Before you panic, let me explain: In this series of posts, I’m going to be talking about breaking the Ten Commandments in your writing. In other words, doing to your characters, or having them do to each other and themselves, things you certainly wouldn’t want anyone to do to you.
The plan is to write about each commandment. I cheated by starting with #6, “You shall not kill,” which gave me the idea of doing a series. And I may end up skipping a commandment or two, as some are less relevant than others.
The First Commandment: You shall have no other gods before Me.
Here’s what I hope you won’t do to break this commandment: Don’t make a god of your writing. Or of yourself as a writer, or of other writers (or agents or editors), or even of your characters. By all means, keep God in His rightful place in your life and your career.
But within your novels, if all your primary characters have God firmly in the center of their hearts and lives, you might not have much of a story.
The truth is, most people—even well-intentioned, pious people—functionally worship someone or something other than God. It may be another person—lover, spouse, child. It may be a career, an addiction, a goal such as money or power. It may even be a false idea of God, or a vision of themselves as good pious people. The enemy can get awfully subtle in the ways he encourages us to break the first commandment.
Whatever it is, your characters will probably begin their stories by having some false god. To be compelling, a character has to want something very badly. It could be God—great stories have been written about people passionately seeking God—but in the beginning, at least, it probably won’t be. It will probably be something along the lines of human love, acceptance, success, or maybe just survival.
Plot happens when someone or something gets in the way of the characters’ attempts to achieve their goals. If you don’t have a goal, or you don’t have obstacles, you probably don’t have much of a plot.
If you’re writing from a Christian point of view, your characters may discover that they can only attain their goals with God’s help, or that the goals are ultimately not as important as they thought they were. Or they may attain their goals and find they aren’t as happy and satisfied as they thought they would be—in which case they may turn to God to fill that hole in the heart that only He can fill.
That can be a great way to end a novel. But it’s probably not a great place to start.