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In the Author’s Image

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.—Genesis 1:27 (RSVCE)

“It’s not my fault—the characters did it themselves.”

This is how most fiction authors react when their beta readers accuse them of putting their characters in bad situations. And most beta readers (at least those who aren’t authors themselves) will answer with a strange look and a shake of the head.

But as an author, I’ve discovered there’s more truth to those words than most people realize.

I create my characters and pour myself into them. I give them life, personalities, and quirks. I determine their strengths and skills. Once the characters are created, I release them into the wild of my story. But before I know it, they’ve taken the personalities I gave them and done things without my consent. She’ll react to situations her way, he’ll make the choices he wants, and sometimes their strengths even fizzle out into weaknesses that bring them nothing but trouble.

Of course, I’m still the author. I could make the plot go in any direction I want. I have the power to force my villain to turn back to the good side or to forbid my main character from making the wrong choice. And it’s true that doing so would spare all the characters a lot of pain and trouble. But it would also rob them of what makes them them. They would be flat, forced, and unrelatable.

They wouldn’t be free.

And if we want readers to relate to our characters—if we want our characters to feel like real people—then they must be free…because freedom is a gift from our Author.

God created humankind in His own image. He gave us life, personalities, and quirks. He determined our strengths and skills. And once He created us, God released us into the world He made for us. But we take the personalities He’s given us and do things without His consent. We react to situations our way, make the choices we want, and let our strengths fizzle until they’re weaknesses that bring us nothing but trouble.

Of course, God is still the author. He could make events happen however He wants. He has the power to force us to turn from doing evil or never walk down that road in the first place. And it’s true that doing so would spare us a lot of pain and trouble.

But God created us in His image instead. He gave us free will: the power to choose good or evil. He took a risk—knowing that free will opened the possibility of suffering—because He also knew that, without free will, there could be no love.

And love was worth the risk.

There may be some beta readers out there who still blame the Author for all the suffering in the world. But let’s thank Him instead for the joy, power, and inspiration of the moments when the characters choose what’s right—of their own free will.

And let’s also thank Him for the chance that we as authors have: the chance to sub-create in the image of our loving Creator and, by doing so, to better know and love Him.

© Isabelle Wood 2024

Photo copyright Canva


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