Welcome to the final stop (on my blog anyway) of the Springtime in Surrey blog swap! To close out our tour, today we'll hear from Erika Mathews, author of Fear Not Tomorrows, how an anonymous poem inspired her historical fiction novella. I had the privilege of helping edit this beautiful novella and am looking forward to hearing where she drew such a strong theme from.
You know that feeling of awe and aspiration when, as a child, you meet someone famous? Someone you look up to, a hero of faith, a spiritual or historical legend?
That’s how I felt at age ten when I met Elisabeth Elliot, the heroic missionary and the wife of Jim Elliot, who died at the hands of Aucas in an attempt to reach them for Jesus Christ.
Hello! I’m Erika Mathews, wife, mama, author, and editor, and I want to extend many thanks to Rachel for hosting me on her blog today. I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with her on our upcoming collection Springtime in Surrey.
As I listened to Elisabeth Elliot speak, her words were filled with a calm, quiet faith and deep trust in her God.
At that conference, she spoke the words of an anonymous poem titled Do the Next Thing that struck me then and continues to inspire me to this day. One couplet especially stood out to me:
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King.
Trust them with Jesus. Do the next thing.
I took home the pamphlet that was handed out with the words to this poem in decorative green font on the cream-colored background, and I read those words often.
There’s such a restful trust inherent in a life that can rest peacefully in its present King and claim a fearless tomorrow and a step-by-step today because of that intimate oneness with Jesus—that complete assurance that He has it handled and He loves me that much.
When I was plotting Fear Not Tomorrows as my Springtime in Surrey novella, I thought I had the main elements of the plot nailed down. I selected three inspiration images and wrote the first draft of what later became the blurb—with no substantial differences from the final product.
But attempting to turn that blurb into the outline of a novella was like banging my head against the wall. Nothing worked. It felt like the blurb told the complete story—what else could I add? How could I turn this one complete paragraph into a whole novella? And above all, what structure could I give this story?
I decided that each sentence of the blurb would be its own chapter.
And it was about that time that the poem Do the Next Thing hit me like a ton of bricks. Almost at once, each couplet or stanza of the poem began to line up with the sentences of my blurb, and each became the theme of that chapter. I realized that the spiritual truths I’d wanted to bring out in my story were perfectly expressed by this poem.
From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message for me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring,
Like a low inspiration: DO THE NEXT THING.
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus. DO THE NEXT THING.
Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ’neath His wing,
Leave all resultings. DO THE NEXT THING.
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
(Working or suffering) be thy demeanor.
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm.
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing!
Then, as He beckons thee, DO THE NEXT THING.
Dear readers, is this your heart state? “Ever serener” with both “the rest of His calm” and the strength of “His faithfulness” can describe your daily life. Look unto Him, whatever your circumstances; listen to His voice; and walk forward in the path that He has set before you—one step at a time.
Thank you for joining us on our blog tour! Don't forget to order your own copy of Springtime in Surrey under the "Books" tab at the header.
Welcome back to the Springtime in Surrey blog tour! Today, Katja H. Labonté, author of The Tussie-Mussie, shares the top five writing mistakes she's made, according to Strunk and White. I had the privilege of helping edit her beautiful novella and am eager to learn what has helped her develop her unique and striking writing voice.
If you know me at all, you know I am a huge follower of Basic Principles of Speech by Lew Sarrett & William Trufant Foster. It’s my top favourite book, I quote it in season and out of season, and I’m always rereading it and discovering again—or for the first time!—the amazing principles it has for life and writing. My second favourite writing resource book is The Elements of Style by E.B. White & William Strunk Jr. They are my writing guardians and I swear by them. (And I hope you’ll go look them up and read them when you’re done this blog post.)
I usually reread these books every year so they stay fresh in my mind. However . . . last year I failed to read Basic Principles of Speech. *hides* And I have read neither of these books (nor my third favourite writing resource book, Joseph M. Williams’ Style) yet this year. So when writing my newest story, a novella called “The Tussie-Mussie” for the Springtime in Surrey anthology . . . I may have ignored the sage advice of my writing guardians. With disastrous results.
And so here I am, sharing my mistakes so you don’t have to make them. I present to you My Top 5 Writing Mistakes According to Strunk & White.
1. NEVER flaunt your vocabulary.
I don’t like admitting it, because I one hundred percent know better. (How many times does BPOS talk about this?) But in my prologue for “The Tussie-Mussie”, I chose to flaunt my vocabulary and use as many grandiose words as possible… merged with a very complex writing style. It read like a miserable attempt to copy about five different Victorian authors at once, with a salty spoonful of modern voice. I was thoroughly ashamed of it, and the prologue is not part of the published story, so don’t go looking for it. But anyways . . . I am cured. If a big word happens to describe exactly what I want, and it came naturally to me, I’ll use it. But I will not go “crowding in all the fine big words I could think of,” à la Anne Shirley.
“Avoid fancy words. Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able…. If you admire fancy words, if every sky is beauteous, every blonde curvaceous, every intelligent child prodigious, if you are tickled by discombobulate, you will have a bad time with Reminder 14. What is wrong, you ask, with beauteous? No one knows, for sure. There is nothing wrong, really, with any word—all are good, but some are better than others.” (The Elements of Style, Chapter 5, reminder 14)
2. Rewriting is okay.
I’ve said that over and over to others, but it’s still hard for me to admit to myself. In this novella, I had to rewrite the beginning and large sections throughout because they just weren’t any good. It was hard to remind myself it was okay. It’s good. It’s necessary. It’s the smart/right thing to do. All the best authors did it. There is NO shame in it. It’s natural.
“Revising is part of writing. Few writers are so expert that they can produce what they are after on the first try…. [I]t is no sign of weakness or defeat that your manuscript ends up in need of major surgery.” (The Elements of Style, Chapter 5, reminder 5)
3. Don’t overwrite.
I am deeply guilty of that, and it’s the hardest thing for me to fix, because it is so natural. I have to rely on others to point out things that are unnecessary, because I just don’t register it. But it’s something I must work on. Stop cramming in all the adjectives and adverbs. All the dialogue tags. All the poorly written and useless description. Will I still use adverbs, adjectives, and dialogue tags? Yes. My favourite writing styles use them. I am allowed to copy what I love. But moderation is the key, and unless you’re a genius, it’s better to err on the side of less than more.
“Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.” (The Elements of Style, Chapter 2, Rule 17)
4. Be clear.
I thought I was good at that. After all, I’m the girl whose top writing tip is “write exactly what you mean, as briefly as you can” and who produced a whole blog post about writing clearly. But I easily fall into the trap of using words or metaphors that are muddy or too subtle. Again, it’s hard for me to catch this myself. But by dint of careful attention, I can definitely improve. I definitely need to go back to talking my time in writing and making sure I am saying exactly what I want to say, and in the best, clearest way possible.
“Clarity is not the prize in writing, nor is it always the principal mark of a good style. There are occasions when obscurity serves a literary yearning, if not a literary purpose, and there are writers whose mien is more overcast than clear. But since writing is communication, clarity can only be a virtue. And although there is no substitute for merit in writing, clarity comes closest to being one.” (The Elements of Style, Chapter 5, reminder 17)
5. My writing can always get better.
I didn’t realize how proud and complacent I was about my writing until I wrote this story. It’s so embarrassing to admit, but I was convinced I was experienced enough to be a pro and didn’t need to change anything. I thought I knew it all. LIES. I can always get better. I’m not perfect. I need to get better. But I will never get better if I don’t remember that.
At the same time, my writing is legit. I can always get better, yes. I have flaws and familiar trap holes, yes. But I am also allowed to be myself. I need to be myself. I can write the way that feels natural to me. My writing style won’t match others’ and they might not like it—and that’s okay, for both of us. We don’t have to match, we don’t have to have the same taste. There are guidelines and rules to follow, but there is also freedom be uniquely ME. And I’m good enough as me.
But there are rules for a reason.
In short, I’ve learned I know only about half as much as I thought I did, and I need to study more. I need to work more. And I discovered that humility is what makes a great author. The willingness to refine and work over and over on his story. The willingness to study and hone his craft. The willingness to realize he can always be better, and he will never get perfect or plateau. You can’t become a master if you’re a puffy head who thinks you've got it all. A real master knows how much greater he could be, because he has seen so much more perfection.
There’s no room for pride in good writing, because good writing isn’t about “I”, and prIde is just that—all about i.
“It is an old observation that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do so, however, the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation. Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably do best to follow the rules.” (The Elements of Style, Introduction)
So, friends, happy writing trails to you. May your pens never be inkless, nor your hands cramped; may Strunk and White watch over you; and may you never discover the pitfalls I stumbled into.
Come back next Wednesday to hear from another Springtime in Surrey author about how an anonymous poem inspired her historical fiction novella, on the last stop of our blog swap.
Welcome back to the Springtime in Surrey blog swap! Today, Andrea Renee Cox, author of The Cottage on the Hill, helps us think about compassion versus apathy. Let's get to it.
Apathy is unfeeling disinterest in others’ problems, worries, and situations. Everywhere I look these days, I see evidence of this lack of tender care for my fellow human beings. In the movie The Book of Henry*, a young character declares that apathy is the worst thing in the world. That line has stuck with me for years, because it’s the truth and I’ve seen evidence virtually every day since I first watched that film.
I have to wonder, can anything overcome such a dark and uncaring choice as apathy?
Every time I read the Bible and spend time with Jesus, I know the answer is yes. Yes, something is more powerful than apathy. God is bigger and stronger than everything on this planet, but there’s something we humans can choose that is stronger than apathy as well, if we follow His lead.
Compassion is greater than apathy.
Compassion is seeing other people’s plight and feeling their pain with them. It’s choosing to care about people and whatever trial or tribulation they might currently be going through. Compassion is not easy, because it means being vulnerable to wounds the world might wield against us. But I’m here to tell you that choosing to be compassionate is always worth it. In fact, Jesus commanded us to “love one another” (John 13:34 NKJV). He went further to say that His followers would be recognized by their “love for one another” (John 13:25 NKJV).
Loving one another is choosing compassion over apathy.
Often, I wonder if I’m doing enough to infuse an abundant amount of hope, cheerfulness, and especially compassion—all traits of love—into my community to counteract the apathy that is so prevalent in the world around me. What I’ve learned over these years of intentionally choosing to care (and show it!) about the people in my life is that every delicate moment matters. The incredible thing is, God can use even one person’s kindness to make a humongous impact in the world. The ripple effects can spread out in waves for a longer time than we can imagine, because of God’s work behind the scenes. This, to me, makes every attempt at showing love to those around me completely worth it.
This theme of showing compassion to the people around us is spotlighted in The Cottage on the Hill, my novella in Wild Blue Wonder Press’s debut anthology, Springtime in Surrey. When Adrian sees Moira crying into her afternoon tea, he wonders why. The neat thing is, he doesn’t stop at mere curiosity. Instead, he takes up the challenge of making her smile. His creative efforts throughout the book give her chance after chance to rediscover hope and joy. Even when he doesn’t know if she’ll ever feel comfortable enough with him to divulge her troubles, Adrian goes to great lengths to let Moira know that someone cares about her, that someone sees she’s hurting and chooses to do something about it.
How many times do we see people going through hard times and rough days but keep on walking by, not giving them more than a pitying glance?
What do you think would happen if you paused to give that person a helping hand or encouraging word?
Let me tell you from experience: Both the person you help and you will be blessed in the moment you reach out to connect with another member of humanity. Whether it’s encouraging a harried mother of three rambunctious children in the grocery store or helping a tearful, lost toddler find their parents or assisting someone in picking up items that spilled from a purse or split sack—or a thousand other scenarios—I challenge you to take a few minutes out of your busy day and infuse some compassion back into your community. Beyond that, I encourage you to take Jesus’s advice and “love one another,” so that people will recognize you as one of His compassionate followers.
It takes action from each one of us to make sure that compassion remains greater than apathy.
*Some content (language, thematic elements) in The Book of Henry is not suitable to all viewers. Discretion is advised. I suggest parents preview the film before sharing with any child under 18.
Come back next Wednesday to hear another Springtime in Surrey author discuss the top five writing mistakes she's made according to Strunk and White.
Good morning! Welcome back to the Springtime in Surrey blog swap. It's me again, this time with a post from Kellyn Roth, author of Courage to Stay, sharing lessons that she has learned by writing through creative difficulties.
Hi folks! My name is Kellyn Roth, though you can call me Kell, and I’m more than honored to be sharing a blog post on Rachel Leitch’s blog today!
As you may know, Rachel recently published a story with my anthology/collection, Springtime in Surrey. It’s our first Wild Blue Wonder Press collection, and we’re so excited to hear what you think about it!
I also have a story in the collection, and that is a Regency romance novella called Courage to Stay.
The idea was to pick something easy, in a genre I’d written before, get it off, and focus on mentoring the other authors in the collection.
The idea was not, however, that I would be stuck on this one story for months, struggling to finish a first draft and then to get through the edits! For whatever reason, that just didn’t appeal to me.
However, that’s what happened.
It’s been a while since I’ve struggled much with a story, and my last three projects (a short story, a novella, and a full-length novel) have been ridiculously tough. More tough than any book I’ve worked on has been for years.
I’ll admit it: it boggled my mind.
Whatever the reason these last three projects have been so tough (probably just exhaustion), they’re all done now, and while I’m glad of it, it’s always a good idea to give some thought to how I responded and how I would respond next time.
The first that caused my trouble was the novel. Like a Ship on the Sea is releasing in September, and it took me FOREVER to get a passable draft together. So much so that I had to push back my editors to get it finished.
The problem? The plot as I had it written in the outline was not working. Yet instead of adjusting it as I went or just finishing a draft that was bad, that froze me. I had enough intuitive knowledge to know something was off, but figuring out what and figuring out how to fix it was proving impossible.
Even when I went through the rewrites, I found myself hesitating, getting stuck on getting my rewrites set up in a way that made it easy to finish them all in one fell swoop rather than just pushing through and figuring it out as I went.
Eventually, with the help of a developmental editor, I managed to get it into some kind of shape—but I can’t say I was in the best of moods after this.
And, because my deadlines had been pushed back so much, I had to drive right into Courage to Stay, my Springtime in Surrey novella.
At first, I did exactly the same thing I did with my novel—I dove in and discovered that elements of the outline needed tweaked.
And then I procrastinated, because I did not want to go through what I did with the novel again. Frozen in place, I waited …
Until I decided to give up and just write something, anything.
This left me with an unreadable draft—but at least something was written. And after giving it some thought, I dove into revisions by taking one chunk at a time and making it match the rest of the book (because by that point, it had taken on several different tones!).
After several rounds of edits, I sent it to beta-readers for feedback and hoped for the best. They gave me some tips to make a few things I knew weren’t working fit it, and that was it. It was done (at least, until the editor got to it).
With these lessons in mind, I tackled the last thing—a short story for a collection that’s coming out in 2024 or so. I knew I wanted to just get a fast, ugly draft done—revise a ton—and then have betas give me tips on how to make the silly thing work.
So I dove in—and in a week, I had a draft completed—revisions and all.
The thing is, I like to write nice first drafts. For many years, I have been able to … but though my energy and inspiration levels change, at the moment, I am tired and creatively bankrupt.
Yet I’m a writer—and sometimes working on deadline is a thing, whether you like it or not. Next time I’ll probably be a little quicker to adjust my methods to whatever suits me at the time, rather than clinging to the way I “usually do things.”
The truth is, it doesn’t matter how you do it as long as it gets done when it comes to writing novels. Get the words out—and worry about editing them later. Keep testing different processes until you find one that works for you, and then don’t get too worried about needing to adjust if you need to adjust.
And whatever you do, just keep writing!
About Kellyn Roth
Kellyn Roth is a historical romance & women’s fiction author who writes about the empty places where hope has the most room to grow. Her novels include the inspirational Victorian family saga, The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy. When not building her author career or her indie-author-helping business, Wild Blue Wonder Press, Kell is likely getting lost somewhere in the Pacific Northwest with her friends, watching period dramas and facetious comedies, or spending time with her husband.
You can find her online at https://kellynrothauthor.com/
Return next Wednesday to hear from another Springtime in Surrey author about compassion versus apathy.
Good morning! I'm kicking off the first stop on my blog for the Springtime in Surrey blog swap today. (For more details on where to find other articles by all the authors in the anthology, check out this schedule: https://andreareneecox.com/2023/07/01/blog-swap-information-and-schedule/) Today we start out with Grace A. Johnson, author of Her Heart's Home, who will get us thinking about what Hallmark can teach us about character interactions. Let's get to it!
When someone says Hallmark, the first thing that comes to mind is what not to do. Don’t be cheesy. Don’t be cliché. Don’t be unrealistically happy all the time. Hallmark is rarely—if ever--the gold standard (heck, it ain’t even the bronze standard) for good storytelling. Not even for romance. (Some of their older, circa the 20th century, films, yes. Their newer stuff? Nope.)
But if there’s one thing Hallmark has actually managed to do decently in a lot of their productions is create engaging, meaningful character interactions.
I know that sounds crazy, but I’m serious! I’ll be using their two most popular series--Signed, Sealed, Delivered and When Calls the Heart--for examples, just to prove it to you! (Speaking of, beware of spoilers for these two shows! If you’ve already seen them or don’t care to ever watch them, you may proceed. Otherwise, caution is advised.)
Even though Hallmark is visual, you can still learn a lot from their methods and apply it to your writing, from utilizing nonverbal communication to enhance dialogue and creating unique character voices to tailoring your dialogue to the story and being intentional with every moment!
There’s not much about Hallmark actors that set them apart from the crowd...but you gotta admit, they have the most expressive faces! With just the bat of their eyes, they can convey a million emotions, and it’s mesmerizing!
Even though books don’t have the capability of showing you the characters’ faces, you can still use changes in facial expressions and small gestures to enrich or even replace dialogue!
To enrich dialogue: Include action tags or breaks in the character’s dialogue to show their actions or expressions. Sometimes, just a gesture or a blink can reveal more about your character’s thoughts and emotions than their words can! Let’s take a look at a few examples...
Her eyes widened. “Are you sure?” The line of dialogue is so simple that it could be anything from sarcastic to angry; adding the change in her facial expression indicates that she’s surprised.
“Did Joey mention when he was coming?” he asked, his foot tapping on the floor. Again, the dialogue is vague, and we could easily add an adverb after “he asked” to clarify that he’s impatient, but adverbs don’t give the readers an image or add any motion to the scene. So having his foot tap adds movement and clarification without telling!
To replace dialogue: Substitute a line of dialogue or any small talk with an action. Actions speak louder than words, after all, so in tense or active moments or with quiet characters, consider trading most of your dialogue for actions. In fact, in any dialogue-rich moment, try cutting out a few lines and turning them into nods or sighs and see how her scene comes to life! For example…
She held up the missing necklace, and he lifted his eyebrows at the sight of them. A simple gesture or two can convey what clunky dialogue like this would: “Oh, look, I found the necklace,” she said as she held it up. “Where did you find it?” he asked.
He glared at her. Even an entire argument or rant could be summed up in an expression, which makes characters seem more alive and genuine, as well as making your scenes flow smoother and faster instead of dragging them down!
How Hallmark did it: They used every facial feature and body movement to convey a thought or emotion. They kept the character’s personality in mind too, making both their dialogue and action authentic and their interactions natural.
One of my favorite moments is in When Calls the Heart, where the typically-bubbly Rosemary Coulter just looks for a minute, her expression solemn and her dialogue limited to just an “oh,” after Dr. Carter tells her she’s probably pregnant. Seeing this happy, peppy character reduced to such a sober state is so poignant, and it’s all done through nonverbal communication.
My other favorite moment is Shane and Oliver’s (Shane’s the heroine and Oliver is the very dashing hero *winks*) first on-screen kiss in Signed, Sealed, Delivered...or, actually, the interactions between them leading up to it! Shane’s motions and expressions are so powerful and emotional, enhancing her dialogue, which would’ve been dull and mundane without her amazing performance! And even though Oliver isn’t very expressive, the smallest movement on his face can say a lot, sometimes even more than his words!
How you can do it: Practice by imagining your characters as actors. You can use clips from your favorite movies, task your friends with acting out their interactions, or just studying your expressions in the mirror to find the right ways to communicate different words, thoughts, and emotions non-verbally! I also recommend paying attention to how other people react in real life, and how you see or understand others based on their nonverbal communication. After all, 93% of communication is nonverbal, and 55% of first impressions are based on what we see—whether that’s their expression, their clothing, or the way they walk or shake hands!
Unique Character Voices
One of my favorite parts of reading and writing are the unique character voices. (This is apparent due to the fact that I will spend three months developing their voices and no time plotting or actually writing.) Some authors simply excel at making their characters come to life through their distinct narratives and dialogue, and so does Hallmark.
Even though their voices are real, verbal voices, they all begin as dialogue in a script, and I’ve noticed Hallmark has actually done as pretty good job making them unique and distinguishable—especially in Signed, Sealed, Delivered.
All four of the main characters—Shane, Oliver, Rita, and Norman—as well as the secondary characters like Ramon and Ardis, have voices, tones, speech patterns, and preferred phrases so original and them, that I could easily tell them apart just by reading their lines!
The fun fact is that the stark contrast in how everyone talks is even addressed in the show, when Shane starts making comments that sound eerily like what Oliver would say! Even without making mention of it, the audience could easily pick up on the change in Shane’s lines when she began talking like Oliver, as well as just how different the entire cast is according to what they say.
How Hallmark did it: They stayed attuned to the characters’ personalities and background while writing their lines, making their dialogue sound natural and authentic to the characters, as well as unique. They also stayed consistent with specific speech patterns and preferences, like Oliver’s tendency to quote Shakespeare and the Bible, or Shane’s blunt, no-nonsense attitude.
How you can do it: Think of your narrative (especially if it’s first-person) and dialogue as lines in a script. How would your characters say the words? Would they sound natural or forced? Would they repeat themselves because they’re shy or ramble because they’re hyperactive?
Ask yourself if your characters have any specific speech or thought patterns, impediments, or preferences. Keep a list of any phrases or quotes they might use continually, or any accents or hindrances they have. Remember that their culture, how they were raised, what time period they live in, and their current lifestyle have an impact on how and what they say.
For example, I’ve been raised in the South by godly parents, and I live in a rural area with lots of farmland, poor whites, and African-Americans. Because of my specific culture, I have a Southern accent, I use a lot of slang, I talk fast (no, Southerns do not drawl around here, believe it or not), and I’m often quoting Scripture, making idle threats, or using sayings that make absolutely no sense. (Y’all ever seen a chicken run around without a head? No? Yeah, me neither.)
So, some of my nonsensical sayings would be interspersed throughout my narrative; my dialogue might be phonetically spelled with a lot of missing consonants; and my internal monologue might just be a bunch of run-on sentences. And just like that, you can incorporate different aspects of your characters’ personalities, lifestyles, and cultures into every aspect of your writing to make them stand out!
I’m not quite certain how to describe this, because I don’t believe I’ve ever heard someone talk about it in specific terms. But one of my favorite things in books/movies is dialogue that is meaningful and actually tailored to the story. And I don’t just mean dialogue that goes beyond the realms of small talk—I also mean things like inside jokes, catchphrases, pertinent questions, etc.!
Like what I mentioned above about the continuity in the characters’ voices and how they were tailored to their personalities, Hallmark has done a fabulous job at tailoring the actual words to the story! Characters from past episodes/movies are brought up, specific quotes are repeated, nicknames are reused. Sure, it takes a bit to keep track of everything, but it’s worth it in the end when your dialogue flows as smoothly and naturally as a real-life conversation!
How Hallmark did it: They stayed continuous. From the episodes of When Calls the Heart, which are literally back-to-back and always include a recap, to the movies of Signed, Sealed, Delivered, which sometimes have two-to-three years between installments, Hallmark is always continuous. They kept track of characters—even the minor ones from only an episode or two—and made sure to bring them up in conversations. They were aware of the themes and stuck with them. They allowed the storyline to impact the characters’ discussions, emotions, and actions.
For an unrelated example, Hallmark’s A Perfect Bride film duology stuck with the theme of perfection. In the first film, the hero Nick’s fiancee wanted her everything about wedding to be, well, perfect—including the groom. Naturally, those expectations were entirely too far-fetched, and the wedding fell through. But when the second movie came around, Hallmark stayed true to the characters and their situation and let the Nick’s ex-fiancee’s decisions influence how he and his new fiancee, Molly, moved forward. They were constantly quipping about how their wedding could be good, but not perfect, and they avoided even saying the word! This theme played out even more, and it was so fun from a writer’s perspective to see how the screenwriters made that unfold so effortlessly, especially just through their dialogue!
Another moment I love is when Oliver and Shane have a bit of a spat . . . but they use the context of their current case at the Dead Letter Office in reference to themselves!
How you can do it: Keep track of your characters, scenes, and previous conversations—even if that means making a list or two! (Can never have too many lists, in my opinion. *winks*) Be aware of what your themes are and how they will continue to unfold throughout the story. Focus on how the plot/premise affects the characters and influences what they say, do, think, and feel.
I highly recommend reading over the last scene or two you wrote before you move on to the next one. Consider it your “Previously On…” moment, and let the story linger on your mind as you write it. Remember important aspects of previous books, too, and how characters could still be joking—or arguing—about them months later!
For some quick examples, whenever my characters do something impulsive or stupid, they say they “did an Elliot” or “Ellioted” the situation, in reference to my notoriously impulsive character—you guessed it—Elliot. And my heroine Rina always brings up her quartermaster Keaton’s role in an attempted mutiny whenever she’s miffed with him or feels like teasing him. (Even though he was only pretending to go along with it, there’s still a few hard feelings, of course.)
There’s something about being specific and intentional in your dialogue that makes the story so much more authentic!
Speaking of intentionality (which my writing software says is not a word) . . . Hallmark has learned the hard way to make every moment count. Their movies and TV series are often short, compacting an entire romance into 90 minutes, let alone countless conversations and character interactions.
But there’s never a dull moment in a Hallmark movie; there’s always something going on or being said that moves the characters’ relationship forward! Just as their growth is never stagnant, their conversations are purposeful and intentional. No time for small talk here!
And as important as small talk and fluff can be in fiction (they really aid character development), intentionality is key. Every interaction should do something, whether that’s twist the plot, spur the character on, or provide key insight to your characters, world, etc.
How Hallmark did it: They kept their focus on the task at hand. With time constraints, there simply isn’t time to get caught up in random conversations or monotonous scenes, so they—and their characters—stayed on track and kept the story progressing in some way at all times!
Try watching any episode of When Calls the Heart, and you’ll find characters constantly asking questions or bringing up subjects that are pertinent to the plot. Same goes for Signed, Sealed, Delivered, in which every scene is either focused on their dead letter case, developing the characters’ relationships, or one of the few side plots! Even a standalone movie is a great example of how every moment has a purpose and contributes to the story (most of the time, the romance) in some way!
How you can do it: The first and last step to being intentional with every scene or interaction is actually the same—edit. If you write a line of dialogue that has nothing to do with what’s going on, delete it and try again. If you read back over a scene that’s just fluff and no substance, cut it. If you have a few paragraphs of unnecessary rambling, shorten it and make your point in a sentence or two instead.
Of course, staying focused while you write makes editing a lot easier. Keep an outline of your scenes or, if you’re a pantser like me, brainstorm what should happen and how important it is to your story before you get started on the next scene!
And don’t forget to stay balanced. You’ll need a few more moments of fluff than a Hallmark movie, and those moments can be very beneficial for character/plot development and overall reader experience. Just keep in mind that it has to contribute to your story, so balance anything extra with moments that really move the plot along!
So, the next time your mom forces you to sit through a Hallmark movie with her, pay attention to how the character interactions play out! Watch how the actors’ expressions and movements bring their dialogue to life; focus on how each character’s voice stands out; listen to their inside jokes and references to past movies/episodes; and take note of the purpose behind each scene!
You’ll find that your character interactions are stronger, more meaningful, and easier to write when you utilize nonverbal communication, craft unique character voices, tailor the dialogue to your story, and are intentional about every moment!
Come back next Wednesday to hear another Springtime in Surrey author share lessons learned from writing through creative difficulties.
I'm back with another guest post today! I met Eliana through the Young Writer's Workshop and have loved getting to know her and her writing journey. I appeared on her blog nearly two years ago, but today, we've swapped blogs. She's going to share her thoughts on Psalm 73. I was inspired and uplifted by her thoughts and hope you will be too!
Hi, my name’s Eliana, and I’m borrowing Rachel’s blog today! I shared a devotional at a summer camp last year, and I wanted to share this word of encouragement with all of you.
During that week of summer camp, we focused on what it means to “rejoice always,” as commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:16. However, it isn’t always easy to rejoice. It isn’t always easy to find joy or even just contentment.
We live in a world that’s not what it was meant to be. Ever since a man and woman named Adam and Eve started a rebellion against their Creator, our world has been broken.
Earth is cursed with wars and conflicts, sickness and pain, cruelty, hardships, sadness, and death.
You and I have experienced the brokenness of our world on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s a conflict with a sibling, the guilt of our own mistakes, or grief over the loss of a loved one.
We have a huge problem. The joy-crushing problem of sin.
Today, I want to talk about Psalm 73 and introduce you to its writer, a man named Asaph.
Here’s a little bit of background first:
But even though praise and thanksgiving was part of his job description, Asaph struggled a lot, just like we do. In Psalm 77, he writes about feeling weary and sad and troubled. Sometimes, he felt like God was too far away.
This is because Asaph was made to have a perfect relationship with God, just as we were. One of the wonderful things about our God is that He is perfectly holy. Sadly, we are not. Even if we tried as hard as we could, none of us could meet God’s perfect standards. Our sin blocks us from having that perfect relationship with God that we were meant to have.
Asaph often saw people doing terrible things and forsaking God, and at the same time, these people still seemed to find happiness. Asaph knew that God was good and that following Him was the right choice, but seeing bad people prosper made him jealous, even when he wasn’t supposed to be jealous.
At the beginning of Psalm 73, Asaph wrote:
Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Asaph struggled with the rotten world around him and his own rotten heart. Sometimes, he wondered if it might be better to be a person who hates God but is happy than a person who loves God but is sad. But eventually, Asaph learned four secrets that helped him to find heavenly satisfaction even in the midst of his struggles.
The first secret is one Asaph actually found as he looked at the wicked people around him.
Secret 1: The things we go to for satisfaction—food, entertainment, even friends—don’t fix the problem. They only cover it up.
When you eat a bowl of delicious ice cream, it’s great at the moment. You can find some happiness in eating that ice cream. But then it’s gone. It doesn’t satisfy you for long, and it might even give you a stomachache.
You could try to find joy in a book. I love books, so I get it. But books aren’t perfect, and even if the book you’re reading is a really, really good one, you’ll reach the end of it eventually.
Maybe you like playing music or painting pictures. Those can be great ways to spend your time. But if you stake your happiness in your own performance, every mistake will be painful. You won’t find true contentment there either.
There are a lot of ways you can try to find happiness, but none of the world’s pleasures will fix the world’s problem.
The world’s pleasures never last forever. And if we don’t put God first, the world’s pleasures are only a trap.
In Psalm 73, Asaph writes about the people who try to root their happiness in themselves or something else outside of God. I’ll start at verse 6. He says:
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
7 Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
8 They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
9 They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
And then later, in verses 18 and 19, he writes about what God has done when He lets the wicked people have happiness in earthly things:
Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
Asaph’s point here is that it’s not safe to look for happiness apart from God. Looking for happiness in something like ice cream is like a slippery slope.
Secret 2: We can only find true satisfaction in knowing God.
Asaph knew that looking to the world for satisfaction doesn't work, because the world is broken. He knew that he couldn’t look to himself for satisfaction either, because he had an unclean heart. The only perfect source of contentment was God Himself.
In Psalm 73:26, Asaph said, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
This is Secret #2: We can only find true satisfaction in knowing God. Maybe that seems obvious, but it was an important truth for Asaph to accept. We are nothing without God and the forgiveness He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ.
I told you earlier that the perfect relationship we were made to have with God is broken. Well, the beautiful truth is that God loves us too much to leave us hanging.
We had no power to save ourselves from our sin. We could try to conquer our sinful desires, but it would be like trying to throw a rock at the moon with just your human arm. We all fall short. Hundreds of thousands of miles short.
And yet, God sent us His one and only perfect Son to redeem our relationships with Him and give us the eternal lives in heaven that we didn’t deserve. By giving up his perfect life and by miraculously rising from the dead two thousand years ago, Jesus offers grace, mercy, and forgiveness as a free gift to all of us today.
Even in this broken world. Even as we continue to sin. Jesus offers this gift to us for our joy.
How great is God’s grace?
God tells us that His grace is sufficient for us. When a preacher named Charles Spurgeon thought about God’s grace, he thought of a little, thirsty fish who is afraid he might drink the river dry. But the river is huge, and it says, “Drink away, little fish, my stream is sufficient for thee.”
Or a little mouse in a huge granary, who is afraid he might die of starvation after having plenty of food for seven years. “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.”
What if a single hiker were worried that he should exhaust the oxygen in the atmosphere? We should tell him the atmosphere is more than sufficient for him to breathe away and fill up his lungs for a lifetime.
And it’s the same way with us and God’s grace. This is GOD we’re talking about. His grace is more than enough for all of us. His grace should be where we find our joy.
Sometimes God’s grace is tough love. God will give us weakness to teach us humility. He lets us make mistakes so we can learn wisdom. And as we grow, we can see more and more how richly blessed we are, even in the hard things.
Secret 3: Finding grace and joy always starts with recognizing that we are in need.
Alright, you know that the world’s pleasures are not good places to find joy. You know that God’s grace is the right place to find joy. What’s next? Asaph’s secret #3 is that finding satisfaction in God’s grace always starts with recognizing that we are in need. Finding satisfaction in God’s grace always starts with recognizing that we are in need.
Asaph was able to accept God’s grace because he first realized that he struggled with jealousy and other weaknesses. We can also open our hearts to God’s forgiveness after we recognize our own sins.
You could lie to yourself if you wanted to. You could tell yourself that a bowl of ice cream is all you’ll need to be happy. Or you could tell yourself that you don’t need God’s grace, and you can just rely on yourself to be “good enough.”
But if we put our pride aside for just one moment, we’ll find that no earthly thing can really satisfy us in the long run. And we can’t put our hope in ourselves. Jesus is the only way.
We start to find grace and joy by being honest with ourselves and honest with God.
In Psalm 73:21 and 22, Asaph admitted his problems to God. He said that his soul was “embittered,” he was “brutish and ignorant,” and he even confessed that he “was like a beast” toward God. He was angry.
But after making a diligent search in his heart, he was able to realize how much he needed and loved God, and he was able to worship God with a happy heart. In verses 23 through 26, he says to God:
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Secret 4: True satisfaction is something you want to share with others.
Asaph knew that he couldn’t find true, lasting joy in the temporal things here on earth. He knew that God’s grace alone was the solution to his deepest problem of sin. And he knew that, in order to accept God’s grace, he would first need to admit that he needed God’s grace.
The fourth and final secret Asaph was reminded of is that true satisfaction is something you want to share with others. Have you ever read a great book or watched an amazing show that made you want to tell all your friends about it?
Asaph felt kind of like that. After reflecting on how amazing it is to know the holy and almighty God, Asaph felt like he could have talked about God all day. I’m going to read Psalm 73:26 again and the last few verses of that psalm. Asaph wrote:
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
Even though Asaph knew he was a sinner and he deserved God’s wrath just like other unfaithful people, he got to experience God’s nearness and mercy. This was where he got the satisfaction that you feel in these verses, and this is why he wanted to tell the world what His Savior had done.
Asaph didn’t rejoice because he had a perfect world, perfect life, and perfect, sinless heart. Just like us, Asaph lived in a broken world with a life tainted by sin. Just like us, he fought temptations to look for joy in earthly things instead of God. But he found that true satisfaction came from knowing God.
Asaph recognized that he was made to have a relationship with God, and he not only wanted God in his life—he needed God. He was a broken man in need of God’s love and grace. And he rejoiced even more because he knew how important God was to him. He was so happy that he wanted to share the good news of what God had done.
When your flesh and your heart fail, may you look to God to be the strength of your heart for all your life. Rejoice in the free grace that Christ offers you.
I hope you've enjoyed Eliana's post! I'm so grateful she shared it with us. Let us know in the comments how it resonated with you. And check out my post on Eliana's blog about how the Spider-Verse might be a bit like Christian diversity: https://www.elianathewriter.com/2023/05/diversity-is-like-the-spider-verse/
Good morning, everyone! Here I am, finally posting one of two long-neglected guest posts that got lost in the shuffle of work on the anthology. Today Kathryn shares what she has learned about choosing her friends wisely. To read my lessons from an overly dramatic dog (the other half of this swap), hop over to her website: https://thestorycubby.wixsite.com/home/post/lessons-from-an-overly-dramatic-dog-by-rachel-leitch
When I first sat down to write this post, I needed some inspiration to get going. I knew that it was time to write the post, but my brain was not kicking into gear. So I said to her, “Mom, when you are thinking about how to choose your friends wisely, what is the first Bible verse that pops into your mind?”
She repeated my question to herself for a second and then she looked at me with a smile.
“The first thing that comes to mind is: when the blind lead the blind, they both will fall into the ditch.”
Well, since I asked her, I decided I had to use it in the post, but when I think about it, the verse does get down to the root of why to choose your friends wisely.
"And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?" (Luke 6:39)
As young people, we often long for people our age to spend time with, and to talk to. We want to be around people that understand us because we are going through the same life stage. But not all young people make for godly influences on our lives, and when we hang out with people who are figuratively blind, without knowing it, we’ll fall into a ditch with them. This is something that I have had to decide on personally, and I believe that it is something every young person has to deal with.
But, the question is, how do we avoid falling into that ditch? How can we be sure we are spending our time with people who will influence us in a godly way?
Here are three ways that you can do that.
Choose your conversation.
Notice that I did not start with choosing your friends. This is because choosing your friends is not the first decision that you need to make.
"Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:27)
The way the Apostle Paul who penned this verse usually uses the word "conversation" to mean our daily walk, which includes the way that we talk with each other.
If Jesus walked up to you while you were talking to your friends, would you feel like you need to change the conversation? Or would you feel like he would be pleased to hear what you were talking about?
We ought to be talking about things that will bring honor to The Lord. This is not to say that we can’t joke around every once in a while, but our jokes ought to be acceptable to Him, and our conversations ought to steer in His direction.
Sometimes it is difficult to know how to bring up Biblical conversation, which is very important to our spiritual growth. One of the things we can do to learn how to have a spiritual conversation is in on the conversations of deep-thinking adults in our church. There are usually some adults who are steadily meditating on the Word, and their conversations are good examples for us to follow.
As you have something you’ve been thinking about, casually bring it up among your friends. If they seem to want to avoid talking about it, then keep that conversation until you find someone who will talk to you about it. In some circumstances, only adults seem to want to talk about spiritual things, but they often make better friends than young people our age. However, adults do not always have the time to spend a long time talking or doing other sorts of relationship-building activities because of their responsibilities. That is one special blessing of being a young person. We have more time on our hands to spend with each other.
Choose your activities.
As young people, we enjoy doing activities like playing board games together or participating in a fun sport. But even then, we need to be mindful of how much time we are spending on frivolous fun versus how much time we spend pursuing our relationship with the Lord.
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." (Revelation 2:4)
This was part of a message from Christ to the church of Ephesus because they got so caught up in doing things that they left their First Love. They got so busy with the things that they were doing that they forgot to do them for the Lord.
If you reflected on your activities of the past week or twenty-four hours, how much of that time could you say was spent on your First Love? If you played a sport, why did you play it? Was it to please Him or simply to win a game or have fun?
If you played a board game, what did you talk about while you were playing? Was it honoring Christ?
Before you do any sort of activity ask the Lord to help you do it for His glory. If it is something like having a meal with a friend, ask Him to open up your conversation to things that will please Him. Or if you feel that you ought to be spending more time serving him in some sort of ministry, ask Him to show you opportunities where you can do that. He will be glad to answer that kind of question with a yes if you are open to His help. However, making that kind of choice can be hard if your friends are not willing to make it with you.
Choose your friends.
This is the last point that I wanted to make because it comes as a matter of course after the first two. Deciding to talk about spiritual things, or to spend less time texting with your friends to write cards to shut-ins at your church does not always make you popular.
A negative Biblical example of this would be King Solomon’s son Rehoboam. He had a choice about how he was going to rule, and even before he sought counsel he had decided how he was going to rule. This was evident in his choice of counselors.
"But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him." (1 Kings 12:8)
But there were consequences for the decision that he made. They may not have been immediate because he had to implement his plans before the people realized how faulty they were but eventually, his decision came back to bite him.
"So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day." (1 Kings 12:19)
My point is not that we need to stop taking the advice of people our age. Instead, I want to show that the way you decide to live, will dictate your friends and your friends will dictate the way you live. It’s a vicious cycle if we don’t follow the Lord in our choices.
Spending time around the kind of young people that are old in maturity, especially as God’s children, will help us to continue in the decisions we’ve made about our conversation and our activities. Sometimes it is hard to find young people that are like that. In that case, it might be best to make friends with adults who will support those decisions. But finding the right kind of friend will help not only you but your friend to develop a deeper relationship with Christ.
Choosing friends is one of the ways we can please the Lord. When we decide that our conversation will please Him, and we learn to think about spiritual things we take a step closer to Christ in our relationship with Him. If our time is spent doing things that please Him or participating in activities in a way that honors Him, we are living for our First Love. After we have made our choices about what we will say and do, we will already know what kind of friends we want. By choosing ones that are God-honoring as well we can help each other to keep walking closer to the Lord.
Today, I have the honor of sharing a post from R. M. Archer. You may have seen her posts on her blog or on Kingdom Pen (which have been so helpful and have taught me so much). She is sharing about why she chose indie publishing. (And keep watch on her blog later today as I share about why I chose traditional publishing!) This post really clarified indie publishing for me, and I hope it does the same for you!
Thanks for having me, Rachel!
Today I’m super excited to talk about some of the reasons I chose indie publishing—and why I plan to continue indie publishing for the foreseeable future.
Really, creative freedom is the underpinning for most of my points. I love being able to have the final say over everything from what I write about to who I write it for, to what it looks like when all is said and done, to who I work with. Maybe that just means I have too strong a need to be in control, lol. But I love being involved in the whole process and getting to execute the stories I’ve been given in exactly the way I want.
Indie publishing is also more flexible when it comes to writing across genres. If I really wanted to, I could write high fantasy, dystopian sci-fi, contemporary short stories, and gothic horror all under the same name; no looking for different publishers or flipping my whole brand on its head.
Writing for a Specific Audience
Indie publishing allows me to write for a specific audience, whether or not that audience is the majority that traditional publishers are writing to. I’m not tied to the current popular trends (which is good, because I can’t write fast enough to keep up anyway, lol). On occasion, there’s a happy accident and I end up publishing something in a year it’s really popular (Asian-inspired fantasy is really popular this year, and the book I’m releasing this summer happens to fall under that umbrella also), but I don’t have to plan to write something according to the current trends.
This allows me to cater to more niche (small and specific) audiences: fans of slow-paced fantasy, Christian YA readers, sci-fi readers who prefer high-tech Earth to space, etc. As an indie author, I’m able to write for these readers even in seasons when traditional publishers are writing for someone else.
A Flexible Schedule
I’m a pretty slow writer. Some of my first drafts go quickly, but I take a long time to edit and produce finished books. I’m pretty sure I’d bomb if I needed to have a book ready on an externally-imposed deadline. While other authors are able to crank out 1-8 books per year (kudos to them!) I’m lucky if I can hit that one-per-year “minimum.” Which is why I appreciate being able to work at my own pace as an indie author.
Indie publishing allows me to take what time I need on a book—whether that means finishing two short story collections in a year or spending two years on one novel. I can work as quickly or as slowly as I need for a project, and I can be as consistent or as varied as I need with my release schedule.
A Custom Team
As an indie author, I’m responsible for all the “hats”: writing, editing, formatting, marketing, etc. But I can pass out those hats as I see fit (aside from writing, obviously). If I love the writing and editing processes, I can handle those myself and then hire someone else to do the formatting that makes me want to yank my hair out. I can do all of my own marketing, or I can hire a virtual assistant to help streamline the process.
And what I love most is not that I can get someone to do the things I don’t have the time/energy/interest for, but that I can hire anyone. I get to choose my own team and work with other creators that I know, trust, and want to support. My favorite part of releasing my current book has been getting to work with so many awesome creatives that I’ve known for ages but not had the opportunity to work with before!
I love the indie author community. Not only do I get to hang out with them as fellow authors, but indie authors have amazing opportunities to support each other! Some of those creatives I’ve worked with? Fellow indie authors.
Because indie authors don’t have as much reach with their books off the bat as traditional publishing houses can offer, it makes the need to support each other and share each other’s books even greater. Collaborations, book promotions, resource-sharing, etc. abound in the indie author community, and I love getting to be a part of it.
In putting forth these positives, I don’t intend to deny that indie publishing has its own challenges, nor do I intend to suggest that traditional publishing lacks all of these elements! These are just a few reasons I’ve chosen indie publishing, and why I love it. If you’re trying to decide which publishing path is best for you, I hope this helps!
See? Didn't she explain that so well? Check out the second half of the swap here: https://rmarcher.com/
*I am so very excited to bring to you all today a guest post by fellow blogger Allison Grace! Once you've finished this incredible post about The Horse and His Boy, go check out her blog and sign up for her newsletter while you're there! I've been signed up for a while and have very much enjoyed her insight (and Oliver's adventures, too). Watch her blog tomorrow . . . a post of mine might show up (secret: It might have to do with The Magician's Nephew). https://allisongracewrites.com/articles/guest-post-from-rachel-leitch-how-digory-kirke-reminded-me-to-hope/ So without further ado, An Illustration of God's Sovereignty by Allison Grace!*
There’s a scene in Chapter Eleven of C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy that nearly makes me cry.
I’m usually not one to cry during books and movies. So it has to be something really special. And this scene is.
If you want to avoid spoilers, I suggest you go read the book before continuing. ;)
“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and--”
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”
While The Horse and His Boy certainly is not as allegorical as Lewis’ other books (most notably The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe) we as Christians can clearly see an illustration of God’s sovereignty.
If you are familiar with the story, you can see that Aslan (the “Large Voice”) is behind every important part of the story. He has guided Shasta’s story from the very beginning.
The same is true when you look at our world.
If you think about the nation of Israel for a minute and you go all the way back to Abraham, you can see God’s hand.
And that’s just the beginning!
Throughout the history of Israel, God has always preserved His people.
Sometimes there is not a clear “lion” in the story, such as in the book of Esther. But He is always working.
Now, it’s easy to think that God’s sovereignty and providence only extends to the big things or to the “important” people. But like an author controls all the elements in her writing, God has a hand in all the details of our lives. Nothing happens without a reason.
Did you see what Aslan said in the quote? “I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead.”
This isn’t a major plot point. This is nothing more than Aslan demonstrating his care for Shasta.
Sometimes, when God works in our lives, it’s obvious and huge. And other times, it’s in tiny ways.
But like Paul says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
All things. Not just the big events of life--graduation, marriage, and eventually death--but all parts of our lives--our relationships, the school we attend, and where we work.
I’m sure when Aslan told Shasta that he was behind-the-scenes in every situation, Shasta probably wondered why. He might have been asking, “But why did I ever have to be kidnapped as a baby anyway? Why did I have to go on this long journey? Couldn’t you have done it another way?”
Let me tell you this: God doesn’t owe us any explanation for what He does. In fact, He doesn’t owe us anything.
Maybe someday we will be able to look back on our lives and see how God was working. Or we may never be able to fully trace the thread of providence through our lives.
But rest assured, God is working in every story and every situation.
“...for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13
Allison Grace used to hate writing.
Now she can’t imagine a world without telling stories.
She has written several short stories and completed a novel. Her favorite themes to write about (fiction and nonfiction) are identity, faith, and redemption. She also has a whole stash of unfinished fan fiction no one is allowed to read.
Besides writing, Allison loves to crochet stuffed animals and dolls to give to charities. She is a shameless Star Wars and Marvel nerd and can carry on an entire conversation solely in movie quotes.
She blogs at allisongracewrites.com.
Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!