Is the God Machine Broken? (by Jason Link)

1395426_10202384977010376_242509230_nAn interesting “literary issue” has been lingering in the back of my head for a while, an issue of writing on hope in the midst of conflict. It involves the God machine, otherwise known as Deus ex machina.[1]

Many believe Deus ex machina to be a poor storytelling device because it does not reflect the grittiness of real life. There is merit to this criticism. We can think of a few moments in our lives when a stroke of luck saved us from trouble, but these events are rare. Most of the time when we are confronted with the consequences of our choices and the choices of others, no rope miraculously drops from the sky to pull us out of our predicament.

In stories, when we see positive twists of fate happening outside the protagonist’s control—as no result of his or her wit or strength—it seems as though the protagonist is getting off easy. As a result we can feel disconnected with that character since we may find it difficult to identify with their lucky break. Story expert Robert McKee goes so far as to state that Deus ex machina is “an insult to the audience. Each of us knows we must choose and act, for better or worse, to determine the meaning of our lives … Deus ex machina is an insult because it is a lie.”[2]

Yet if this is the case, why do I and so many others feel great elation when Aslan finally arrives to wake the stone animals and defeat the White Witch, or when Gandalf comes with reinforcements to save Helm’s Deep, or when the creatures of Pandora sweep in to save the Na’vi from the Sky People? In each of these situations, the protagonists caught in the midst of conflict have done very little (or nothing) to bring about the change in their fortunes, yet we love it when they are saved. I would argue that the reason why these moments stir us so powerfully is that we long for such great salvation to happen in our lives and in the world.[3] The flawed character of humanity has faced evil in every scene and in every act. While we have accomplished some minor victories, humanity has never defeated evil; indeed it has contributed greatly to the world’s hurt. We can all agree that humanity longs for reprieve and wholeness in the final act.

godIs Deus ex machina considered a bad story telling device because we have lost hope, because we are a cynical generation, because we are a culture that preaches a need to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and determine your own fate? Deus ex machina may not fully represent “real life” of the present where striving for one’s own good appears to be the only means of survival and success, but it does point to the hope we have for the future. There is hope that God has not abandoned us and that in the end he will make all things new. Those of us who follow Christ “are a people of countercultural hope. And we will grow in hope as we connect our lives to God’s story.” [4] The challenge then for the storyteller is to bring together gritty authenticity and impossible, glorious hope. No small task!

Therefore I believe the question is not “Is it proper to use Deus ex machina in our stories?” but “What is God doing in the world, and how can our stories reflect his work?” We read the pen strokes of the greatest Storyteller of all; we study his masterpiece where he himself entered the pages and took on our ink so that his beloved characters may be redeemed. From beholding the Storyteller’s work, we become heralds of the plot thus far and the glorious final act to come.

To use his story as our example while creating stories of our own is not to become unoriginal. Quite the contrary! The work of Christ spans an infinitely vast and intricately complex narrative.[5] Each one of us knows but a miniscule and particular part of that narrative, but we know it intimately. To share our part—whether through testimony or fantasy or any other form—is to tell of a God who is on the move in specific ways, a God who enters the grit of real life. Yes, he’ll drop us a line from time to time, but he also walks with us in the midst of conflict. And that gives me reason to hope.

This is post is not supposed to present a conclusion but to offer ideas and open up discussion.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Deus ex machina has any place in storytelling?

[1] Latin for “God in the machine;” a benevolent force—sometimes a god—that comes into the story from out of no where and saves the protagonist(s) from trouble.
[2] Robert Mckee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting (New York: Harper Collins, Inc., 1997).
[3] I would also argue that this is the reason why super hero movies are so popular today.
[4] Alan Kreider and Eleanor Kreider, Worship & Mission After Christendom (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2011), 119.
[5] See Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in the New Testament & Contemporary Contexts by Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker.

 

JasonMy Bio:
Jason Link, author of The Legender, has come back to the U.S. after many years of living in Nicaragua, the tropical land where he proposed to his wife on an active volcano. This makes him sound more adventurous than he really is. Instead of cutting his way through the jungles with a machete, he cuts his way through academia with a pen. He has taught high school English and is now a student at Fuller Theological Seminary. 
The question he has been asked the most is: “Are you lost?” It may seem that he is, but he is most likely wandering while deep in thought. He dwells often on the art of story, for he sees God’s beauty in the finely crafted plot.

A Word with Steve Laube of Enclave Publishing

my photo wide 2010Enclave Publishing has been a big supporter of Realm Makers, and we are so excited to have Steve join us again at the conference this year. He’s going to be giving 2 workshops as well as taking appointments. Realm Makers is still 6 weeks away, though–so long and so short at the same time. In the meantime, let’s just see what Steve has to share with us today!

 

1. What have been some of the challenges in building Enclave Publishing? What have you had fun doing?

 

Most of the challenges are what happens behind the scenes with accounting, production infrastructure, marketing, and sales. Publishing into the major sales channels is no easy task.

Also a year ago, at RealmMakers we announced the name change and our new branding. But more challenging has been publishing 17 new titles in one year (Oct. ’14 – Oct. ’15) is quite aggressive…And expensive.

The fun part is in acquisitions. Finding those stories that are great to read and are what we hope others will enjoy too.

 

2. What are some exciting things coming up for Enclave that we should keep an eye out for?

 

You may have seen the cover reveals for our Fall titles already. The stand alone novel by John Otte about a pregnant teenage cyborg called THE HIVE. And the new fantasy trilogy by Ronie Kendig. Along with the continuation of the two series by Nadine Brandes and R.J. Anderson…it is brilliant Fall lineup! Next year will see a new Steampunk series by an established author and both a new fantasy trilogy and the launch of a new science fiction trilogy, by debut authors.

 

3. What is Enclave Publishing currently looking for?

 

I recommend authors read a few of our recent releases to get a sense of the variety of our offerings. Both fantasy and science fiction continue to be on our radar. In addition we hope to find something that would fit the “supernatural” genre.

 

4. As an agent and head of Enclave, how do you balance it all? (Do you edit for Enclave too?)

 

I endeavor to keep the agency and Enclave very separate. In fact the agents in the agency have to submit projects to Enclave like any other agent would. It is that separate.

I have done some editing for Enclave but mostly we hire top level editors who have done work for every major publisher in the industry. This is one area we do not try to skimp.

I enjoy working hard. The agency is the full-time focus. I am privileged to have a roster of highly professional authors. Plus I have three other great agents who work for me (Tamela, Karen, and Dan).
I have an assistant at Enclave who is marvelous (Margaret) and someone to help with marketing (Thomas).

I simply work hard as managing all the moving parts.

 

5. Steve’s Faves:

 

DuneFood: Popcorn. Steak. (nothing revealing here)

 

Color: I’m a guy. Guys don’t usually have a good answer to that question. I’m just glad you are wearing clothes that have a color … :)

 

Book: I have over 5,000 books in my library. I could list 100 top favorites. Depends on fiction … and the genre or whether it is fiction and the topic. Since we are talking to a speculative audience I’ll answer accordingly. We have to eliminate the obvious Lewis & Tolkein answers. Therefore I would say that DUNE by Frank Herbert and ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card are my two most favorite science fiction stories. (I have read all 19 books in the Dune series twice. The main title four times.)
Fantasy: I would include The Song of Albion trilogy by Stephen Lawhead and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson (only the first six).

 

Movie: Another tough question. Depends on the mood. (And we have to eliminate Star Wars because it wouldn’t be fair)
For fun – Galaxy Quest
War movie – Saving Private Ryan – saw in the theatre with my brother-in-law and I will never forget it.
Sports movie – Remember the Titans and Secretariat (even though the sport is horse racing – it is unforgettable)
TV shows on DVD – Dick Van Dyke, the Odd Couple, Duck Dynasty, The Lucy Show, The Bob Newhart Show. All family friendly and hilarious no matter how many times we watch them.

 

6. What do you hope attendees get out of your workshops?

 

The class on contracts is designed to scare authors straight. To realize the importance of the agreement they sign.
The class on theology and philosophy is brand new. I’m hoping it will create discussion and and awareness of the power of religious thought and philosophy found in the genre we love to read so much.

 

7. Do you have any advice for the newbies, whether it is their first time at Realm Makers or first time at any writers conference?

 

Relax. We won’t bite. At least not very hard.
Be a sponge and soak it all in.
Set reasonable expectations. If you expect to learn something more than you knew when you arrived you will count the event successful. If you expect to come away with a book contract and a million dollar check…you might be disappointed.

 

 

 

Daffy8. What is the weirdest attempted bribe you’ve ever received (as agent or editor)?

 

Depends on the definition of a bribe. I doubt anyone thought they were influencing my decisions. They were only trying to be memorable.
One person knew I was a basketball fan and included a signed photo of Michael Jordan. I returned that. It was too valuable.
I’ve received candy, CDs, knick-knacks, and even cash (presumably to cover return postage because they couldn’t find stamps).
The strangest non-bribe was a motivational speaker whose book was on “getting your ducks in a row.” He included a three and a half foot high stuffed cartoon duck, like Daffy in the Disney cartoon. The box was massive. I donated it to our church for a giveaway at a kids event.

 

And there you have it, folks. See, Steve isn’t so scary once he starts talking. :) I hope we’ll be seeing you at Realm Makers in August!

Hanging Out with Kirk DouPonce

DouPonceThis week, we’re excited to hang out with cover designer and graphic artist, Kirk DouPonce. In an effort to include more creative arts at Realm Makers, we’re excited for him to share some of his expertise during his workshop. Just another reason not to miss Realm Makers 2015! (There’s still time to register before the price goes up!)
 

1.  We’ll start with something pretty easy. When did you decide to become a book cover designer and what were the steps you had to take to become one?
At my preschool graduation from Tot Town, I was given a diploma that read “Most Likely to Become an Artist.” So, I guess I’ve always known that whatever I ended up doing it would somehow involve art. My career started as a freelancer fresh out of art college. I was able to pick up a few jobs here and there, but for the most part it was the National Guard that paid my rent. A turning point came when I met John Lucas, an art director who worked at Zondervan Publishing House. He graciously allowed me to show him my portfolio. And then, to my surprise, gave me an actual book cover to design!
A couple of years later, I made the difficult but correct choice of becoming an employee. Two of the companies I worked for were publishers. Being an in-house designer taught me so much more than I could have learned on my own. I now have a much fuller understanding of the publishing and print industries.
Later, David Uttley, a successful designer whose work I greatly admire asked me to hire on with him. Together, with Katherine Lloyd to keep us organized, we started Uttley/DouPonce DesignWorks. The name changed quite few times, from UDG DesignWorks (with Chris Gilbert), then The DesignWorks Group and now FaceOut Studio, a firm known for designing exceptional book covers. More than anywhere else, it was there that I learned how to design under pressure. David and I were each designing over a hundred covers a year and the pace was only picking up. To share the load, David gradually hired more designers and administrators. After many years I felt it was time to go back to my dream job of freelancing. That’s when my wife and I started DogEared Design.

 

2. In your opinion, how important is the design of a book cover?
Well, the title of my Realm Makers workshop is “Book Cover Design: Your Most Important Marketing Tool.” Notice I’m not saying it’s the most important part of the book, that would obviously be the content. But if potential buyers aren’t drawn to the cover, getting them to consider purchasing and reading the content is going to be an uphill battle.
 

3. What makes or breaks a book cover?
For fiction, it’s all about creating a mood. In most cases, a cover has less than a second to make an impression. In that time, the cover has to push all the right buttons. And contrary to what many of the publishing committees think, whether or not the series title is bold enough, is not one of those buttons.

 

4. Do you have a typical process when you create covers?
My process for creating covers has changed a bit over the years. Each project still begins with lots of coffee and research (including reading manuscrips when time allows). But now,  instead of relying on stock sites, photographers, and illustrators, I prefer to create my own imagery. With the help of YouTube and a plethora of other tutorial sites, I’ve been able to teach myself photography and 3D. Considering how much I had been paying others for these services, it didn’t take long to justify purchasing and learning the tools. What surprised me was how much I enjoy using them. My goal is to eventually be able to create “anything.” If a client says they want an Amish vampire riding a steampunk dragon in outer space, I’d like to be able to say, “Sure, I can do that.” After all these years I’m still a student … and will always be one.
 

5. I’m sure inspiration strikes you in some of the oddest places or at the oddest times. How do you work on the go?
“On the go” implies that I actually leave the house. Which I do. Everyday I take a walk to the mail box and back, during which time I usually am thinking about work. It’s a cliche, but the shower is always a great place to think as well. Because I work at home and my wife homeschools our four kids, often my best working hours are before the sun comes up. I do like the white noise later in the day though.

 

6. Kirk’s Faves:
​Color: Deep Burgundy
​Food: Sushi
​Movie: Gattaca
​Book: Ender’s Game

 

7. What do you hope Realm Makers attendees will get out of your workshop?
I’m assuming most of the audiance will be authors instead of artists. A big part of my presentation will focus on ways an author can best communicate their vision to the designer. I’m hoping it will be interactive and educational on both sides.

 

8. What advice do you have for new attendees?
I’ll be a new attendee myself. Part of what drew me to Realm Makers were the photos of people dressed in costume. Having been to more than my share of DragonCons, I’m hoping to geek out. I hope new attendees allow themselves to do the same, celebrating the funnest genre in literature!
Thanks, Kirk, for hanging out with us today. I know a lot of us are excited about your workshop and everything you’ll have to offer. You can find out more about him and his services at Dog Eared Design.

Do y’all have a favorite book cover? One that sticks out in your mind?

 

Crafting Creatures (by Kat Heckenbach)

Legend unicorn

Science fiction and fantasy novels are filled with unusual creatures: unicorns, manticores, griffins, and aliens. Sometimes scary, sometimes cute, snake-like or slimy, humanoid or hairy, they populate our pages with strangeness. And it can be loads of fun to create them!

It’s a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly, though. Choosing traits for your beasties because they’re cool or horrifying is fine, but just as there is logic in the design of real-life creatures, there should be logic in the design of fictional ones as well.

Real-world animals have characteristics suited to their environments, diets, and interactions with other living things. Those factors, as well as many more than I could fit into a blog post, need to be considered when crafting your fictional creatures.

Think about the environment your creature inhabits. Is it cold or hot? Wet or dry? Lush with plant life, or barren and rocky? Look at the types of real-life animals that inhabit the same kind of environment and you’ll find specific traits that help those animals survive. Thick fur and body fat in cold temps, scales in warm. Slimy skin in wetlands. Hooves for climbing rocks. Claws for burrowing in sand. Long tails and/or webbed feet to aid in swimming.

And if you put all those adaptations in one creature, you get a super spy.

And if you put all those adaptations in one creature, you get a super spy.

You need to consider where your creature lives before designing its traits. How big should your creature be? Quite large if it’s going to live someplace arctic-cold, because small animals lose body heat more easily. If your creature is reptilian, it’s going to be cold-blooded; it needs to be in a temperate area so it doesn’t freeze or cook. And if the environment is desolate, your creature better be one that doesn’t require a lot of food. There’s a reason snakes live in the desert, and birds live where there are a lot of trees, and it’s not just because snakes slither better on sand and birds fly.

Speaking of food…

Predator vs predator?

Predator vs predator?

We all learned in school that there are three basic kinds of animals: herbivores (plant-eaters), carnivores (meat-eaters), and omnivores (who eat both plants and meat).  We also learned all about the food chain, and about the two types of animals: predators and prey.

So, say you want to create a cool woodland creature. What is your critter going to eat? Will it be a plant-eater? Then you need to put it in a place with lots of plants, obviously, and give it teeth that can grind those leaves. Or teeth or a beak that can crack seeds. And herbivores eat a LOT. There are snakes that eat once a month, but cows seem to never stop.

Oh, and your herbivore is at the bottom of the food chain, thus he’s going to be hunted. This means he needs defense, like speed or camouflage, maybe hooves for kicking, or spines, or a hard shell. Maybe he emits something noxious when scared, or oozes poison* from his skin. He’ll need great hearing for predators, but not necessarily great eyesight. Keen or not, those eyes are going to be placed on the sides of his head so he gets a nice panoramic view because hunters rarely march right up to your face.

Sorry folks, killer rabbits only work in the twisted world of Monty Python.

Sorry folks, killer rabbits only work in the twisted world of Monty Python.

Predators, on the other hand, need their eyes right up front so they can home in on their prey and keep in it view. Hearing helps, too, but vision is tops. Predators need speed as well, but it’s different than the speed of prey. Cheetahs run faster, but gazelles run longer—they have to outlast their pursuer. Predators don’t want to waste energy on long pursuits—if they can’t catch you quick, they move to something else.

And all those defenses prey have? Well, predators are adapted to beat them (so they can eat them—sorry, couldn’t resist). Claws and fangs to rip tough hides and break through shells. Venom* to stop the prey from fighting.

JK Rowling got it right calling it basilisk venom.

JK Rowling got it right calling it basilisk venom.

*Just FYI—there is a difference between poison and venom. Poison is passive—it’s part of the animal, or maybe excretes from pores, and makes the predator very ill when the prey is eaten (or nearly eaten). Venom is something that is injected into another organism, generally by a predator. Frogs can have poisonous skin, plants can be poisonous, but snakes and spiders are venomous.

All this sounds pretty normal, though, doesn’t it? It brings to mind images like those you’ve seen in National Geographic—everyday animals. But that’s the point—these are basic premises, things to keep in mind while you, the author, get creative and make some wild and weird creatures to inhabit your story world.

Do NOT follow the light …

Do NOT follow the light …

But if you need even more inspiration, dig a little deeper right here on Earth. Literally. Look underground, or under the sea, and you’ll find some of the strangest beings you’ve ever seen. Animals that can survive extreme temperatures and immense water pressure. Animals with no need for hearing or sight at all. Insects that excavate entire cities. Critters who can be cut in half and regrow the rest of their bodies, in essence becoming two whole new organisms. Bioluminescence, even in the form of a lure to trap prey.

Once you understand the logic behind different traits and ecosystems, you can start twisting things to match your story. What is the effect of longer days? Longer nights? Multiple suns?  Your nocturnal animals are going to have a rough time if there’s night only comes once a month. How long is a year? What happens when gravity is lower or higher than it is on Earth? There’s a reason the green, four-armed inhabitants of Mars in John Carter are so tall ;).

john-carter-tars-tarkas-060312

And then there’s my personal favorite: magic. If you’re writing fantasy, there are loads of mythical creatures to choose from—but what if you want to make up your own? Examine the cool adaptations real animals have, and make them magical. Maybe a rodent can use magic to burrow through rock, or a spider can weave a magical web. Perhaps a bird can sing a song that hypnotizes its prey, or a magical lizard’s shed skin can be used as an impenetrable hiding place for another creature.

As I said, there’s far more that could be included here—reproductive rates, echolocation, amphibians, life span, hive insects, invertebrates, and the list goes on. Our world is vast and mysterious and full of diverse and amazing animals. So look to the array provided by our Creator when you need ideas. Follow His logic and design…and then craft yourself some awesome creatures!

 

IMG_0988rAbout the Author:

Kat Heckenbach spent her childhood with pencil and sketchbook in hand, knowing she wanted to be an artist when she grew up—so naturally she graduated from college with a degree in biology, went on to teach math, and now homeschools her two children while writing. Her fiction ranges from light-hearted fantasy to dark and disturbing, with multiple stories published online and in print. Her YA fantasy series includes Finding Angel and Seeing Unseen and is available in print and ebook. Enter her world at www.katheckenbach.com.

Clive Staples Finalists Announced!

clive staples seal

Realm Makers is excited to announce the books that came out on top after the readers’ choice semi-final round for the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative fiction. The following three books have advanced onto the final round.

 

Clive Staples AwardFinalists (1)

The Seventh Door by Bryan Davis

The Warden and the Wolf King, by Andrew Peterson

Reapers, by Bryan Davis

The panel of judges will independently score these books on their merit. The book that garners the highest point total from the judges will receive a prize of a commemorative plaque and $250 cash. Realm Makers is honored to offer this award as it represents a cross section of both readers’ preference and professional artistic evaluation.

We commend every author whose books appeared in the semi-final round, as all the books involved had a healthy showing of votes, and the outpouring of reader interest truly spoke to the way even brand-new authors are reaching their readers and garnering their loyal support.

Best of luck to Mr. Davis and Mr. Peterson. We look forward to announcing the recipient of the Clive Staples award for 2014 on August 7th, at the Quill Pen Editorial Awards Dinner, to take place on August 7th, 2015, at this year’s Realm Makers conference.

Realm Makers Insider with David Farland

4de1e742aa3c87e699e2540354d10315This week, we are excited to feature an interview with David Farland hosted by  Mike Duran. Enjoy!

 

1.)    David, for those who are unfamiliar with you and your work,  can you give us a thumbnail of your career thus far?

I’m a New York Times bestselling fantasy and science fiction writer with more than 50 novel-length works in print.   I set the Guinness Record for the World’s Largest single-author, single book signing in 1999.  I’ve won numerous awards for my science fiction, historical, and young adult novels.  I’m the head judge for the world’s largest writing competition.  I’ve trained several #1 New York Times bestselling authors, including Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, James Dashner, and Stephenie Meyer.  I was co-leader on the design team for one of the world’s most popular and enduring video games, and I ain’t done yet.

2.)    You have such a large body of work and an active web presence. If someone wanted to familiarize themselves with you and  the types of things you write, where’s the best place to start?

Hmmm . . . read Writers of the Future Volume 31 (where I was the editor), and then go to THE RUNELORDS, NIGHTINGALE, IN THE COMPANY
OF ANGELS, OF MICE AND MAGIC, and ON MY WAY TO PARADISE.  Those will give you a good idea of some of the things I do.

3.)    At one time, you were a writing professor at Brigham Young University. You have a popular “Daily Kick in the Pants” series for writing tips and inspiration, you teach seminars, and have several books on writing. How did you get from writing novels to teaching others about writing novels? Why is teaching about writing so important to you?

It started when I was at a convention in 1991, and afterward a large group of about 20 young writers came to me and asked if I would teach a workshop to them.  I said “No,” and they said, “We’ll pay you,” and somehow I’ve never been able to stop.  I get asked to teach everywhere.  In fact, I got notified yesterday that at an enormous international conference that I taught at recently I was voted “the most popular” instructor and “the most wanted to return for next year.”  But the truth is that I love teaching AND writing.  I feel as if the writers I teach are almost my kids, and I love training them, watching them grow, and seeing them do great things by themselves.”

4.)    Your workshop at Realm Makers (RM) is entitled Editing to Greatness. Can you tell us a little bit about the overall goal and purpose of these sessions? What kind of writer should consider attending “Editing to Greatness.”

Anyone who wants to be a writer absolutely needs to learn to edit.  Now, I designed my own editing major at BYU, and the English Department there liked it so much that they adopted it.  The major has since been adopted by over 200 other universities.  So I teach you things like “How to Judge a Story Like a Pro,” “How to Edit for Story,” “Line Editing Techniques,” and so on.  You see, stories rarely come out great in the first draft.  Instead, we rewrite them to greatness.

5.)    Many writers seem to have a love/hate relationship with editing. What do you tell a writer who struggles with editing and\or is tempted to cut corners or downplay the importance of editing?

Get real, kid!  Seriously, people who don’t understand the joy of revising almost always will struggle with their careers.

6.)    You write in the spec-fic genre (science fiction, fantasy, etc.). Why do you think speculative fiction titles (whether films, novels, or graphic novels) continue to resonate within popular culture?

I’ll have to talk about this at length, but the truth is that, particularly with younger readers, the emotion of Wonder is a huge draw.  But I should warn you: I also have written literary fiction, middle-grade, and am currently working on a thriller.  My main weakness as a writer is that I love all kinds of fiction.

7.)    RM is mostly put on by and for evangelicals. Evangelicals and Mormons have an historically  tenuous relationship. What would you say to the evangelical author who is hedging on attending this writing conference because a Mormon is on staff?

I wouldn’t worry about it:  I’m not teaching Mormonism, I’m teaching writing.  As conservative Christians, I think we have a lot more in common than we do differences.

8.)    One of the topics in your workshop is “Learning to Write for Wide Audiences.” The evangelical Christian fiction market is a rather narrow, but enthusiastic audience. What advice would you give to a Christian author who wants to include biblical themes in their stories, but also write for a larger audience?

Oh my gosh, you consider the Evangelical Christian market small?  The Christian market is immense–much larger than you probably know.  My
old friend Bruce Wilkinson, who wrote THE PRAYER OF JABEZ, sold some sixty million books in three years.  Look at how well the TV series
“Touched by an Angel” did–hitting 28 million viewers per week in order to become the #1 show of its time.  I remember sitting with a bunch of Jewish filmmakers in Hollywood once and trying to explain to them how big the film The Passion of Christ was going to be.  They just didn’t get it–predicting a flop, rather than one of the bestsellers of all time.  I think that, as Christians, we need to open our eyes and realize just what an immense audience there is for our work in America.  Ninety-two percent of all people in our country believe in God.  Stories that have a strong ethical base and are well
written don’t just entertain, they change lives!

9.)    You’ve trained a lot of successful authors, some even New York Times bestsellers. Is there a common trait most of these authors share?

They’re generally eager to learn, eager to write, and don’t let themselves get burned out just because they face a couple of failures.   In other words, they endure.  Intelligence helps, but a lot of times, authors just need to give themselves some time, discover their strengths, and learn to use them properly.

Great insights, David! Thank you for joining us today. I know many writers anxious to learn from your vast experiences at RM in August.

Are You Published (by Charles Franklin)

So there you sit. You’ve poured your heart into weeks, months, maybe even years on a manuscript that you absolutely believe in. One that contains great messages of God’s love, salvation, faith, etc. You type, “The End”, then sit back and think- This is terrible. No agent or publisher will take this seriously.

Guess what? It’s not terrible. It may not be for everyone, but it is a beautiful story that only you can tell. Ever listen to a child sing an out-of-tune version of “Jesus Loves Me”? Is it not the most beautiful thing? The same can be said when God sees the work you’ve done to honor Him.

So, you’re still sitting in front of this terrible manuscript. Your cursor blinks next to “The End”. You’re shaking your head at the plot holes, discrepancies, telling instead of showing and countless other errors that are still running through your head. Why is it not terrible?

It is a start. You didn’t start your life of service to God in a perfect fashion. You’ve been molded and disciplined from what you were into what you are now. Discoveries have been made and new plot lines have been introduced to get you to this point. And there is still work to do! The same is said for your manuscript. Give it time. Give it attention. Most of all, give it prayer. Ask that it glorifies Him, and not you. And mean it!

It is unique. Just like none of us are the same, no two stories are the same. If each of us were to write our own account of Jesus’ life on earth, the stories would all be told differently. Each of our stories would appeal to different readers. Some might like your version while some may prefer another. This doesn’t take away from how wonderful a story it is. It does, however, enable the story to reach a variety of readers. So, what if your terrible manuscript ends up reaching the one individual that the rest of us couldn’t? Jesus seemed pretty concerned with the one lost sheep, so I believe we should be too.

It is needed. Ever look around at the number of dystopian, sci-fi, fantasy stories on screen or in books? There are countless. What are the vast majority of them lacking? The real answer to their situation. We watch or read these stories about heroes or heroines struggling against a controlling force and they continue to dig within to find the answers to survival. Each of us knows the real answer. Let’s share it!

It has purpose. We know that everything that happens is part of a larger plan. A plan for good. There is no footnote for Romans 8:28 that says, “Except for (insert your name)’s manuscript… it was terrible”. What part does your manuscript play? Unfortunately, you’ll probably never know while you’re on this earth. Want to know a secret? You’ve said something in your life that completely affected someone else’s life. Your story will do the same. Somewhere in that terrible manuscript, you’ve written a line or scene that will completely change someone.

Now, push back from your desk. Make a cup of coffee, or tea, if that’s your preference. Take a nice walk and enjoy God’s creation. While you do this, come to grips with the fact that you’re most likely not going to be the next (insert favorite author). I’ve accepted that I probably can’t equal the creativity of Stephen King. I doubt I can weave complicated plots and subplots together like George R.R. Martin. I can’t compete with the wittiness of Nadine Brandes (Have to recognize the Christian spec-fic authors). The odds say none of us can do things exactly as they do.

There is a “but”. That “but” is that, while you’re not the next (favorite author), you are the next you. And you’re the author of your story. Neither of those has been done before! So, your story isn’t terrible. It is extraordinary!

I’m glad that a former journalism professor didn’t talk himself out of writing yet another story about knights and dragons. I’m glad that a certain lady didn’t convince herself that a book about a reporter interviewing a vampire was a silly idea. I’m glad that a certain “Dr.” didn’t talk himself out of writing a book about a red fish and a blue fish.

Finish your coffee, your tea or your walk. Come back to your terrible manuscript. Get to work and make us all glad you didn’t give up. Get published!

 

IMG_1352About the Author:

Charles Franklin is an Active Duty Soldier in the United States Army. Originally from Texas, his Army service has taken him all over the globe. He is a speculative fiction author with several current works in progress. You can find Charles online at his Twitter or FaceBook page.