authors and developing characters: an analogy of God's sovereignty & human choice
The relationship of an author and his characters is a fabulous analogy that helps me understand the relationship between the sovereignty of my Creator God and my personal opportunity to choose.
It's a greyish, rather-blustery, end-of-October day today. Time for some favorite flicks and home-cooked comfort food. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes are being plated up at our house tonight along with an assortment of colorful veggies: orange carrots and purple cabbage and beets. Inevitably, Muppet Christmas Carol will soon emerge.
Tradition around here is to pull out Muppet Christmas Carol as the weather turns brisk. I love it! But ... there's one line in particular that irks me a bit every time I hear it. Rizzo the Rat chides Gonzo's authorial omniscience as he plays the role of the classical author Dickens and calls him "Mr. God-like Smarty-Pants." It verges on taking the Lord's name in vain, at least in my mind, the way Rizzo says it. Still, I try not to take offense, because being an author really does reflect some realities about our Omniscient Creator God and His creation. We talked about this a little with my last post.
Authors say it all the time: "I'm curious where this is going to end up," or "I can't wait to find out who this character's going to turn into." I know it was interesting for me to watch Cassia, Gehazi, and especially Marcus make decisions in my current manuscript Voice of a Servant.
Yes, characters actually make their own decisions. It's a bit puzzling. As the author, I create them, I write them into the story. I name them, and I shape key elements about their personalities. I can make them do whatever I want. But I don't always. You see, if the story is going to sound authentic, at some point along the way, the characters have to make their own choices.
It's mystical really, how the character becomes his or her own person, how the author sits back and listens for what that character will say. At times, the character actually dictates to the author what she is going to do or how he is going to respond to conflicts the author creates. Oh, the author is still in control of where the overall plot is going and how things will turn out in the end, but the characters have a say and somehow shape their story with their own choices.
Are you starting to see the analogy? Analogies do break down somewhere, so I'm sure this one's not perfect. But it does help me start to understand that supposed dilemma between the sovereignty of God (the Author) and the free will or choice of individual humans (characters).
God is writing His Story. He has His themes that He's developing, His purpose for writing (His own glory). And He includes all the really great stuff of writing: dilemma, conflict, vulnerability, love, mercy, redemption, forgiveness...and fabulous characters.
In a sense, God's Story is a massive collection of short stories. Each of our lives is a short story. When God Writes Your Life Story, you are the viewpoint character for that short story. When He writes mine, I am the viewpoint character. Multiple short stories overlap and influence others just as many and varied people influence one individual's life. But each is significant as a unique creative work. Your story is important.
Now, developing character is a literary term. As opposed to a static character that remains unchanged throughout the course of a novel, a developing or dynamic character is crafted to change over time. I loved the way one literature teacher defined the dynamic (developing) character:
"a person who changes over time, usually as a result of resolving a central conflict...."Each of us has multiple conflicts woven into our story's plot line. Along the way, there are some pretty intense antagonists. Some things are difficult to swallow. And though I can't understand or explain all the implications, as an author I do understand the necessity of bad guys and tough choices if the story's going to be worth telling.
The central conflict, though, that major decision that effects change in each developing character, is his or her answer to this most important question:
We answer that question not just at a point of conversion to biblical Christianity, but every moment of every day. We as the viewpoint character make choices. In His presence and confident in His sovereign control over all, we choose. Still, He chooses according to what seems good to Him as the Author.
It's a mysterious thing, this author-character, Creator-creation relationship. But it does illustrate the biblical tension of two simultaneous yet paradoxical truths:
- God is the Sovereign Creator and Author of it all, and
- I am His creation, a unique character, created for His purposes yet with my own will, my own decisions, my own voice.
In "the End," each character will become subservient to the Author's will. And "every knee will bow and every tongue will confess (admit) that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
But right now, the question is this: What will you do with Jesus? Have you submitted your character to His Authorship? Have you chosen to acknowledge Jesus as God in your life?
If you'd like to read more about making this decision, you can follow this link to a gospel (good news) presentation called "Two Ways to Live."
God is writing your story. But you have to make this choice: Will you accept Jesus as your Savior from sin and watch God transform your story into a dynamic life of praise to Him?
Thank you for letting my story overlap with yours today. I pray it's been a blessing to you and look forward to more interaction as we continue making choices and influencing one another.
Grace and peace, with love,