Epic Tales of Faith and Adventure: A Byline for Christian Historical Fiction
In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher, a writer of Christian historical fiction and Christian fantasy, explains why he chose the byline, Epic Tales of Faith and Adventure. I believe this phrase best represents what I’m striving for in my writing. It’s a capsule summary of my “theme”, if you will for both historical fiction and fantasy. Let’s dive into it.
What’s an epic tale? The classic definition might include heroes or heroines struggling to perform great deeds against great odds. The issue before them is vast, important to the world, or the existence of a people.
The tale may have elements from Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, Mythic Structure For Writers. Though not cast in stone, these time-honored elements give us the skeleton of a classic story. They include a hero in an “ordinary” world where something is about to change. There is a call to adventure, where our hero is called out of the ordinary world. He often refuses this call, but the lure of adventure eventually overcomes his reluctance or misgivings. He may encounter a mentor, someone who helps him, providing advice, weapons, talismans, or special tools. He begins his journey by crossing a threshold into a new world of danger. In this strange, new world, he encounters tests of character and skill. He joins with allies to fight enemies and obstacles. There must be a great crisis, an ordeal, ad dark moment when all seems lost. Then the hero finds what he seeks and takes the road home. He is renewed, possibly brought back from the brink of death. Finally, he returns home with the object of his search.
This is the classic quest. And this type of story fascinates me. Of course, all rules are made to be broken, and one shouldn’t slavishly follow any formula. The book you write can take a sudden turn that breaks all your plans. So the author must sometimes let the characters take him where they will. But for me, an epic tale is usually a quest, a search for something lost, something important, something that will either change the world or restore it to what it used to be. Whatever it is, the search for this object propels the story forward with power and meaning. It works for historical fiction. And it works especially well for fantasy.
We’re writing Christian fantasy and historical fiction here. As such our fiction must be grounded in Christ. It must, above all, glorify God and Christ. It may either bring people to a knowledge of Christ, make them curious about Him, or make them stop and think. Our books may be for Christians. Or they may be for those seeking the truth. But they must give a Christian message.
We live in a world filled with secular books that, after we’ve read them, we feel lost, without hope, and in despair. The characters struggle through life without direction, and in the end, find it’s all meaningless. What meaning they do find, they must make themselves. But it’s like grabbing handfuls of water.
Against that backdrop, the Christian author must wield a sword of light into the darkness, bringing hope where none previously existed. Every story may not have a happy ending. But every story must uplift spiritually. It must lift up Christ. That’s our charge.
At the same time, the Christian author must tell a story. In fact, the story (and its characters) must come first. If it’s history we’re after, it better not be dry history. It must be an adventure filled with peril, interesting characters, and it must go somewhere. If we’re writing fantasy, our world should be compelling and take us to places far different from our own.
A quest is always an adventure. Our hero seeks “the elixir” to save his people, and if he doesn’t bring it back, the clan will be no more. There must also be a villain, or two, or three, for a story is only as good as its conflict. Our hero must struggle and strive. Nothing will come easy.
Aye, lads and lassies, story must come first. For only when our hero or heroine slogs and struggles through peril after peril can we bring the reader a message of faith. Without a story and interesting characters, we have nothing.
And that is why I chose my byline.
Next time I’ll review The Pilgrim, by Davis Bunn.