1. Mr. X
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    Mr. X New Member

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    How can I use God as an element/force in the story without being preachy?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mr. X, Sep 4, 2016.

    /title

    Though to elaborate:

    Two of my main characters have a strong faith in God (their faiths are differing but nontheless), I'm concerned that if I put this too upfront it will turn off some readers--how can I create a balance of their faith being present yet not being preachy to the reader?

    As well, I want to have a God-like force at work in the background that some could interpret as God--like some would have visions that would seem almost biblical/prophetic that help advance the plot.

    Can it not be preachy or is it inevitably preachy because God is a force in the story?
     
  2. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    Without answering one way or the other, I'll say that there is a market for book most people would consider "preachy", so even if you do fall on that side of the common opinion, it's not the end of the world.
     
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  3. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    This question is kind of hard to answer, since what qualifies as preachiness is highly subjective. Some will find the mere expression of religious belief to be "preachy" or "cramming religion down my throat", while others won't see it as preachy even if your characters talk about nothing other than their belief and are aggressively pushing their beliefs on all of the other characters around them.

    To start with, I'd say that keeping ambiguity about events will help. Let the reader decide for themselves if a divine force is truly involved, or if it's simply your characters interpreting things to fit their preconceptions, or whatever. At the very least, your readers probably won't think you're trying to beat a theological message into them if you leave the situation ambiguous.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016
  4. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Keep in mind that you can't please everyone. Regardless of how subtle you are, some will still find it overbearing. You're writing primarily for an audience who's already onboard with a god. I wouldn't worry too much about winning over other people.
     
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  5. cydney
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    cydney Banned

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    This sounds fascinating. I hope you post your progress here so I can keep up with it.

    I agree w/izzybot that no matter what you do, there will be some who won't like it. Just comes with the territory. You know what they say about religion and politics. I would try to steer away from 'religion' as much as possible and focus on spirituality and relationships.

    To me, someone is preachy when they talk down to me. Self-righteousness is the worst form of preachiness. The fact is no matter how religious or spiritual OR how much we know about it, we are we are still no better than anyone else.

    I think if you project a spirit of humility regarding your characters, that's about the best you can do. Let your 'God' or 'gods' do the rest. :)
     
  6. Mr. X
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    Mr. X New Member

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    Thank you everyone for you responses, they have been quite helpful!

    I have started a Progress Journal in Applied Writing if you would like to see how it goes! (I'm a bit new to the site--I wonder why I can't link it here.)
     
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  7. cydney
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    cydney Banned

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    Ok, I'll take a look now & then. Thanks!
     
  8. cydney
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    cydney Banned

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    sorry for the (almost) double post! fingers aren't working right!
     
  9. Mr. X
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    Mr. X New Member

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    Lol, hate when that happens.
     
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  10. cydney
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    cydney Banned

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    Now that I've read your journal, I'm thinking about your question differently. I can see why you might be concerned!

    I'll keep thinking!
     
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  11. Nicola
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    Nicola Member

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    Yeah it seems inevitable that it may have the kind of religious tone which even religious people would criticise!

    But if the two main characters have different faiths then their respective Gods may be irrelevant to the overall message.

    It almost sounds like an allegorical, moral story

    I don't think you can avoid the love/hate attitudes that readers may have about religion (any reference to God will be linked with organised religion) unless you muted the character of God into some anonymous cosmic force, but it sounds like you need the God character as he is.
     
  12. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Challenge their beliefs, I would say. Throw in an atheist and have them harass the Godly folk, challenge your characters, put them under stress, make them give answers.

    And as the author, you no longer look preachy, who challenges their own beliefs?

    EDIT- Okay, so apparently because people love taking what I say and running to the ends of the earth with them, the character does not have to be an atheist, the character does not have to commit the crime of harassment, the character does not have to lose the debate to the christian, the character does not have to be an asshole.

    Jesus H. Christ, are you people happy now?
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2016
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  13. Spencer1990
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    Preachy or not, this could be construed as laziness. Deus ex Machina style. I'm not saying that's what you meant, but when I hear about prophecies that advance the plot rather than the characters advancing the plot, I tend to be a tad skeptical of the authors motive.
     
  14. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Make it part of them rather than a cause. Most people of faith have a relationship with God - they're not using his scripture as a do-good manual but rather reaffirming their rights, renewing their strength and finding comfort. It's who they are not something to aspire to be.
    A good way to avoid being annoying is look at what others do when their beliefs become annoying. Make a list and use it as your avoid list.
    And don't worry too much about turning people off. Nobody gives a hoot when they create an atheist character or a vegan that it might turn someone off - so why should you?
    As for using God to step in at times being used as a Deus ex Machina. Built up the right steps to avoid this and your readers will accept it.
     
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  15. Mr. X
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    Mr. X New Member

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    As a matter of fact, I've already inserted a character like this! Thank you, I was wondering whether or not it would work within the story, though this seems to confirm it!

    This is a great suggestion, thank you so much! This will definitely help with the development of the story--made realize now that I may have already made an over exaggeration with one of the characters regarding their faith, and I'll probably have to re-work it.
     
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  16. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why do people of faith always write proselytizing atheists? There is no such thing as organized atheism; if there were, it would merely be another religion. There are religious folk who harass atheists, but I'm prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt; they believe that they are doing their Christian duty in trying to save the (lost) soul of the atheist from burning in hellfire if they go to their grave as an atheist. If you don't believe in God, you don't believe that a Christian will burn in hell for dying a Christian, so why try to save their soul? All that you'd be doing is to create doubt in a belief system that gives them comfort in this life, and that would be unkind.
     
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  17. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Might just be poor word choice, but if you throw in a single atheist, and have them "harass" people, you look preachy by saying "people who don't believe in a god are assholes".
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2016
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  18. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Both of you took something completely out of context, apparently got upset about it, and are now ignoring EVERYTHING ELSE to bite at me on that ONE THING. When you were the ones to bloody take it out of context in the first place! God dammit, why just I don't go to a damn Youtube comment section at this rate.

    Where in the blue aching balls of Napoleon Dynamite did I say to write an assholish atheist. TELL. ME. EXACTLY. WHERE. Where did I say that the Atheist had to be complete sack of shit. Where? Where? Where did I say "oh this atheist character should only be defined by his/her atheism and the stick thats shoved three miles deep in their rear"? Oh do tell me, where and when those get typed out by my fingers?

    I really, really, hate it when words are taken out of my mouth and out of context.
     
  19. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Throw in an atheist and have them harass the godly folk."

    Like I said, it might just have been poor word choice, but harass holds certain connotations. There's a bit of difference between questioning someone and harassing them. I did not leap to any conclusion.
     
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  20. christinacantwrite
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    christinacantwrite Member

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    Agree with the others that having an atheist doing the questioning/harassing/whatever the heck you meant, (and then subsequently being proved wrong by the God-like force in the story) could come across as preachy. I would have thought a better way of challenging their beliefs would be through internal doubt rather than external questioning, if that makes any sense at all.

    OP, you say your characters of different faiths, I presume you mean two separate religions rather than different denominations of the same? In which case, I think this could help a lot in preventing the story from turning preachy. So long as you present both of their faiths as equally valid, it will be clear that you're not pushing a single organised religion and it will come across as more spiritual than religious.

    If you write it so that the characters believe it was God who did something, as opposed to writing it as if God was unequivocally the cause, I reckon you'll be alright. Leaves room for theists and atheists to interpret it differently. Don't know if that would fit with your story though.
     
  21. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    Despite those replies, this seems like a gross overreaction.
     
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  22. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    I have my days. Considering everything, I think I did fairly well, I wasn't only outrageous, not an insufferable asshole. So yay, progress.

    That is not what I meant, or said at all. I don't who you're talking about, but it sure isn't me.
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    How close to the current understanding of "God" do you need to get?

    The Chronicles of Narnia presented God as a lion, and never named him. I was young enough, and unfamiliar enough with religious allegory, that I didn't notice the allegory when I first read the books. (Though I hadn't gotten all the way to The Last Battle; it would have bene hard to miss there.)

    A Wrinkle in Time refers to God...sort of. Not so much as a specific male entity with a name, but more as a sort of good force perceived differently by different people. Again, it was subtler when I was younger.

    Fallen (a movie) clearly and straightforwardly refers to God and the war among the angels.

    I mention these three because I don't like religious fiction, and I find all three of them tolerable.
     

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