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How to Ruin a Christian Fantasy Novel

19 Sep

Disclaimer: In rare cases, the following suggestions may not ruin your work. Generally they spell literary doom, but I cannot guarantee that they will succeed for every author. If your novel has not been sufficiently ruined by following these guidelines, contact me, and I’ll offer you a few more.

  1. Pattern your Christian fantasy novel directly on Narnia. Avoid using your own imagination whenever possible.
  2. Include very obvious symbolic names. Call your villain “The Evil One” or something similar, and name your heroes Victor and Faith.  The Christ-figure they serve should be called “The Prince,” “The King’s Son,” or something with Messianic overtones. Your readers will probably think that you are being overly obvious, but you can afford to ignore them.
  3. Interject moral comments throughout the story narrative. These comments should appear whenever characters do something wrong to explain what they really should have been doing. You do not want to mislead your readers. Simply showing bad consequences to bad actions is not enough—they deserve to be clearly told. If you prefer not to insert comments into the narrative, then include a wise character who offers moral comment on everything that happens.
  4. Include as many allegorical elements as you can. Preferably, include a very obvious Christ-figure. This will help parents understand your wholesome intent. J.R.R. Tolkien’s hatred of allegory was a phobia from his childhood. The Lord of the Rings would have been better if Aragorn had ascended to heaven at the end and taken all the Gondorians with him.
  5. Avoid drawing on mythology. Mythologies are pagan, and anything pagan is entirely corrupt, including their cuisine, which is why so many of them died from food poisoning after Samhain. Yes, Narnia does include some mythological elements, but that is forgivable because C.S. Lewis is C.S. Lewis, and therefore infallible.
  6. Make your novel a tool for evangelization. Allegorical elements will help with this. Also, insert mini-sermons wherever applicable. That way you can mix three different genres together—fantasy, allegory, and devotional non-fiction. Literary critics might frown on such a combination, but when you think about it, it actually shows more creativity.
  7. Avoid reading anything that classic Christian authors of fantasy have written about their work. Most of them did not understand the importance of mixing genres, or of obvious symbolic naming, and some of them spoke of such things in a derogatory fashion. In any case, they really are not good authorities on how to write Christian fantasy.

A closing note: Allegory and fantasy are two different things. (And devotional non-fiction is a third.) If you want to write allegory, great. But keep it pure allegory. Please try not to turn it into a fantasy. They are two different genres and generally result in failure when mixed. The reason Narnia, with its Christ-figure of Aslan, works is because Lewis wasn’t trying to write an allegory. Aslan, Lewis later said, bounded in on His own. If it had been Lewis’s idea, Narnia would have suffered the fate of many later Christian fantasies—a few short years of publication before being consigned to the dust bin of history.

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5 Comments

Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Fantasy

 

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5 responses to “How to Ruin a Christian Fantasy Novel

  1. nheadwater

    September 19, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Being someone mostly unfamiliar with the Christian fantasy genre, I found this post entertaining and enlightening. I think certain points (2, 3, and 6 specifically) could apply to all fantasy writing.

     
  2. A. Carroll Crowe

    September 19, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Very true–I can think of several secular fantasy books that definitely fall prey to some of those points, specifically no. 2. Fantasy has a tendency to focus on universals, and it’s easy for anyone to go overboard.

     
  3. robstroud

    September 19, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Entertaining, accurate… and sad that the people who really need to read this post, won’t.

     
  4. MikeSopes

    September 20, 2012 at 5:39 am

    Believe it or not, I actually had a framework for a fantasy world at one time, complete with a magical talking tiger, four children who are magically transported there from our world, and a journey to the end of that world.

    Out of the framework of that universe came a lot of inspiration for my current story (http://www.fictionpress.com/s/3057733/1/Keepers-of-the-Parchment), which is much more original, so I guess it wasn’t totally a waste.

     
    • A. Carroll Crowe

      September 24, 2012 at 6:30 pm

      I used to insert characters into stories I liked and retell them to myself–I did it with Narnia, and with quite a few other books. Or, in elementary school, I’d begin “writing” a “book” using the plot of another book. Looking back, I don’t think those moments were totally wasted, either. I learned from them. A little copying when you’re young can actually be good if you use it as a tool to learn how to write, rather than as a permanent substitute for good writing.

       

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