
Since then, I’ve graduated college with an Interdisciplinary Literature and Christian Studies degree—which is to say that my writing has sadly fallen to the back-burner. Though I’ve yet to publish the middle-grade novel I wrote four years ago, I’ve still managed to keep my creativity simmering, through editing, through smaller writing projects, and most of all, through reading.
It shouldn’t surprise you that a lit major (and now part-time librarian) would be an advocate for reading as much you can. Even though I’m biased, I firmly believe that reading is one of the best ways to learn to write well. In every book, we find examples of what works and what doesn’t. We find lessons in the flow of language, the nature of plot and setting, and the magic of character development. Reading allows us to observe the art we hope to master, and observation is a powerful tool.
My blog posts in the upcoming months will focus on sharing with you the best books on writing I can find. Mixed in with these textbooks of the trade, I’ll add reviews of children’s literature to encourage you to keep honing your observational skills.
I look forward to learning and growing with you all and hope that you’ll share your thoughts with our Write2Ignite community.
Since you now know all about me, I’d love to hear a little about you. What’s one of your favorite books, one that has inspired you or challenged your thinking?
(Mine would be Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, but more on her later.)
Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time editor, and full-time bookworm. Her fondness for books borderlines obsession, as she engages in not only writing and editing, but also in book-binding. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.
Vijaya Bodach – Writing a Book that’s Controversial
Come to this workshop if you feel called to bring the Light of Christ to problems in this fallen world. What events in recent months have lit a fire under you to do something about them? Go ahead…list them. Pick ONE thing. Now, what can you reasonably expect to do? What can you do with the might of God supporting you? Dream. Write His Dream.
Carol Baldwin – Out of This World Fiction & Fantasy
Following up on Daniel Blackaby’s keynote and our previous workshops, we’ll consider important details to empower and invigorate your fantasy and science fiction stories. Consistency and believability are key!
Todd Williams – Connecting With Kids
We were all kids once. Should it really be that hard to relate? Sadly for writers, childhood sometimes seems far away. We will explore some specific characteristics of three age groups between 4 and 11 years old that will remind you of the struggles and joys of being a kid. More than that, we’ll look at creative writing strategies that can target those childhood traits in ways that will excite and energize their minds.
Jean Matthew Hall – “The Challenges of Writing Fiction Picture Books”
Join us for Jean Matthew Hall’s workshop, “The Challenges of Writing Fiction Picture Books” as we dig into great picture books to search for nine elements that can make your picture books great.
Andrea Merrell – Turning Pain Into Prose
Have you ever experienced pain? You know, the gut-wrenching kind that makes you feel as if you’re going under for the third time with no life preserver? Maybe it was a chronic illness, abuse, or a prodigal child. Perhaps it was divorce or even death. Pain affects us all to some degree, but God doesn’t waste a single thing that goes on in our life. He wants us to share our stories to offer hope to those who are hurting. “Turning Pain into Prose “will show you how to dig deeply into those painful experiences to find inspiration, passion, and purpose for your writing.
Steve Hutson – What NOT to Say to an Agent or Editor
No how matter how good your story, or how awesome your execution, it might not be enough. You still have to sell this thing. Learn what to say — and, very importantly — what NOT to say, when pitching your book.
CONGRATULATIONS to Diane Buie who won an autographed copy of Maiden of Iron: A Steampunk Novel from last week’s giveaway.