And the Moral of the Story …

Christian fiction is often designed to teach some sort of moral. There is some debate among Christian readers and writers as to which is better – writing a story to teach a lesson or writing a story with no particular point to make. I have done both. My Christian Holmes series – all short stories written for SALT Magazine – always have a moral. My longer works, on the other hand, never do. But even if they are not written around a moral lesson, they are often written around a moral idea.

My starting point for The Exiled, a novella-length story, was the question of whether a “noble mutiny” might be possible. Two other stories of about the same length (The Quiet One and The Beauty of the Lilies) were very character-driven. They had no “point”, in that sense. (Though, because one was about a painter who saw God in nature and the other was about a man who forgave people who harmed him, they were not entirely without religion.)

The book I am now writing is primarily about choices, especially the greatest choice of all. We all have to decide what we believe and what we live for; the choice must be made and will be made, if only by default. That idea flows beneath the whole story.

The idea at the heart of The Last Heir is that of slow corruption. Very often the turn to evil is portrayed like this in fiction: A fairly decent person experiences some horrible tragedy, flips, and becomes criminally psychopathic. I never thought this was a very interesting or accurate idea of corruption. I wanted a path to evil that was more complex, more gradual – a path that began with good, as evil always does. I wanted it to recall the truth that we are more likely to be led into evil by desires than by suffering. I attempted to portray this journey in one of my characters.

People talk about character arcs, the journey of the man who became a hero. I wrote a downward arc, the journey of the man who became the villain.