God’s Nature in Our Writing

Kicking off a new month with a new theme and a new author. Please welcome Penny Frost McGinnis, a who published her first novel with Mt. Zion Ridge Press this year. My theme this month is nature, and Penny gets us rolling with this lovely article about including God’s nature in our writing.

“To the attentive eye, each season of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which will never be seen again.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Growing up, I spent my time wandering through the woods and fields that surrounded our home. In the pond, I discovered frogs who plopped in the water, dragonflies which glided like kites, and red-winged blackbirds who hid among the cattails. We snatched heads of clover and sucked the sweetness from the tiny blooms and rolled down hills of grass. In the woods, I found toadstools and jack-in-the-pulpit. To me, nature came to life, as if another character inhabited the world I lived in.

As I grew older and learned more about God’s glorious creation, I embraced nature as a way to honor the Lord. When my husband and I visit Lake Erie, I like nothing better than to sit on a rock and hear the waves lap the shore. The mountains of South Carolina take my breath away, when the fog rises and reveals a sunrise displayed in yellow, red, and pink. Standing on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean as the chilled water washes over my feet reminds me of the power and beauty God has gifted us.

Because I experience deep joy when I commune with the natural world, I believe it’s essential to include the beauty God created in my writing. In my devotions, I often focus on one aspect, such as a flower garden and the process of growing from seed to bloom to emulate the growth in the Christian life. When I write fiction, I often set the scene with sights, sounds, smells, the taste, or touch of an element of nature. 

In my work-in-progress, the main character, Marigold, owns a kayak business, so many of the scenes are set on the beach. Rather than give a lengthy description, I sprinkle nature throughout the chapters. For instance: “The scent of spring rain refreshed the air. Most days, she loved when the skies opened and doused her flowers, but today she prayed the sun shined through the clouds so vacationers would paddle in Lake Erie on the sturdy plastic boats.” And “The trees along the campground waved, as the wind whipped. Waves rolled in to the shore, higher each time. ‘The way the water is acting tells me a storm is brewing. Did you see the red sky this morning?’” 

I enjoy reading books set on the east coast or in the Appalachian Mountains where the writer immerses the reader into the natural setting by description and through dialogue. As I write a scene, I picture where my character is, then I discover how I can add nature through the five senses. The character may smell the damp ground in the forest or the rose in the garden. They might taste the tomato they plucked from the vine, or hear the rushing water in the river. They might roll a snowball, rub their hand over the bark of a tree, or capture a handful of sand and let it flow from their fingers. Sight is the most used sense in writing, when the character witnesses a glorious sunset or hikes in the woods and discovers a baby barred owl on the ground. 

Readers of book one of the Abbott Island series, Home Where She Belongs, said: The details and descriptions made me feel like I was on the island. Use nature to immerse the reader in the setting by sprinkling description throughout the narrative and dialogue, and weave in all five senses so the reader experiences the nature in each scene. 

For more post on writing about nature, click here.

*****

Tired of being a pawn for her father and an emotional punching bag for her ex-boyfriend, Sadie Stewart escapes to Abbott Island where she spent summers with her grandparents. Would the love and faith she learned from them be enough to fuel her new life? She wants to believe God’s promises, yet broken trust holds her back. 

Joel Grayson left the island long enough to train at the Police Academy. The community trusts him, even though he’s failed. When he finds Sadie at her grandparents’ cottages, his heart skips a beat. He’d love to get to know her again, but no one needs to share the hurt he harbors. 

When Sadie discovers someone is sabotaging her future, she seeks Joel’s help. As they are drawn together, will Joel let down his guard and let her in? Will Sadie trust the man who loves her and the Father Who cares? 

*****

If Penny Frost McGinnis could live in a lighthouse or on an island, she would. Instead, she and her husband are content to live in southwest Ohio and visit Lake Erie every chance they get. She adores her family and dog, indulges in dark chocolate, enjoys creating fiber arts, and grows flowers and herbs in her tiny garden. She pens romance with a dash of mystery and the promise of hope. Her life’s goal is to encourage and uplift through her writing. Connect with her on website/blog, FB author page, Twitter, Pinterest, and Bookbub.

God Produced the Pineapples

I wanted to finish this month’s focus on Christian fiction by providing a prompt to write a poem in the style of the Psalms. But God produced the pineapples on Tuesday and that made me change my mind. I’ll explain.

After weeks and months of battling depression and anxiety within and circumstances without, I was drowning by Tuesday afternoon. You couldn’t tell by looking at me. As a mom, I shove on a brave face and still function, even if it’s at a low capacity.

I was in the process of chauffeuring kids, and when you live in the country, this can take hours. As I drove, I realized I needed fruit for supper and would have to stop at the store. I don’t like grocery shopping, and one more stop seemed so exhausting.

So I went home, hoping I’d find the pineapples I’d needed, actually praying for a can of pineapples. And I found them on the last pantry shelf I checked. Because of that, I got to take a fifteen minute break before heading out agin.

I was just so grateful to God. Maybe for more reason than I understand, God knew I needed pineapples on Tuesday afternoon. That act of kindness did wonders for my mental state. I grew hopeful.

Too often, I think of God as the One who split the Red Sea, rained manna, and raised the dead as if He’s only the god of dramatic rescues. But He’s also the god who cares enough about each of us personally to produce pineapples when He knows we need it. The god of the universe cares about our individual needs. That fact is awesome.

So my prompt today is: when has God produced the pineapples for you? I’d love to read your stories.

To read my posts about Christian fiction this month, click here.

Why I Write Christian Fiction

The answer to the question “why I write Christin fiction” might seem obvious–I’m a Christian, so that’s what I write. But as there are limitless facets to God, there are limitless reason why He inspires Christians to write Christian fiction.

In the beginning …

When I first tackled writing a novel at eighteen, I made my main character a Christian because I was one. I wanted to honor God with my writing and thought this was the way to do it. Also, I put so much of myself into my main characters that it was difficult for me to write from the POV of someone whose perception of the world was totally different from mine.

I worked on that novel and a novel set in West Virginia for years. I thought I was writing for my Father. I thought I was writing Christian fiction. But not exactly. I didn’t realize this until …

December, 2018

Mt. Zion Ridge Press was looking for stories for their Christmas anthology, and I had only two weeks to write a 5,000-word short story. My previous short story for them had taken two months, and it was only 4,000 words. But I had the inkling of an idea, different from the novels I’d tried to sell over the years, and told my husband I wanted to go for it.

I’ve never experience the Holy Spirit before or since like I did that month. I believe I encountered Him then for a number of reasons, not only to get a story written, because God is the Ultimate Author and extremely efficient in His use of characters, setting, and plot points. But as far as the story is concerned, my writing was different because for the first time I was aware that this was His story. It was a collaboration, and I brought something unique to it because He wanted to work with me, but if I had refused the opportunity, His work would have been done by another writer, who would have brought his or her own unique style to the story.

So the answer to the question is …

I write Christian fiction because, first, I know that’s what my Father wants me to do, and to do that, I have to be aware of Him throughout the process. That doesn’t mean I don’t study the craft of writing and won’t have to grit my teeth as I rewrite a scene ten times. But I have to keep in my mind He’s behind it all.

For example, I just finished a short story that’s an inverse mystery. An inverse mystery is one where the reader sees the criminal commit the crime, and the mystery revolves around how he or she is going to get caught. Episodes of the TV show Columbo are examples of inverse mysteries.

When I first wrote the short story, it just seemed like a clean read, a good mystery anyone could read and a Christian could enjoy without guilt. But as I worked on it, I realized I needed to get the evil main character right, have him reflect evil as it truly is. And the Bible is the place for that kind of research, as well as writings by C.S Lewis.

So although it’s still a clean read and an enjoyable mystery, working with my Father has given the story a depth I hadn’t expected.

So besides being obedient, I write Christian Fiction to know Him better. And since there will never be enough stories to do that, I look forward to our endless collaboration.

For more posts on Christian fiction, click here.

What Are Your Favorite Hymns?

What are your favorite hymns? And what makes them your favorites?

For me, it’s a combination of a tune I fall in love with and words that touch me. Although it’s hard to choose, “Be Thou My Vision” and “Morning Has Broken” are my favorites. Tunes for both hymns have their origins in Gaelic music, a favorite of mine. The poetry is so vivid for me–“Heart of my own heart” from “Be Thou My Vision”, “Born of the one light Eden saw play” from “Morning Has Broken”–that it’s impossible for me not to sing along and sense my heart soar.

Click on the titles to watch and hear versions of the hymns.

“Be Thou My Vision”

“Morning Has Broken”

For more posts on Christian Fiction, click here.

Finding Writing Inspiration in the Bible

Finding writing inspiration in the Bible isn’t confined to historical fiction or modern retellings of Biblical stories. Because the Bible contains all sorts of people, who faced all sorts of challenges, as well as discussions of human frailties, a writer can find limitless material for stories.

Need a Realistic Character?

Want to build a believable villain? Or a flawed hero? Study David, Solomon, Gideon, King Saul, King Ahab, Jonah, or any of the people mentioned in the Bible at length.

I’ve always found Abigail an intriguing person. She’s a woman in a difficult marriage. I admire how she handled what could have been a fatal decision on her husband’s part. She didn’t try to sweet-talk or harass him into changing his mind. She did what needed to be done and then told him.

Daniel is another fascinating person. I’ve just read Alister Begg’s commentary on the first seven chapters of Daniel, Brave by Faith, and gained a much better understanding of Daniel and God. From a fiction perspective, Daniel presents the building blocks for a unique rebel. In so many fiction stories about a country being invaded by another, the conquered people rise up and fight back in a military way. Daniel actually becomes one of the best administrators in Babylon–hard working and honest. But he is faithful to God. As Mr. Begg says, Daniel knows when it’s okay to do what the Babylonians ask and when it isn’t.

Even more surprising, Daniel always wants the welfare of his Babylonian overlords. When Nebuchadnezzar is warned by God to acknowledge Him or face the consequences, Daniel wishes the warning was for Nebuchadnezzar’s enemies.

Darius the Mede throws Daniel into the lion’s den. When he opens the cave and finds Daniel alive, Daniel’s first words are “May the king live forever!”. Not “You idiot, I hope my God gets you.” Not even “I resign from your administration”. He can be kind to the man who condemned him. Now that’s a refreshing approach to character building.

Need Family Drama?

The Bible is full of stories of families riven with conflict and tension, starting with Cain and Abel. Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants provide enough inspiration for millions of stories. One thing I find interesting is what a bunch of shysters Rebecca and her side of the family are. She tricks her husband Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob, her preferred son, and Jacob goes along with it. Jacob also tricks Esau out of his birthright. Then Rebecca’s brother Laban tricks Jacob by marrying off his older daughter to him first, instead of giving him Rachel, whom Jacob loves. Rachel even tricks Laban when Jacob leaves Laban’s lands with his wives and children by stealing her father’s idols. And I haven’t even gotten to what Jacob’s kids get up to and the jealousy that leads to so much heartache.

All this double-crossing would seem excessive in a film noir. But the Bible shows that no matter how vile the act, there is the chance of redemption.

For more posts on Christian fiction, click here.

Who are your favorite people in the Bible? Or what story from the Bible has inspired your writing?

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑