For me, this verse pretty much sums up what Christian Fantasy should be like:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Not that there’s a formula for writing Christian Fantasy; there isn’t. But this verse offers some great pointers which can be applied to our writing, as well as our lives.
First of all, what is fantasy? Most people think of magic and mysterious creatures, villains and long journeys when they think of fantasy. Personally, I think of Harry Potter–one of my all-time favorite series. But what’s the real definition of fantasy? According to the Oxford Dictionaries, fantasy is
A genre of imaginative fiction involving magic and adventure, especially in a setting other than the real world.
According to The Free Dictionary, fantasy is
A genre of fiction or other artistic work characterized by fanciful or supernatural elements.
From the verse, I came up with four things that you should have in your fantasy novel as a Christian fantasy author.
#1 You Must Have Evil In Your Novel
I know, that sounds really bad. But any writer knows that you have to have conflict to create a good story. In fantasy, “conflict” usually means a villain or some sort of great evil, which threatens the protagonist and the world.
Should a Christian author include evil in his or her fantasy novel? Yes! Why? The evil in the novel usually tends to exemplify the “good guy’s” morals and right vs. wrong themes. By showing how bad the dark is, you are demonstrating how good the light is.
Obviously, though, you don’t want to overdue the evil. You need to make the bad guys bad enough that the good guys’ qualities are exemplified. But don’t overkill. Don’t add so much evil that the reader is disgusted and puts the book down. And most of all, don’t make the evil enticing. According to the verse, the struggle is against the darkness of this world, and this leads to my next point.
#2 The Protagonist Must Come to Terms With the Evil
In the verse above, it says to put on the full armor of God. To me, this means that the protagonist must fight the evil. And defeat it. In Christian fantasy, the evil must never win over the good. NEVER. This sends the wrong message to the reader, that evil is more powerful than good. That evil will win in the end. We know this isn’t true; the evil won’t win in the end. Jesus will.
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key to the bottomless pit, with a large chain in his hand. He captured the dragon, that ancient serpent, also known as the Devil and Satan, and tied him up for a thousand years.
In Mockingjay, the last book in the Hunger Games Trilogy, I could not tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. Both sides were killing large numbers of people. Both sides were fighting each other with horrible weapons. In Christian fantasy, the lines between good and evil need to be very clear. The good guys fight the evil, but they must not destroy the evil evilly. In other words, the good guys shouldn’t repay evil with evil.
#3 Magic Isn’t Necessarily Bad
Yes, in most fantasy books there is magic. And, hey, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Look, you don’t have to use witchcraft…please–don’t! By the definition of fantasy, however, you do need to have some “supernatural elements.” And if there’s a God-like figure in your story, He can be the one doing the magic. My point is, in the story, magic can be used for good. Just remember, YOU create the story!
#4 The Protagonist Must Make the Right Choice(s)
That does not mean your protagonist has to be perfect. And that also doesn’t mean that the protagonist isn’t tempted to make the wrong choices. But in the end, the protagonist always must make the right decisions. The protagonist must put on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. He or she must use the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. In your fantasy novel, the protagonist (usually) is the representation of goodness; therefore, he or she must make the right decisions in the end.