Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Evaluating Our Content

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Additionally, while I use personal standards or my books as examples, I am not holding myself up as the ultimate example. The Lord's leading, Scripture, and your own conscience must be your guide. However, I hope that the things that the Lord has shown me will be helpful to you too!

Today I want to talk about a topic that is a little more controversial. I have a few points to address on evaluating our content.

If you disagree with any of my points, all I ask is that you carefully evaluate your stance in the light of Scripture. I understand that there are many viewpoints and sometimes it is difficult to come to a perfect balance. 

We have a huge responsibility as authors. If nothing else, join me in trying to be careful! We've had similar topics here on Word Painters, and I believe everyone understands the importance of following the Lord's promptings and Scriptural standards in our writing. Our goal as Christian authors is to reclaim literature for Christ, not succumb to the world's standards of what is acceptable.

So let's get started!


This has been covered by John J. Horn and Jason McIntire in previous posts. (Follow names for the two viewpoints.) I won't go into much detail, but here are a few things I want to mention.

  • Is our focus on violence? 

Violence happens, especially when you write swashbuckling action and persecution scenes like I do. But how do we handle it? With a focus on gore, blood, death, and destruction? Or with the focus on the action itself?

Personally, I endeavor to focus on tactic and the emotions of a character during intense battle scenes. When blood must be included for realism, I endeavor to keep it as lightly-depicted as historically possible. It is indeed possible to write a well-crafted, heart-pulsating action scene by telling, not showing. Instead of describing gore to every detail, you can simply state the battlefield was littered with carnage. You don't have to describe a pulsating wound or the dead to every detail. It is enough for a reader to know it is there.

As for persecution scenes, it is hard to come to a balance of how much violence is too much. I try to let the Lord lead. Mostly, I try to focus on the faith and the strength the Lord gives during such times. 

It all boils down to focus. Is it gore? Or is it courage, honor, and faith in the  midst of the action?

Physical Descriptions

I try to be careful here. As far as I am concerned, there is absolutely no need to describe a man or a woman down to the smallest detail. In fact, much detail beyond that of facial characteristics and general build is not needed. Words paint just as clear of an image as photos do. 

  • Why do we describe what we describe? Evaluate all motives and the intended audience. Even if the audience is adult, keep it as pure as possible.

A gentleman once told me that it is very hard for men to read books where the author overly-describes a woman. What might seem like a basic description to a female reader is something that might cause a male reader to stumble. Or vice versa. 

Remember your brothers and sisters in the faith and keep physical descriptions simple. And pure. 

The same goes for statues. When I was writing From the Dark to the Dawn, the Lord reminded me that there is no need to describe a statue in detail. Just because the Romans or whoever had no shame doesn't mean we as historical authors need be the same way.

I of all people know how tough this topic is. I just wrote a book about Rome. Trying to keep topics like slavery, slave auctions, statues, and bath houses pure was hard. I did a lot of praying! And, yes, the Lord did lead me to change some things and reword certain scenes. 

So just ask the Lord if you are stuck. He'll help you! :)


Not much to say here! Obviously, no cursing! Tell, don't show. 

For historical-authors, we really can't avoid the "by the gods" phrases the Romans/Greeks used all the time. But that is a little different. Do your research. Some phrases were fine then, others weren't. Don't take it for granted that a certain phrase was fine.

Morals versus Jesus

Morals are great. Obviously. In fact, I emphasized a lot of them in The Comrades of Honor Series. But let me remind you that our emphasis as Christian authors is Jesus Christ, not good works or morals. He is what makes the difference in lives. So keep Him in your books, not just the things that make for a "better" society.


I have personally taken the standard of my first kiss being on my wedding day. The same goes for my book characters. 

In the Middle Ages and in other eras, men and women kissed at engagement. (Engagements were super serious; one practically had to get a divorce to break an engagement.) So I went with that in my medieval series. 

If you differ with me on this, try to keep kissing at a minimum. Be discreet, pure, and remember that we are Christian authors. We're different from the world. Even if your characters aren't Christians, still keep your descriptions appropriate for believing readers. Some things really should be left to the imagination or just left in general.

Also, study your history if you are a historical author. For instance, kissing before marriage was basically immoral in Rome.


Those are all the points I am going to cover. 

If nothing else, remember that we have to reclaim our literature for Christ. Don't settle to pleases the masses. You'll never be sorry for having a higher standard. 

A clean, honorable book really shines and stands out. In the long run, the readers who snatch it up will be the ones you want in the first place. You'll know he/she is a Christian who wants to be encouraged in their faith. Not a worldly individual who is settling for a "Christian" book because it is so close to the world's standards that they can't tell them apart. We are called to be different. That includes our writing.

What safeguards have you set up for your writing?

Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!


  1. I really enjoyed this post, Alicia. Thank you for the reminder to evaluate our content in the light of God's word and shoulder the responsibilities that come with crafting literature. :)


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