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Should Christians write Fiction with Magical Protagonists?


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5 hours ago, sunstarunicorn said:

I don't intend to write fanfiction forever.  I do, very much, want to eventually write Original Fiction.  However, when I first started seriously writing, I lacked the ability to really world-build; it was easier for me to take existing fandoms and play in those established sandboxes with existing characters that I already knew (and loved).

 

If nothing else, writing fanfiction provided me with the opportunity to gain experience, develop new skills, and begin coming up with my own story ideas.  When I started, I was good at coming up with twists to existing storylines (what would change if this character hadn't gotten shot in the season finale, for instance), but my own unique stories were fairly short, simple, and sometimes based on other fanfiction stories I'd read.  The longer I write, the more my original stories take center stage; there's a world of difference between the stories I wrote for Season 1 and the stories I'm now writing for Season 5 (and I praise the Lord for all of these stories).

 

Sounds a lot like my experience. Fanfiction is great for helping develop certain writing skills. For me, it honed my ability to portray character, since you have to take someone else's character, analyze them, and then portray that same character in alternate situations - and of course they must still act like "themselves". It also helped me greatly with dialogue. For me, I found my worldbuilding skills lacking when I left Fanfiction for original fiction, since the "worlds" had already been built for me and I never did much expanding on my own.

 

I will pray you are led on God's best path for your writing - a path which may not be similar to mine! All the best. I can tell you are a talented writer.

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On 11/14/2021 at 6:51 PM, PenName said:

Rowling (HP) on the other hand, was just writing a story about kid wizards growing up and saving the world from the dark lord.

While I'm not saying you have to consider them on the same level as Lewis and Tolkien (no one is with him), I would have to respectfully disagree. There are all kinds of biblical themes Rowling brings out in her series, it hasn't resonated with so many people so deeply and so long for being a cheap thrill. 

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On 11/15/2021 at 6:56 PM, Celebrianne said:

While I'm not saying you have to consider them on the same level as Lewis and Tolkien (no one is with him), I would have to respectfully disagree. There are all kinds of biblical themes Rowling brings out in her series, it hasn't resonated with so many people so deeply and so long for being a cheap thrill. 

I appreciate your insightful post!

 

I think what I was specifically trying to say (and it came out muddled) was that I appreciate Lewis and Tolkien's writing and their use of magic in fantasy because it is used to specifically point to and discuss humanity's sinful nature and the need for Jesus and His sacrifice. I am only familiar with Harry Potter through what I call "pop culture osmosis", but I don't believe that this specific purpose is in those books. But I may very well be wrong!

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On 11/12/2021 at 6:58 PM, sunstarunicorn said:

My secondary question would be: If magical protagonists are acceptable in a Christian work of fiction


I think you have two distinct questions here:

  1. Should Christians write fiction with magical protagonists? (I have no issue with that as long as the magical systems don't lead people into error)
  2. Should Christians write magical protagonists in Christian fiction? (eh). 

At this stage of my life, I'm more interested in writing fiction from a Christian worldview for normal (non-Christian) people, and magical systems are a venerable Fantasy mechanism for telling that story. (I mean, it worked for Tolkien, amirite?)

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So, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it depends on the setting and what precisely is magic in your setting, as well as what you're doing with magic.

Let's start with what magic is in your setting.

Most of the magic in your average secular fantasy novel involves stuff in both practice (i.e. how you use the magic or access it, how you cast a spell, so to speak) and result (what the magic actually does) that's different from both accounts in the Bible or traditional pagan societies. The magic in, say, the Wheel of Time is accessed differently by men or women, but it's basically reaching out with your mind to a cosmic power source (that's powering the movement of Time itself). The results of said magic are similarly cinematic and overwhelming; lightning bolts, creating unbreakable crystals, instantaneous healing, fire that literally burns things out of existence.

This isn't the case in most pagan traditions, or even Biblical accounts. Magic, or sorcery, there, is darker, and usually focused around divination, or foretelling the future; in most fantasy books, the closest you get to that might be an ancient prophecy that predicts your hero or heroine's mighty deeds. In practice, magic usually involves incantations or consumption of what's known in anthropological terms as an entheogen (a psychoactive, usually a hallucinogen, used for religious or shamanic purposes), but there's a catch; the incantations aren't the pseudo-Latin of Harry Potter, but are invocations of spirits and deities, usually in the form of prayer. This is a trend that you also see with the altered states of consciousness entheogens are meant to induce.

In other words, "actual" magic (whether these practices are effective or not, that doesn't matter for the most part) involves, though not exclusively, commanding and communing with spirits.

 

There are a handful of books that write this style of magic, communing with spirits, and it's too close to the actual thing for me to be comfortable with it, without some SERIOUS qualifiers. But the majority of fantasy fiction treats magic closer to superpowers. Channeling the One Power, in the world of the Wheel of Time, doesn't involve any mediating spirit to go do your will; if anything, channelers (the name for magicians in that world's setting) are artisans, though artisans of a paranatural energy. The power that actually is mediated by a being is known as the True Power, and is unremittingly evil. Casting a spell in Harry Potter involves waving a wand and announcing a pseudo-Latin command. None of those involve invoking the Egyptian deities to clear obstacles in your journey to the afterlife (Egyptian Book of the Dead) or commanding the spirit of a fever to leave someone by invoking various deities (the Atharvaveda). And none of those involve getting "high" or altering your state of consciousness to perceive and commune with spirits.

 

In my experience, "magic as a funny power that just exists" is different enough from actual magical practices for me to be comfortable, but again, don't go against your conscience.

Now, onto what the use of magic is.

If it's being used in combat, and it's one of the "magic as a cosmic, unaligned power," I don't feel any moral opposition to that; it's another form of technology, broadly defined. Then, it's just a matter of moral action in general; if the character is using morally neutral, fantasy magic for evil ends, the problem isn't the magic, but the evil ends. If use of the power requires a hideous sacrifice or a requirement to sin to access it, then it's wrong (I'd not have a problem with a Christian writing magic, but one that's built on sacrificing innocents a la Aztec practices, that's a different story).

But from an archetypal and symbolic standpoint, I'd avoid things like curses and corruption and stuff like that. Causing disease rather than healing it, things like that. Even if the source or nature of "magic" in this setting is morally neutral, it's serving the ends of disorder and corruption, the Fall, rather than the natural order of the world (Creation as created vs creation as corrupted).

Just some things to think about, if I may be so bold as to offer.

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