Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: Character

Sweet Character

cake-1971552_1280“Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness.” Yousuf Karsh

I tried a new dessert recently. In the spirit of summer, the restaurant created something they called a chocolate smore’s cake or something equally as descriptive. I love a good dessert, and this restaurant has several. In fact, they have all my favorites. This was not one of them.

The moist, dark chocolate cake was a decent cake. But it was just cake. They added toasted marshmallows, a graham cracker, and chocolate sauce to it. The entire time I was eating it, I was developing the plan for how the restaurant could have made the dessert a winner. Instead, it was overly sweet just for being sweet. Really sweet, rich even, is great when the dessert’s quality matches the level of sweetness. This one was simply too sweet for what it was, a chocolate cake.

Sweet can work the same way in our writing. When we create sweet characters, who always do sweet things, and everything about their story is sweet, well, it’s just sweet. There’s no substance to get a reader hooked on the story. There’s no drama. There’s no growth.

The darkness is where the story comes from. We don’t have to delve into the twisted to accomplish this. Darkness can be defined as the thing that must be overcome. Maybe the character has been betrayed or abandoned. No matter what else is happening in the story their darkness to overcome is being trapped by those feelings. It could be a physical obstacle like the journey to find success. Maybe it’s a lack of faith. The roadblock in your character’s way can be anything, but it isn’t going to be sweet. It’s going to be difficult in some way, and through it your character will mature. They will learn about themselves and the world they live in. And just as importantly, they will become part of a story people want to read.

Trouble doesn’t have to bring destruction to our characters, and it doesn’t have to bring it to us either. While we may not relish going through the more dramatic parts of our personal stories, they are not without merit for the believer. Scripture promises us there is good for us in them if we let God work in us and through us. James 1:2-4 tells us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Pair it with Romans 5 which tells us trials leads to perseverance but then takes it further to explain that perseverance brings character which brings hope.  Being mature, complete, of good character, and full of hope are things I think we would all say we want. But the path to have them is through the darkness. It’s the testing of our faith that builds more faith in us.

Do I look forward to the next trial in my life? Not really. Most of the time they hit before the previous one is even finished. Sometimes I’d like a break in between. But that doesn’t seem to be God’s plan for my life right now. And that’s okay too. Because one day I pray others will be able to look at the story of my life and see how the darkness shaped me for God’s use.  They’ll look and see while the story may not have always been sweet, the end result was beautifully so.

By the Book: Do you fight God in the darkness or pray for Him to grow you through those times?

Full of Character: Your Characters and Character

Over the last several weeks I’ve used Full of Character Mondays to showcase the characters other authors find compelling. Some have chosen real people from biographies. Some have chosen to take their inspiration from characters created in the minds of authors they enjoy. Whether real people or the products of someone’s imagination, the characters we love can challenge, encourage, or inspire us. Sometimes a single character can do all three.

While they’re busy showing us who or how we want to be in our own lives or telling us how to avoid the pitfalls they’ve become prey to, these people tug on our emotions. Even those who don’t exist outside the pages of their books have the power to make us both laugh and cry with them. For the time we lose ourselves in the pages of their books, we allow ourselves to treat them as if their stories are real. We allow them to impact us. That’s why they touch us in this way.

If people from the past who we’ve never met and people who aren’t even real can touch us in this way, how much more power to touch others is contained in each of us. Think of those in your life who have left a lasting impression on your life. Was it their kindness that moved you? Their strength and faith in times of testing? Or was it the joy they passed on to everyone around them?

What part of their character stood out so distinctly that it reached into your life and changed you?

Now think about your own life. When other people look at the story of your life what do they see? If we’re honest with ourselves this can be a scary question. There are times in my life that what others would see would be the last thing I would want them to see. In the most difficult times in my life, I’m not sure they would have seen strength, faith, or peace. Instead, would they have seen exhaustion or anger or even depression?

I wish with all of my heart that I could say otherwise, but I’m afraid I can’t. When we read characters’ stories, we get to see the whole picture. We don’t have to wonder why they act out. In fact, because we’ve seen the root of their pains we can even understand where their behaviors are coming from. We see what they overcome, and the character they portray in the end has even more impact.

Often, when people look into the story of our lives it is only for a few short chapters. They see only the part that directly touches their lives. It’s sad. When they see only the beginning or middle of story, they don’t get to see the finished product. They don’t get to experience the end results of how our circumstances shape our character for others to see. They miss the part that should have the biggest impact.

It’s a lesson we should remember when we consider the people who come into our lives. We may not be present for the beginning of their story. We may not see the circumstances working in their lives. We only get to glimpse the rough stuff of the character building process. We see the results of the refining fire they’re going through. And what we see at that time may be ugly. But it’s important to remember it may not be the end of their story.

We don’t have to like or excuse people’s bad behavior, but we aren’t powerless either. We can pray for them to grow through whatever circumstance is trying to shape them. We can pray for God’s truth to guide them into the character He desires them to exhibit. And sometimes, God can even use us to come alongside them for a time to help encourage them in the way they should go. We may never see the end result of their struggle, but we can pray that God uses their current situation to bring about such a strong, godly character in them that those who come into their story at a later time can see the beauty of their character and be touched by it

Full of Character with Beth Wescott

welcomeToday I have the unique opportunity to introduce you to an author whose journey is only just beginning. It’s a chance for each of us to get to know her and even a little about her characters before we get to read her book. Let’s welcome Beth Wescott, author of Meadow Song. Please check back for more information on the release date and genre of the book.

What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?

As a member of the Dutch Underground during World War 2, Diet Eman risked everything to help Jews escape death or imprisonment by the Nazis: her identity, her life, her freedom, and the man she loved. Her true story is told in the book Things We Couldn’t Say.  She wrote in her diary, “…When you are a Christian and profess that God is almighty, there is no single area of life from which you can eliminate God.” Her faith, courage, and sacrifice touched me deeply.

I think you may be the first person to answer that question with someone from a non-fiction book. It’s a great twist on the question, and after reading the quote I can see why you find her inspirational.

What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

I think that Blythe Chambers, the little girl in my upcoming novel Meadow Song, was the easiest. As to the hardest, male lead characters, Jack Chambers in Meadow Song, making them strong, yet vulnerable and realistic.

It is a hard balance to achieve sometimes. I can’t wait to find out more about them. Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

In recent years I’ve come to appreciate Nehemiah. He had the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt in fifty-two days! A strong leader and man of faith, he let nothing distract him from his purpose. He committed each step to God in prayer and stood firm against his enemies.

We tell kids all the time to chase their dreams and work for their goals. But how often do we encourage them to seek to make God’s purpose/plan their dream? I think we’d do a lot better is we were more like Nehemiah, seeking God’s will in all we do and then following it with tenacity. Great answer to the question!

Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

I’ve done both and see value in each. A character’s backstory is a tool to use in directing the character’s actions, reactions, and relationships. But like real people, a character may do the unexpected. I view an outline the same way, as a tool to help structure your novel. As in life, the unexpected happens. In my opinion, planning gives you more flexibility. The backstory and the outline are not written in stone (I know that’s a cliché). Sometimes I’ll begin writing, and then do a backstory on the characters.

I always enjoy seeing the different paths writers take to get to the same destination. Sounds like your story development path may twist and turn from time to time. I think that makes the process more fun! 

If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

A movie about me? I read books more often than I watch movies, so I’m not familiar with many actresses. I suppose I’d prefer an actress who understands the Christian worldview. I’d like to meet her, get to know her.

Thank you for sharing about yourself and your writing process. I look forward to being able to share more information about your book as it becomes available. 

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