The problem with Christian allegory

I’m both a fan/not a fan of Christian allegory. If it’s done well, it can be amazing. The problem with Christian allegory is that many attempts are not done well.

There are classics, of course:

  • Dante’s Divine Comedy (1308-21)
  • Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667)
  • Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678)
  • Dicken’s A Christmas Carol (1843)

And more recent classics:

  • Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)
  • L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
  • Hurnbard’s Hinds Feet on High Places (1955)

There are modern allegories too, of course. Some are fantastic, and others are, well, not.

Gate to heaven made in 3d software

What distinguishes good allegory?

  1. Complexity – There are many stories today that allegorize salvation. There are allegories for sin, allegories for redemption.

    It’s the stories that use allegory (symbolism?) as a part of a larger story that are better. If the entire book is about the salvation process, well that’s already been done. Several times.

    Morgan Busse’s book Daughter of Light had a splendid redemption scene within the larger context of her story. I remember reading it and thinking, wow, this is well done.
    Daughter of Light

  2. Subtlety– This goes along with #1. If within the first page you realize you are reading a heavy-handed allegory, then as a Christian, why would you read on? I mean, we already know where the story is headed.

    Now, if I’m reading a story that is fresh and it’s not until I get farther into the story that I realize that’s it’s an allegory, well you’ve caught me. Then I’m engrossed in your story world and enjoying the ride.

    Jill Williamson’s newest book, King’s Folly, is a fantastic example of this. It’s an allegory of Old Testament times, but you don’t really figure that out until you’re in the last third of the book. It points towards the erosion that sin causes and the hazards of tolerance. She handles the allegory (symbolism?) with deftness and grace.

    King's Folly

  3. Creativity– An allegory is, by definition, a story that uses symbolism to retell a story. (OK, so that’s MY definition). If you are retelling a story that has already been told, especially a popular one, then you are going to have to add some spice into the mix. Flair can make the difference between good and bad allegory.

    I recently listened to Jim L Rubart’s Rooms as an audiobook. In this one, he inherits a crazy magic house that brings him step by step closer to God. It’s original, and it has parallels with the Christian life in the context of our culture. So while it’s obviously allegorical, it’s creative and you can’t predict how it will end.Rooms

  4. Originality– Finally, if you’re going to tell an allegorical Bible story, choose one that hasn’t been done a million times. Give us something more than the story of salvation (unless the Holy Spirit has put it on your heart that’s the story you should tell).

    One of the most fantastic biblical allegories is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (which is in itself an allegory of Israel’s actions towards God). She’s placed the story of Hosea in the Old West. A man of God told by God to marry a prostitute? Great story. And yes, that happened in the Bible.

    A new book that is out that I haven’t read yet, but really want to, is Valor by R J Larson. This is her reimagining of the story of Jephthah. Not familiar? It is one of those hidden biblical gems that makes you wonder.

    And then, of course, we have our very own Vanessa Morton’s Moonfall. A reimagining of the story of Rahab.

Now, I realize I’m probably mixing up my literary devices a bit in this post. Sometimes when I’m talking about allegory, it might be more correct to refer to symbolism. (I’m sure Tim Akers will correct me.) But you get the idea. 😉

SO WHAT’S YOUR TAKE? DO YOU LIKE ALLEGORICAL FICTION? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITES?

 

 

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Calling all YA lovers – have I got a steal for you!

Turning Point: 7 Young Adult Inspirational Novels in One Set

Making it easy (and super cheap!) for you. All your summer reading is right here in this one set. Get seven full-length novels from some of your favorite authors. 7 full-length YA novels for $0.99 – that’s 14 cents each!

Books-in-the-set

By Darkness Hid, Jill Williamson Given the chance to train as a squire, kitchen servant Achan Cham hopes to pull himself out of his pitiful life and become a Kingsguard Knight. When Achan’s owner learns of his training, he forces Achan to spar with the Crown Prince–more of a death sentence than an honor. Meanwhile, strange voices in Achan’s head cause him to fear he’s going mad. While escorting the prince to a council presentation, their convoy is attacked. Achan is wounded and arrested, but escapes from prison–only to discover a secret about himself he never believed possible.

Whisper If You Have To, Staci Stallings Secrets. Alison Prescott has collected a boatload of them in her short lifetime. Moving to a new school in a new town was supposed to fix everything; however, when she meets a new set of friends, keeping those secrets might just ruin everything including her fledgling relationship with the school’s basketball star, Chad Dourozette. How far will Allison go to keep the secrets she can never tell anyone?

It’s Complicated, Laura L. Smith There’s a reason Facebook has the Status Update, It’s Complicated. Follow four college roommates, Claire, Palmer, Hannah, and Kat as they maneuver crushes, confusion, and the crisis when pushy boys go too far. Complicated as it is, these four friends will pull through, guided by the strength of their friendship and the power of God’s love.

Failstate, John W. Otte A fledgling teenage superhero competes on a reality TV show for a government vigilante license. When one of his competitors is murdered, Failstate sets out on a quest to avenge her death. But will his superpowered lunk of a big brother ruin everything?

The Wishing Pearl, Nicole O’Dell Sixteen-year-old Olivia Mansfield can’t wait to escape the confines of her home, which promises nothing but perpetual torment and abuse from her stepfather. When poor choices lead her to the brink of a complete breakdown, Olivia comes to a crossroads. Will she find the path to ultimate hope and healing that her heart longs for?

Mardan’s Mark, Kathrese McKee Abducted by pirates and taken behind enemy lines across the Great Gulf, Princess Srilani is determined to save her sisters and younger brother, the crown prince, from captivity. She convinces their caretaker, Aldan, and his brother slaves to share the perilous journey home. This ragtag group of unlikely heroes sets out on a quest — pursued by cutthroat pirates, merciless priests, and marauding soldiers — to return the heir to his kingdom before war breaks out. In this epic adventure fantasy, Srilani and Aldan risk everything to save a prince and a nation, discovering along the way that death is not their deepest fear.

Glass Girl, Laura Anderson Kurk After her older brother Wyatt is killed in a jealousy-fueled incident and her mother disappears, Meg Kavanagh decides surviving is easy—it’s living that takes guts. She believes she’s to blame for Wyatt’s death, but when Henry Whitmire steps in with a secret, will Meg forgive herself enough to accept the good things in life like the rush of first love and the power of mercy?

I’ve read 2, own 2 more, but I bought the set to get the other 3. It was too good a deal to pass up. 🙂

Available for pre-order on Amazon.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Which ones have you read?

Turning-Point-Box-Set-Small

Jill Williamson’s RoboTales: How the project came to be

Jill Williamson is one of my favorite authors. I’m really excited about her new project! She’s guest blogging for us today to tell us about it and about how YOU can be involved. To get signed copies of these books, check out Jill’s Kickstarter campaign.

And now, here’s Jill!RoboTalesTitleArt-1024x277

The dream began in 2012. My son Luke was in fourth grade when I spoke to his entire elementary school to promote the local public library. The books I’d written at that point were best for readers in middle school and above, but my visit got kids excited to read my books anyway. Several lined up to check out the 500-plus-page tomes. Some of the fifth and sixth graders stuck with the stories, but most the younger kids lost interest. It made me want to write something for readers ages 7-13.

I went to Luke for help.

Jill-and-Luke

Over the course of the next six months, our whole family brainstormed. Luke had been studying fractured fairytales in his class, so we decided to write a children’s chapter book series of fairytale retellings that would take place in a fictional solar system. The stories would be tied together by a lost robot dog who was broken and trying to find out who he was and what he was built for. We called the series RoboTales. There were already so many fairytale retellings for girls. We thought it would be fun to target this series to boys, though girls would like the books too. I read the first three stories to my daughter Kaitlyn, who particularly loved Robo and the creatures he met along his journey.

As I worked on the books, Luke became my writing partner, naming characters, creatures, and helping to plot out the stories in detail. He even designed Robo out of LEGOs. I couldn’t have done it without him. He’s quite creative.

Luke & Robo

Luke & Robo

But with my other writing contracts, my speaking schedule, and the busyness of life, the series hovered at the bottom of my priority list. I just couldn’t find the time to get them written.

From the fall of 2013 to the spring of 2014, I made time. With Luke’s continual brainstorming support, I finished the first three books in our planned eight-book series. Luke and I have plotted out the other five books, but until I knew for certain that we would be able to publish the books, it didn’t make sense for me to write all eight ahead of time.

We live in an isolated community, so when we take a trip to the nearby city, it’s a three-hour drive. Luke and I did a lot of brainstorming on these drives, and Luke took notes. Then during the weekdays while he was at school, I’d take his notes and work on the stories or the proposal. It was every writer’s dream to have someone to talk to constantly, to brainstorm, and to get feedback. I’m so glad Luke was willing. This has been a fun project. Luke and I can’t wait to get these books into the hands of young readers!

Click here to visit our Kickstarter page and read more about how you can help make this project a reality.

WillYouHelpUsMemeREADERS: Have you ever involved your family in a project?

Welcome Jill Williamson!!!!

I am excited to welcome the fabulous Jill Williamson to our blog today.
But before we dive into some questions,
please leave your mark in the Slam Book.

Nickname: Don’t have one. Someone once called me Jill Bean, but it didn’t stick.

Genre: fantasy

Personal philosophy: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t speak.

Fave Scripture: There are too many favorites! Here is one: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” ―Romans 8:28

Fave Quote: Here too! Here is one I like: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ―Dr. Seuss

In high school I was… a basketball player, a Girl Scout, and a wannabe fashion designer.

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Jill Williamson was the first Christian author who showed me that writing weird stuff was OK. 😉
It is a pleasure to have her on the blog today and I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did. 🙂

     “You will be releasing the second book in The Safe Lands series, Outcasts. What inspired you to start this series?”

My publisher was looking for dystopian books. Knowing that, one day when I was at my Bible study group, we were working through Beth Moore’s study on the book of Daniel. At one point she asked listeners to think about some teenage boys we knew and imagine how they might cope if they were taken captive to a city like Babylon. That instantly got me thinking about a fantasy idea I had that was inspired by the book of Daniel. And I thought, “Hey! That idea might work as a dystopian!” And it did.

     “The world you portrayed in the first book, Captives, had some very cool futuristic items. Can you name your favorite one?”

I like SimTalk. I’m always forgetting to take my cell phone with me, so this way I’d have it with me always. The only bad part would be remembering to turn it off. I’d have people waking me up in the morning!

     “I found the world that you built within the walls of the Safe Lands very convicting and some of their practices mirrored what our world is like today. Did you find yourself convicted as you wrote it? How so?”

Yes. Levi believes that all Safe Landers are the enemy. He doesn’t trust them, and he doesn’t care about them. And that’s probably because he can’t relate to them. But Omar feels compassion for them. And while Levi wants to scrape them off and worry about the remnant from Glenrock alone, Omar thinks Safe Landers deserve to know the truth. I feel like Levi sometimes. I get frustrated with hateful people or people who are so caught up in themselves that they have lost any shred of goodness. But God loves them still. And they deserve the truth. I thought about that a lot as I wrote this book.

     “If you wanted the reader to walk away with one thing after reading this series what would it be?”

To remain strong when you face trials. Don’t give in to anger or despair, but trust that your faith can carry you through even the most terrible circumstance.

     “Is there a writer New Year’s resolution you wouldn’t mind sharing with our readers?”

I’d like to try and stay on task more. I’m going to try very hard to write a weekly To Do list for myself, then keep up with it all week. The weeks that I did this have always been the most productive, so I’d like to make it a weekly thing.

     “If you could be any character from any of your books who would you be?”

Don’t know. I kind of like being me. I wouldn’t mind being Vrell Sparrow for a few days, but I’d miss electricity. It might be fun to be Spencer and play a basketball game and be able to dunk. But I’d want to be myself again rather soon, I’d think.

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Thank you so much for joining us today Jill.
If you want to learn more about all aspects of Jill Williamson be sure to check out her website.
Attend her online launch party on January 10th.

In case you didn’t know,
the next installment of The Safe Lands series is coming out on January 7th.
In honor of the occasion I will be giving away one copy of Outcasts to a blog follower.
The winner will be announced on Jill’s release date.

Have you read any of Jill Williamson’s books? Which was your favorite and why? Leave me a comment and join in the conversation. 🙂

Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck