Have you ever wondered why authors write the stories they do? Or why some authors seem to avoid certain topics? I can’t speak for all, but a question I saw in a reader group recently got me to thinking about why I choose to write the books I do.
Please note, this is my personal story. I can’t stress that enough. I don’t speak for other authors, nor am I saying that other authors shouldn’t write the harder stories. We all have our place. We all have our calling.
The comment that caught my attention basically pleaded with authors to write the hard books. The books about teen pregnancy, drugs, pre-marital relations, abortion, etc. Because teen girls will search out books about those topics written from a secular point of view and they need books about the same topics written from a Christian perspective.
While that might be true in some cases, I wanted to argue that not all teen girls will seek out those books. As a teen, I lived in a very secular environment. While I had easier access to secular books than Christian, I deliberately sought out the few Christian books I could find and read them repeatedly because when I sat down to read, I wanted a reprieve from the world.
So, not only is it untrue that all teen girls will seek out those sorts of books, there’s also another consideration. And that is: does the author feel led to write those kinds of books?
I certainly don’t.
Will I in the future? I can’t say because I don’t know what the Lord will lead me to do two, five, or ten years down the road. I do know that right now, I’m not comfortable writing harder topics, and that’s for one simple reason.
I live the stories I write. They play through my head like a never-ending movie. I feel the emotions of my characters. I laugh. I cry. Occasionally, I feel like throwing things. And I have to know what the characters went through in the past so I can make them feel the way they do now.
That same writing process is true no matter what I write. So to call authors out for not writing the hard books is to say that authors are avoiding having to live through teen pregnancy, the effects of substance abuse, abortion…
Can you see where I’m going here?
Again, I’m speaking only for myself, but to say that authors need to write those sorts of books is to ask us to picture every single event that brings our characters to their point of redemption, or their happily-ever-after. Even if the event happened behind closed doors.
Because to get the scenes just right we have to know how those characters feel. We have to watch those continuously scrolling reels as the story plays through our heads. We see it all. We feel it all. We live it. And I personally, cannot justify writing those kinds of books.
Yes, those situations are real. Sadly, they happen every day. And yes, there are some authors who are called to write those kinds of stories, and I admire their dedication to their calling. For myself, I can’t. Because I know I’d be filling my mind with images that will play back on a continuous loop for weeks on end.
Instead, I write stories that I trust will edify and build the reader up. Stories that will provide the sort of entertainment I longed for as a teen. Clean entertainment that wasn’t spoiled by the realities of the world around me.
Dwell on these things
Recently, I did an interview with our local bookstore. It was a fun time especially since I got to share a bit of the gospel in a secular realm. But that’s for another post. One of the questions that she asked me was, “If my five books for The Independence Islands were turned into a movie or a TV series, who would play my two main characters?” I see authors sharing images of this very thing – actors who would play their characters, but I struggled long enough that, thankfully, a customer walked in while I was trying to come up with an answer.
I don’t watch TV. I don’t really watch movies – I think this year already I have maybe viewed five movies that I had never seen before. So, to answer this question, I really had to search for actors that fit the description of Scott and Beth. I went to my Pinterest board for Scrumptious Independence, hoping that maybe I had selected two of them already and I just forgot. I wasn’t quite as lucky, and the one actor in the pin board may not have actually been my selection for Scott but he was the only man there. That was Keanu Reeves. Now that I think about it, my villain in that book might’ve actually looked more like Mr. Reeves than Scott. But it is what it is now.
Who would play Beth, you might ask? I selected Lily Collins. I don’t know why but she seemed to look the closest to the woman on the cover of the book.
What show should I compare my books too? and what actors would play my characters? are always the hardest for me to answer for the very reason I stated above. When I tell readers that I don’t watch television, they’re surprised. I know it’s a normal way of decompressing for most people. For me its sleeping or reading, depends on how much work I’ve been doing throughout the day or how busy I was being a mom.
Why don’t you watch television?
Simply put, I’m tired of the garbage and the over-politicizing social issues and the over-romanticizing evil behaviors and…the list continues. When I was watching a show it was supposed to be sci-fi and some of the elements we’re too real and too close to the truth, I was immediately turned off. I found myself wondering, “If fiction isn’t far from reality, what kind of sick twisted minds are coming up with some of these stories?” Now, this isn’t a dig at people who like those kind of shows and movies, but for me it’s something that I feel like I need to avoid.
It says in Philippians, chapter 4 verse 8 “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise – dwell on these things.”
If I am not finding this kind of material, or even close, I try to avoid it. Does it mean I no longer have fun? Not at all. It just means that I find something different more valuable. As someone who is not only a Christian author, but also a teacher of the Word, I need to dwell on these things.
Stacy T. Simmons
It’s Almost Fall Y’all!
Whew! Summer is cruising by faster than an ice cream truck popsicle melts in your hand. Soon many of us will send our kiddos back to school with a tear shed and a wave. When mine were younger, that was me as well. But then I’d either go over to a friend’s house for a chat or out for breakfast with my hubby. It was the advent of another year beginning.
Now, I’m on the other side of the fence, so to speak. My summers are reserved for writing. School begins again soon, and I can’t wait to see students from last year and meet new ones ready for a great year of learning.
My second novel in the Briar Creek Love series, A Journey for Hope, hits close to my heart. Hope is an art teacher. When I taught elementary school, the students could hardly wait to attend the teacher’s class and do something very creative and fun. Hope has to make some tough decisions in the story, and there might be some romance flourishing, rekindling, something to that effect-I won’t tell. In January of next year, her story arrives, I can’t wait to share it with you.
In the meantime, have a wonderful rest of your summer. If you have children heading back to school, I hope both they and you have a great year of building and collecting memories. I’ll see y’all in September, where we will be able to truly say, “happy fall y’all!” Blessings!
I never expected writing to become such an extensive part of my life. I’ve said before that I assumed I’d write that first book and then be done with the whole author thing.
While I don’t usually enjoy being wrong, I’m glad that I was completely off base. One book was never enough. Not when reading. Not when writing. I can’t imagine not doing this thing that I absolutely love. Like anything else, there are bad days. There are days when I want to throw up my hands and quit.
Maybe I even do stop…
But then another story idea sprouts and I’m off and running again.
I know that every idea won’t turn into a full book, but they sure are fun to dream up and jot down. They’re like little nuggets of gold that I can take out and admire every now and then. Maybe I’ll throw a few together into a pile, melt them down, and make something bigger and better.
That’s one of the wonderful things about writing. Concepts, ideas, plots, characters, they’re all malleable. Except when the characters are already set in their ways and refuse to let you change them. And yes, that does happen. Some stories get written in spite of the characters trying to run the show from the other side of the computer screen.
Christian, from my upcoming novel Waiting on the Tides, is one such example. He walked onto the page in Footprints on Her Heart with the biggest chip on his shoulder. I thought I’d never get his story out. He fought me through Footprints, then again when I wrote him into From Shore to Shore. He wanted nothing to do with being part of the Islands series.
Talk about a stubborn streak.
You know what his weakness is? His daughter. Once she twirled onto the page, he turned into a completely different person and finally agreed to tell me his tale.
I hope you’ll enjoy it too when it releases this November.