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Whether we read a novel just to kick back and relax or to jump into an exciting adventure, we enter one or possibly more new worlds.
Fiction’s power comes from its ability to draw a reader into a world view—a set of beliefs, ideas, and attitudes about the world, ourselves, and others. It can impart both truth and deception, so as Christians, it’s vital to discern what we’re reading and, as writers, what we’re writing. Understanding and utilizing world views can help us to do both.
World views appear in themes of truth and deception, love and hate, good and evil, unity and brokenness, and more. The realities of those world views play out through plots, characters, action, dialogue, atmosphere, and other fictional elements.
A biblical world view discerns good from evil, truth from falsehood. The Apostle Paul tells us to take every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), and Romans 12:2 exhorts us to mature in discernment through God’s Word. Comparing world views that we encounter with the Bible, helps us to do this.
What worlds entice you when you read? And what worlds do you create for your readers?
Following are four influential world view areas operating in our culture today. Can you spot their spiritual realities in fictional landscapes? Do they shape any world views you encounter or want to write about? Studying world views will help you understand how they conflict, combine and communicate their message to others.
- Biblical. The Word of God is the foundation of a Christian world view (Heb. 4:12).
- New Age/mystical. Sees the world as magical with no Creator God. Emphasizes imagination, feeling, and intuition. Looks “within” for truth though mysticism, “spirit guides,” psychedelic drugs, etc.
- Psychological. Seeks transformation via therapy, self-analysis, pop psychology, and self-help and behavioral change methods. Intersects with New Age/mystical.
- Secular/materialist/atheistic. Relies upon worldly techniques and materialistic philosophies.
Want to create a riveting story? Utilize world views to increase conflict, reveal character, and create atmosphere. Here’s an example. Can you spot the world views operating in this vignette?
Judy McGrath stirred her coffee and stared out the window at the veil of fog shrouding the garden. She shivered. It reminded her of the veil she felt over her marriage—a cold, distant, and alien fog. Once again, John was off managing the high-tech company he loved—and once again she was alone.
“Children are counterproductive to a green Earth,” he’d insisted. “Our planet’s already overpopulated.”
“But John, don’t you want family?” she’d protested.
“Nonsense. We have to separate human sexuality from human reproduction or earth will be doomed.” He’d hurried away, scowling.
Judy wiped a tear and stirred her coffee, then wiped away another tear. Finally, she gave up and reached for the box of tissues.
The ability to identify world views can sharpen our awareness of the world around us, enrich our stories, and protect us and our readers from deception. To identify world views as you read and write fiction, ask yourself:
- What philosophies, attitudes, and beliefs underlie and shape the plot, imagery, characterization, and dialogue?
- How do these world views interact, conflict, combine, and communicate with each other?
- How do they line up with the Bible?
In summary, learning about world views can help us to:
- Discern what we’re reading and, as writers, what we’re writing;
- Mature in discernment as we are transformed by God’s Word;
- Understand how they conflict, combine, and communicate among themselves;
- Create a riveting story through conflict, character change, and atmosphere; and
- Sharpen our awareness of the world around us, enrich our reading and writing, and protect us and our readers from deception.
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We’ve taken on the challenge of writing about radically conflicting world views in our new thriller, The Glittering Web, coming this April 22 through Redemption Press.
Based on the true story of our rescue by Jesus Christ, our fast-paced novel plunges the reader into deep struggles involved with escaping Satan’s kingdom and clearly distinguishes the conflict between the kingdoms of light and of darkness.
Linda Nathan has 27 years of experience as a professional freelance writer, editor, and consultant for authors and institutions through her business, Logos Word Designs, LLC. She is a staff freelance editor with Redemption Press and a gold member of the Christian Editor Connection. Linda has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Oregon and master’s level work, as well as 10 years of experience in the legal field. She has helped numerous authors attain publication and in several instances achieve industry awards.
Purple prose. Telling. Large sections of backstory.
More and more often I find these literary no-no’s popping up in published works. In fact, it happens so frequently that I’ve started to question myself—are these now in vogue? Are we reverting back to these writing styles? Is this what I should be teaching my clients and students? As an editor and teacher, I need to make sure I’m giving correct information!
After some inquiries and research, I’ve discovered this disturbing trend: these are still considered writing issues to be corrected, but editors and authors are now embracing bad writing as “author’s voice.” Why? Because well-established writers do it. Because every now and then someone who writes that way gets nominated for an award. Because (in my opinion) it’s easier. Because it’s the “authors voice.”
I’ll see your argument and raise you one truth: it’s not voice, it’s bad writing.
When it comes to authors who self-publish, I realize there’s nothing freelance editors can do to convince an author to take our suggestions; however, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be making those suggestions. It seems that there are editors out there who no longer suggest correcting these types of issues. Instead, they shrug it off as author voice, then carry on.
Imagine if we embraced this standard in other areas of our lives.
Would you hire a house painter who leaves streaks and paints things he shouldn’t just because someone else did it once and no one complained? Would you hire an accountant who doesn’t double check his work because he hasn’t had a problem yet so he probably won’t have one with your taxes? How about a mechanic who doesn’t tighten every bolt because there’s never been an issue in the past? Or would you rather work with the person who paints completely and cleanly, who checks his math, and makes sure every belt, bolt, and screw is secure?
As editors, our standards shouldn’t be whether or not someone else got away with something but whether or not something’s right. Can we force our authors to accept and incorporate these changes? Of course not. Should we point out the issues anyway? Absolutely! Is there going to be push back from the authors? Count on it.
I get it. No one wants to be told that their work is bad, and it’s not always easy to share that truth with others (especially when it’s really bad), but that’s what editors are paid to do. It certainly is easier when you’re a copyeditor or proofreader and you can point to style guides to show why something is grammatically incorrect (thank you Chicago Manual of Style). In my opinion, it’s significantly more difficult to tell someone their word selection and phrasing is confusing and lackluster, but that’s why authors hire us. Sure, there are some people out there who just want to get a book published, but other writers want to produce good books, and their editors are failing them.
This is my plea to editors everywhere:
Speaking as an editor, please stop sugar coating bad writing. Call it what it is. If the author wants to keep it, fine, but make an effort to stop the madness.
Speaking as a reader, please stop sugar coating bad writing. It produces mediocre, barely engaging books that could have been great if the authors had tried to work through their issues to strengthen their craft instead of believing good enough was good enough.
Do you need to brush up on the industry standards for fiction? Check out Substantive Editing for Fiction—this four-part class will walk you through the foundational elements you need to know to provide a comprehensive substantive edit. The first class—SEF 101—start today!
My debut novel—Summer Plans and Other Disasters—is now available on Amazon! Sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the unpublished prologue: find out what inspired Calista Stephens to make those summer plans. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for writing tips, updates on Guiding Light, and more!