Writer’s Ten Commandments #2: No Graven Image

In case you missed the first post in the series (and I suspect it may have sort of disappeared into cyberspace), this series is about breaking the Ten Commandments in your writing—doing to your characters, or having them do, things you’d never want anyone to do to you.

Commandment #2: You shall not make any graven image, bow down to it or serve it.

I’m going to cheat a bit on this one. To the best of my limited understanding, the original intention of this commandment was pretty much an extension of #1, “have no other gods before Me.” The Lord specifically did not want people worshiping images of anything He had created in place of worshiping Himself.

But we already talked about idolizing people or things other than God in the previous post, so I’m going to address only the first phrase of the commandment: “You shall not make any graven image.”

Well, if you extend that to apply to arts other than sculpture, making images is pretty much what fiction writing is all about, right? We’re creating our own little worlds, which may or may not be made up of the same elements as the world God made. It’s our job to make those worlds, those images, as convincing, as moving, as emotionally involving as possible.

It’s our job to be mini-creators.

It sounds a little presumptuous when you put it this way. But I don’t think it is, really. God created us in His image and likeness, and one crucial element of that likeness surely is creativity. When we create our own fictional worlds, we’re just expressing the image of God latent in all of us.

There’s another sense, a subtler, deeper sense, I’d like to bring out here, too. At fiction’s best, the writer is not only creating a little world; he is creating a world that images God. Not a world to be worshiped in place of God—a world to lead the reader closer to God.

A skillful writer who is also a believer can infuse a bit of grace into any element of any story: a character, a setting, a plot line, a metaphor, the choice of just the right word. Whatever is beautiful, whatever is true, whatever is noble in a story carries the image of God, even if His name is never mentioned. In fact, the stories in which His presence is imaged rather than directly stated are often the most powerfully redemptive of all.

Think of Lord of the Rings: The trilogy itself makes no mention of any God-figure. There are no believers or unbelievers. But good and evil are there; courage, love, mercy, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice are there; redemption is there in spades. God breathes through every line.

Go forth and make your graven images—graven with a pen on paper (or a keyboard on silicon). Make them beautiful, make them true, and they will be graven on your readers’ hearts forever.


One comment on “Writer’s Ten Commandments #2: No Graven Image

  1. […] navigation ← Writer’s Ten Commandments #2: No Graven Image Writers’ Ten Commandments #4: Keep the Sabbath → Writer’s Ten Commandments #3: […]

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