I have had the amazing privilege of knowing another aspiring writer who is also a fantasy fan. Isaiah Kazarovich and I had a web design class together in school where we both discovered each other’s love of fantasy stories. I have had the privilege of reading some samples of his writing, and they were quite inspiring! I decided to interview Isaiah and ask him some questions on his philosophy of fantasy writing. His answers are listed below. I want to say a big thank you to Isaiah for answering some of my questions and letting me read some of his writing! Thanks Isaiah!
1. As a Christian, do you have a biblical motivation for writing your fantasy stories? –
I believe I should have a biblical motivation for all that I do, including when I write a fantasy story. Romans 14:8 says, “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” In other words, in everything I do, whether I eat or drink, I should do it in order to glorify God. So the question is, how can I glorify God through a story set in a fantasy world?
First, Fantasy stories allow us to tell familiar stories in a different setting. Almost everyone has heard the stories of the prodigal son or David and Goliath or Noah and the ark. The issue is that no one remembers what those stories actually mean. But if we tell them again in a different setting, under different circumstances, then we can help remind them about some of the biblical truths. For example, a friend of mine, Joshua Miller, loves writing fantasy, but he also loves the story of David. So he took David’s story and retold it using a fantasy world. In the end, he had his first book, now published, entitled, Tyrants and Traitors. So a fantasy world can help remind people about familiar stories in a new way.
Second, fantasy stories allow us to express the ways that we are created in the image of God. How? For one, God is the ultimate world builder. Revelation 10:5-6 says, “And the angel which I saw…lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth forever, who created heaven…and the earth…and the sea, and the things which are therin, that there should be time no longer.” God is the creator of the entire world, and when He imbued human kind with His image, he made us creators as well. We can show that through the way we create our fantasy worlds. Also, God is the ultimate master of language. When we use words to paint beautiful images of flowers, seas, trees, stars, planets, and people, we are declaring the image of God in us. Also, God is the ultimate story teller. He uses the world He created to orchestrate some of the most powerful stories ever made (the death and resurrection of His son being at the top of the list). I have no doubt in my mind that when I build a fantasy world, bring it to life with beautiful language, and tell a masterful story, that I am bringing glory to the God who created this world, invented language, and tells the greatest stories ever told
2. What are some biblical elements that you insert into your stories either subtly or obviously?
In my writing, I like to use biblical elements in subtle doses. First, I use biblical themes, such as redemption, forgiveness, grace, faith, and morality. One way I accomplish this is by making sure—by the end of the book—good is good and evil is evil. The characters will struggle to find those lines, but by the end, I try to make it crystal clear. Another way I use themes is through the transformation of my characters. I have a character who struggles with forgiveness, he encounters some unforgivable offense, and by the end of the book, he has learned to overcome (through trials, a mentor, conflict, etc.) and forgive. I want to make sure that when my characters learn about these themes, my readers learn about them, too.
Another way I insert biblical truth into my books is through the presence of God. Every world ever created must have some form of deity. Not only is this a macro-rule of world building, but also, God is a necessary being. You cannot have life without God. It says in 1 Corinthians 8:6, “Yet for us there is by one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one, Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through him.” So all things exist because of God. And since God is a necessary being, every world—including fantasy—must have some form of deity. The way you choose to represent this deity is important as well.
3. What are some goals that you have for inserting these elements into your stories?
First, I always try to have excellent story craft (good characters, structured plot, sharp dialogue, etc). My primary concern involves gaining the trust of the reader. If the reader won’t follow me into the story, then the reader won’t learn a single lesson it has to offer. So I study story craft, and it takes years and years of practice. You cannot master it all at once. You must study, work hard, and practice.
My next task includes immersing the reader into my world. If I want them to grasp the fullness of the discoveries and lessons my characters learn, then my story world must be as flawless as possible. If my character starts off as an agnostic, and I want him to discover God, I must first immerse my reader into a world where God exists. Perhaps there is an old priest who my character thinks is crazy. Come the end of the book, maybe my character walks into that temple and realizes that the priest might not be as crazy as he originally thought. What I do not want to do is preach all the theology I’ve built into my world at the reader. Instead, I lead my readers into my world, I show them the rules, the ideals, the realities of it, and then I translate it into the real world by connecting them to the characters. My goal is to tell a great story where the readers see love, redemption, grace, and truth in a way they’ve never seen it before.
4.How would you justify the use of fantasy by a Christian who is trying to teach truths?
Ultimately, fantasy cannot save souls. Even the most well-written Christian fiction book can’t do that. Only God’s Word and the Holy Spirt stir the heart to repentance. However, fantasy can make someone ask the right questions. How did the world come into place? What is the purpose of life? What are human beings for? These are the questions I want my readers to consider after they’ve finished my book, and hopefully they will jump onto my website and see what I think about these questions. My books can’t bend the will of a reader, but it can poke at his/her emotion and intellect, and help to sway their thinking.
5. How does the fact that you are a Christian affect the type of content that you choose to include/exclude in your stories?
As a Christian writer, I want to make sure the content I choose to use is honoring to Christ. Does this mean that I cannot have any killing in my book? No. It means that I show how incredibly wrong killing is. It means that I explore why a person would even consider killing someone, and then exploit the flaws in that thinking. The trick is to do this by showing it through a story and not preaching. I love preaching, but preaching doesn’t work in a story.
http://kingdompen.org/magic-fantasy-and-the-christian-writer/ (On magic, feel free to read this article!
6. Are there any additional points that you would like to add?
All stories are moral in some form. In other words, every story is trying to teach a worldview, a belief, a moral code, or an ethical system. You cannot get away with it. And so if you are a Christian who is trying not to write a book based on a Christian worldview, you will wind up writing a book for the enemy. You must have the right perspective in mind. It does not have to be blatant, but it should be woven into the fabric of your story. It needs to be so foundational that if it did not exist, then neither could your book. Why? Because the world could not exist without God, and neither could your book.