Scripture Saturdays

bible-998150_1280Role Models II

Last week, I talked about how I had looked in the Bible for a person who had the same problems with anxiety and timidity that I do.  While praying one day, I thought of Gideon.

When God first calls Gideon, he calls him a mighty warrior.  But his actions don’t fit our idea of a mighty warrior.  When we meet Gideon, he is hiding in a wine press to thresh wheat so the invading Midianites can’t take it.  And Gideon carries out God’s first order, destroying his father’s altar to Baal, at night because he is afraid of his family and neighbors.

When God inspires Gideon to assemble the Israelites to drive out the Midianites. Gideon asks for two signs just to make doubly sure he is doing what God wants.  As the Israelites travel to confront the Midianites, God tells Gideon he wants him to use fewer men so the Israelites will recognize that it is God who has beaten the Midianites.  God tells him to only take three hundred.  Gideon must be worried because right before the Israelites attack, God tells Gideon to sneak into the enemy camp and eavesdrop.  A conversation between enemy soldiers gives Gideon all the encouragement he needs.

It’s interesting to note that when Gideon has doubts, God is right there to support him.  In other stories of the Bible, when a person doubts God, he or she often gets a harsh response from Him.  But I think the difference is Gideon doesn’t doubt God and His powers.  He doubts himself.  I believe God doesn’t mind genuine doubt, if we really have questions that we need answered before we can have confidence in following God’s will.

It’s very comforting to know that God can use me, like Gideon, even when I am scared.  I often feel I should have more confidence if I am doing God’s work.  But Gideon was scared when he destroyed his father’s altar and still got the job done.

God does such a thorough job of building up Gideon’s confidence throughout the story in Judges that eventually he is ready to lead three hundred men against thousands.  He really is the mighty warrior God said he was when He first spoke to Gideon.  God knew it all along.  Gideon just had to realize it.

Several years ago, I prayed that if God needed to change me into a more Christ-like person to please do it gently and slowly so as not to scared me with His awesome powers.  He must have agreed with me because I feel His guidance in gentle nudges rather thunderous blasts.  God knows what I need and what I am capable of doing.  I just need to realize it and realize God can use a scaredy-cat just as easily as He can a lion.

 

 

Writing Tip

Placeholder ImageAdvice from C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is my favorite nonfiction Christian writer.  I don’t have an opinion on his fiction, except that I really liked A Horse and His Boy when I was a kid, and I couldn’t stay interested in Out of the Silent Planet.

I like this article because the author adds comments to Lewis’s tips to bring them up-to-date, although most of his advice is timeless.

Writing Tips

hello-1502386_1280Naming of My Names

My novel and future novels are set in a fictional West Virginia county where several generations of the same family live.  I created family trees to build naming patterns.  For example, a teen character might have an old-fashioned name because he is named after his grandfather.  I also try to use different naming patterns to distinguish between families.

The Stowecroft family is the leading family in the county.  I decided that each generation would use the most popular names at that time.  So a ten-year-old might be named Jacob and his father, Jason.  Using popular names keeps the Stowecrofts distinct from the other more eccentrically named families.  It also makes the reader think they are bound to popular opinions and maybe even bland or unimaginative.

I have had the most fun creating the names for the Kimmels, a vast family of crooks.  I got the idea to use nature and weather for their names from my grandfather.  He told me that when he was a boy in West Virginia in the 1910’s, his grandparents had neighbors who were named after the weather – Winter, Rain, Jack Frost.

Using nature for the names of the Kimmels brands them as different from the rest of the characters in the county. The family has five main branches, which I may have to prune, but to help my readers keep the characters straight, I have each branch use its own unique naming pattern. The Kimmels are named after the weather.  Three brothers are named Cy, Cane, and Tor, short for Cyclone, Hurricane, and Tornado.  The Sims are named after jewels and elements, and the Pratts have months for names.  I had such a good time coming up with whacky names that I realized I had too many characters and had to whack off an entire branch.

When naming, I keep in mind something I read about J.R.R. Tolkien.  He said that he worked very hard making his invented languages and the names that came from them as much like real languages as he could.  He thought that their consistency would  aid in making Middle Earth seem like a real place.

As fiction writers, we want readers to be able to dive into our imaginary worlds and take them as real.  Creating appropriate names for our characters can help in making the unreal real.

Scripture Saturdays

book-1936547_1280Role Models

A few years ago, I was thinking about role models and wondering who in the Bible I most closely identified with.  I know Jesus is the example we Christians strive to be like, but I was looking for a person like myself, with my weaknesses.

Unfortunately, the only person I could come up with was Saul.  Not fiery, driven Saul who is transformed into dedicated Paul.  No, crazy, murderous King Saul.

I have always felt enormously sorry for Saul. He had it all and blew it about as badly as a person can, killing himself as his sons and Israel’s soldier died around him. I pity him because I understand how he blew it and know I could make the same kind of stupid mistakes.

Saul seems to have been an insecure person.  When Samuel proclaims him king in front of the people of Israel, Saul hides (I Samuel 10:17-26).  In I Samuel 13:1-15, Saul panics when he thinks Samuel isn’t coming to offer offerings to God.  His army is scared of the amassing Philistine army, and men are deserting.  So Saul takes it upon himself to do the priest’s job.  When Samuel arrives, on time, he tells Saul that his family line won’t be established as kings because he hasn’t obeyed God’s commands.  From that time on, Saul makes worse and worse decisions, often out of fear.

I have struggled with anxiety all my life.  I know what it’s like to panic, make a dumb decision, realize it, panic again, and make an even worse one.  I haven’t tried to pin an enemy to a wall with a spear, like Saul attempted to do to David, but I regret actions I took out of fear.

The only good think about anxiety is that it drives me to rely on God.  I wanted to find someone in the Bible who had also struggled with anxiety, and with God’s help, became a strong servant for Him.  So many people in the Bible seemfearless, and the lesson they needed to learn is humility.  Samson, David, and Peter all had to have the arrogance knocked out of them at least once, so God could use them.  All those stories are instructive, but they weren’t ones I had personally experienced.  Wasn’t there anyone in the Bible who had to overcome anxiety instead of arrogance?

On a walk one day while praying, I got the answer: Gideon.

Writing Tip

hello-1502386_1280Still Naming Names

When developing names for characters, here are some general rules to keep in mind.

1. Names must be easy to read.

2. Names should be appropriate for the genre or historical period.

3. Names can not be ones that are overwhelmingly identified with one person or character.

my-name-is-1185862_12801. Names must be east to read.  This is true for every kind of writing, including science fiction and fantasy. If readers stumble over a name, they will not sit there and puzzle it out. They with either substitute something close to it or just “bleep” over it, which is what I tend to do.

In the middle-grade series Guardians of Ga’Hoole, the author had to create names for talking animals, mostly owls. The names needed to sound unusual, but easily understandable for kids. “Lyze” is an imaginative creation. It looks suitably foreign with the “y” and “z”, but it follows the well-known pattern of silent “e” making the vowel long. Other names used are “Thora”, “Gilda”, and “Felix”, human names but ones that aren’t used much any more.

2. Names should be appropriate for the genre or historical period. The best way to learn this is to read books in your genre and study how other authors have created names. For crafting historically accurate names, research into the appropriate time period is necessary.

The Social Security website has great pages for researching the most popular names from 1879 to the present.

If you can visit the location of your historical story, walk through local cemeteries.  Reading names on the markers will give you examples of the first and last names of different time periods.

3. Names can not be ones that are overwhelmingly identified with one person or character.

In my novel The Truth and Other Strangers, I had two sisters named “Joli”, short of “Jolene”, and “Angel”.  An agent told me I couldn’t use those names together.  They sounded too much like Angelina Jolie.  That really annoyed me.  Here I had thought up two great names, just to have some stranger steal them.  But when I thought it over, I realized that “Joli” wasn’t appropriate for the one character.  She is a hot-tempered redhead, and “Joli” sounds like to should be applied to a jolly, bubbly person.

In the Beyond series of baby names books, authors Linda Rosenkrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran provide lists of names that are already taken by famous real and non-real people.  Like, “Sherlock”, “Ebenezer”, “Oprah”, and “Madonna”.  You just can’t work against a name that is so closely identified with one individual.

That series has been the most helpful name books I have found.  With informative essays on style, class, and naming trends, as well as all kind of lists like “Western Cowboys”, “New England Names”, and “Royal Names”, you are overwhelmed with inspiration for character names. Beyond Ava and Aiden is one of their books that I have found helpful.

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