Monday, February 11, 2008

Loving your characters--even the unlovable ones

Yesterday in Sunday school I taught the preschoolers about loving our enemies. It's pretty easy to explain love to preschoolers. They love Mommy and Daddy and Grandma and pretty much everyone else. When I asked who they didn't love, they couldn't think of a single person. I expected them to say they didn't love strangers or bad guys or mean people, but their little faces were totally blank when presented with the question of who they didn't love.

Sadly it's much easier for adults to come up with a long list. As Christians we say we love everyone; hopefully we even believe it. But let's face it, there are some people who are easier to love than others. I can think of a person or two in my life this very minute who I have a very hard time loving, or even caring about. Some people are just plain hard. Regardless, we are commanded to love them as Christ loves them. Ouch! That's tough.

How can we relay this to our characters?

Have we explored our characters that deeply? I enjoy creating antagonists. I have a lot of fun with them. Making a grouchy or hateful or spiteful or bitter character isn't hard for me. I use characteristics of people I know; I even pour my personal grievances into this character---making them say the things I wish I had the nerve to say or do the things I've thought about doing in the darkest recesses of my mind. These characters are a lot of fun and can easily infuse a book with emotion and tension, not to mention humor.

But do we explore these characters deeply enough to love them unconditionally as Jesus would? I think if we delve into these characters to fully understand them, our writing will be much richer for it.

Why is this person the way she is? What happened to make her so bitter? What has given him such a negative outlook on life? Why is his heart so bruised, he takes it out on those around him?

Not only will exploring our characters this way enrich our writing projects, it may also help us better understand the real people around us that we have a hard time loving unconditionally. There is a certain person in my life who is very hard for me to love the way Jesus wants. She brings contention into my life. I never talk back to her. I always forgive and turn the other cheek even though she would love an all out brawl. But I'm a Christian and won't give way to the devil. I control my tongue when it comes to this person because I know speaking out will only make matters worse. I tell myself I'm bigger than her. I even feel sorry for her. Unfortunately I have a much harder time controlling my heart. It wouldn't hurt my feelings if I never saw this person again even though she is a close family member. I need to turn this person over to God and allow Him to reveal her to me the way God sees her.

Open your mind and allow God to show you your characters the way He would see them if they were real. Where is the good in them? If they were flesh and bone people, how would God see them no matter what they've done or how they've hurt others?

Rework a scene today while looking at your most unlovable character the way God would. See if it doesn't breaths new life into your work.

Have a blessed writing week.


  1. Really good post, Teresa! Lord help me ...

  2. Kids are the greatest! We really should be more like them. I enjoyed the visit.