Guest Blog: Donita Paul
Go on Safari (there’s still time to enter the Creative Cakes Contest held in conjunction with this series).
Donita lives in Colorado where she mentors writers of all ages, teaching teenagers and weekly adult writing workshops.
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Donita Paul Answers
How does your world view affect your story, characters, plot, and setting?
I approach a story purely interested in how the characters will react to the obstacles they must overcome. I don’t set out to preach. But I have a Christian worldview, and therefore, when my characters who represent good encounter adversity, they also encounter God. It is pretty much the same in the real world. God is always there when I need Him.I don’t see that my worldview impacts my setting at all. I’m not afraid of placing my characters in a fantasy world where dragons exist and magic takes place. I know that bothers some people, but I just don’t think God shakes in His boots when I use a little literary license. After all this is fiction, and most believers understand that unicorns don’t hang out looking for young maidens and hobgoblins don’t live under the sink. One of my favorite movies is Miracle on 34th Street. Santa Claus is proven to be real, with a wink to all the adults in the audience. But then there is Kris Kringle’s cane in the perfect house for the new couple and the little girl. Magic? Maybe. But there is no outrage from by-the-Book Christians. (BTW, I’m pretty much a btB person myself and often have scenes of my story read by my pastor or equivalent to make sure I am not promoting heresy by accident.)
I don’t think my worldview stretches, shrinks, or does any damage to my storyline. I am a seat-of-the-pantser (a writer who doesn’t outline) and only have vague ideas about what is happening in the next few scenes. When I’m stuck, I lean back, close my eyes, and watch my characters as if they were in a movie. What will they do next? I follow them and find out. How do they feel at any given moment? I listen and find out.
As for worldview influencing my characters, of course, it does. Like I said at the beginning of this article, I watch closely how a character reacts to a problem. Without a doubt, the Christian character reacts differently than the non-believer. And when the Christian blows it, he knows it, is sorry and must show it. (Sorry, a throwback to teaching Sunday school in that last sentence.)
Which comes first: the theme or the story idea?
For me it is the story idea. I know other authors who begin with the theme, but I discover the theme God has me working on while I am writing. Sometimes I have to go back and insert a little text that makes the idea come out a bit more naturally, but I just can’t start with a theme. Every time I do, my writing comes out stilted, didactic, and in-your-face instructive. Not good. Not good at all.
I use humor because a happy brain is open to new ideas, like God Loves You.
I reference music because music is a language that bridges gaps, from one nationality to another, and even from man to God. I can’t imagine worship without praise music.
I emphasize food because snacks, high tea, a hearty meal after a daunting adventure, and a cozy breakfast with family or friends are all symbols of replenishing what has been drained. We all need to be like Jeremiah and eat the word.
I use colors to reflect moods, talents, and aesthetic qualities.
I hope you enjoy my two sets of Chronicles. I have grown through writing them, and there have been times when God reveals to me through the story a truth I need to apply to my life. So, even if nobody ever read them, they would have helped one person. Me.
I really enjoyed this, especially the last section. Thanks for sharing!
I agree – especially that last section. Setting mood is something I need to work on. Weather for mood is a bit cliche, eh?
I’d never considered using food as a means to restore my characters! Thanks for sharing some of your techniques! They have now inspired me to use music, food, color, etc. in various ways in my own stories. 🙂
I agree, Donita. You’ve shown how powerfully setting elements can help with characterization. I love it!
Thanks for the feedback. I noticed music more this week as I went the rounds getting cleared for my hip replacement on March 8th. The stress test had the best music. I got to choose and I chose praise music. That offset any stress I felt. One waiting room had 70s music playing and the wait was not so bad. I suppose that could go either way. If 70s music is irritating to you then the wait would seem interminable.