Almost every major character, good or bad, gets wounded or, in a few cases, actually killed, at some point in my stories, both in the adult and in the young-adult novels. There are several reasons for that.
First, I think that, if an author is going to write action stories about good versus evil, there is going to have to be violence at some point, or there is simply no realism in the story. Think for a moment about today’s world. Violence is everywhere, much of it deadly. If a good-versus-evil action-focused novel is going to ring true, some people are going to get hurt. Some may not survive.
Second, since my novels are Christian-themed, I think it important to deliver the message that Christians are likely to be wounded – not physically, we always hope – but emotionally, at some point in their Christian journeys. The physical wounds that my characters incur are the visible manifestations of the kinds of emotional wounds that we Christians are likely to experience at some point in our life journeys.
Third, plot tension is enhanced by threats to the characters we have come to care about. For example, early in the writing of my first novel, The Face of the Enemy, I explained to my wife Linda that I was planning a scene for the novel’s climax in which Rebecca, always the central character, might be wounded in such a way that she would become permanently (physically) impaired. Don’t you do that! said Linda with considerable force in her voice. Don’t you do something like that to her! Now, Linda had only read about 100 manuscript pages in that first story, and already she was so emotionally committed to Rebecca that she was incensed that I would consider that kind of wounding. As readers of the Rebecca Series discover, Rebecca is eventually wounded in a quite visible way, but not in any way that causes her to be physically or mentally impaired.
So, three kinds of reasons for the various woundings in my novels: (1) good versus evil, to be realistic in an action novel, requires at least some violence; (2) the physical scars incurred by the Christian characters are symbolic of the emotional scars that Christians can expect as they move through the world; and (3) plot tension is heightened when readers have to worry about the safety of their favorite characters. I will say that I try never to make the woundings highly graphic. I don’t present “blood and gore” the way some horror stories do. And I never include violence just to include violence. Whatever violence occurs is always integral to the story line.
And my stories are not tragedies. Even though the main characters may be hurt at some point, I do not allow them – the main characters – to be killed. There are literary critics who think that that represents a flaw in fiction writing, and that death and disappointment and despair are part of a good story.
Not to me. I want us to be filled with hope that good can prevail. And our life experience as Christians tells us that it can. Not always. But often enough.
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