Free Christian Writer Training Course 3, Lesson 4
Specialities Of A Good Piece Of Christian Writing
It is very clear to even the casual observer that the writings of a Christian are definitely different from that of a non Christian. This difference is seen even when the Christian writes on a non-religious or non-moral subject. This is because the Christian world-view permeates his thinking, evaluation, and opinions. So much so that this can be perceived in his oral or written expressions.
Yet, what is Christian does not automatically become good or pleasant reading. Goodness is a quality that has to be created in addition to the substance of the writing. A good material does not automatically guarantee pleasant reading, nor does pleasing writing guarantee material of any substance. They are different from each other, but in a truly good writing they should go hand in hand. Yet, to a casual reader or writer this distinction might not be as clear as it ought to be!!
In this section we will discuss what is a good writing, but will not refer specifically to Christian writings. That is because these comments and observations apply equally to both Christian as well as non Christian writings.
Everyone who is interested in reading instinctively recognizes good writing. Book lovers unconsciously choose what most others also chose, and the thread that unites them is the goodness or quality of the writing.
While it is easy to recognize a good writing, it is not all that easy to define what makes a writing good. Language is a natural phenomenon, not bound by mathematical boundaries, and therefore there are many things about language that cannot be brought in the confines of a rigid or restricted definition. However, it is possible to list some qualities of good writings, and that I will do now:
I-IT CAPTURES THEIR ATTENTION: Almost all good writings capture the attention of those readers for whom they are intended. Good stories attract both children as well as adults.
Witness the popularity of the Phantom (Indrajal Comics) or Tintin, Asterix, Mandrake. Observe the popularity of Bahadur, Boban-Molly (Malayalam language), or comics produced by the Amar Chitra Katha. In book-loving families they create a stir with everyone from the grandpa to the grand child to see who gets to read it first.
In the same way, good textbooks attract everyone, while good books on philosophy, photography, cooking, hobby development, or any conceivable or inconceivable subject attract people for whom it has been written, and elicits great enthusiasm from the intended audience. This is the reason why Reader’s Digest continues to be the most widely sold magazine in the world. A Digest is something that searches out and publishes good material from all over.
2-IT FASCINATES THEM: In a careless moment people might yield to thinking that only comics excite people, but they are wrong. Look seriously around and you will find that good books on ALL subjects excite and fascinate people.
While the son might be absorbed in his comic (that the dad is waiting to read next), his dad is equally excited about the 2000-page volume on theology or philosophy which has come recently from the pen of a master writer. Look around on the train when you travel next. It gives you an opportunity for studying the reading preferences and habits of a large number of persons simultaneously and in the same setting. You will notice the that philosopher is as much excited about the journal in his had as the housewife is about her film-magazine and the sports buff about his sports magazine.
Good writing not only captures people’s attention, but it also fascinates them so that they are not willing to trade it with anything else. They lay down the book or magazine only when tiredness, hunger or nature’s call interrupts them. Further, you will notice that they automatically resume reading as soon as they attend to the call that distracted them in the first place. Good writing must not only capture people’s attention, but it must also fascinate them into continue reading till the reach the last line. It is difficult to create, but not impossible as attested by the mountain of good writings available today.
3-IT TOUCHES THEIR PAINS AND NEEDS: People read for different reasons. This includes education, information, and entertainment, but is not limited to these.
A lot of them expect additional help in their needs and problems. This is the reason why magazines on health and fitness, psychology, astrology, self-improvement, and do-it-yourself topics are bought in large quantities. People are hurting everywhere, and a good writer discovers these things and addresses their pains, problems, aspirations, and desires in his writings.
Even the richest man and the funniest comedian have some pain and problem hidden in their hearts. Neither money nor the sense of humour relieve them of their problems or aches. However, good writings can definitely help them.
A young person might have many aspirations and desires but might not have the faintest idea about how to go about fulfilling these. Others might have similar desires but might need guidance. Good writing captures their attention and offers them the appropriate solution.
Good writing tells them how to overcome their pain, how to fight with their problems, and how to reach where they want to go. It offers consolation to the mother who has lost her only son, to the wife who has been widowed and left with half a dozen children who do not yet know the difference between their left and right hands. At the same time it guides the depressed father back into a normal life, guides the young girl into the values of preserving her chastity, and motivates the young man to work harder to attain his noble and ambitious goals.
If your writings are good, people would be able to look back to them and say that these touched their pains and problems at the crucial point, and helped them with their aspirations and noblest desires of life.
4-IT MOTIVATES THEM INTO ACTION: Good writings motivates people into attitudes and deeds that are appropriate, expected of them, and that are good for the society. It does so by changing their habits, viewpoints, and even aspirations.
If the society is to be a good place to live in, people have to respect law and order. They have to be courteous and ready to defend the values upon which their society is built upon. They should treat heroes as great and criminals as the scum of the society. Crime, violence, and lust should be seen in correct perspective, and they should never be glorified or even condoned. Good writings do all these by motivating people in the appropriate direction.
The actions that make a society good do not come automatically. Many people with proper conviction have to build it up. In the same way, what makes society rotten or degraded does not happen automatically. People have to do things to make it like that. People do these things, good or bad, only when they are motivated to do so. Good writings mould the habits, viewpoints, and aspirations of people in the right direction. It builds up the society by building up and motivating people.
One should not forget that man’s sin nature makes it easy for evil to spread in comparison with good. Evil people find it easy to unite against the good people so as to threaten their righteous ways. However, the good people find it almost difficult to unite together to oppose evil. This means that the writer should pay all the more attention to motivate people to get involved in things that are beneficial for the society.
5-IT CREATES COMMITMENT: Nothing can be achieved in life without some sort of commitment. This is an important principle when one tries to make the society a better place. No good comes out of people or society without commitment.
The better things of life require both short term as well as long term commitment. For example, a man working in an office which has no pension scheme has to plan ahead and make something like a forty year commitment for savings if he has to provide for his family at retirement. Very few people are that foresighted.
At the same time, a person will be able to make that kind of a long term commitment only if he makes several short term commitments like forgoing some of the pleasures that are enjoyed by his short-sighted colleagues and friends. He will have to forgo some of the luxuries in which people indulge. He might even have to work a little extra before his marriage. Only this will ensure that he has something to fall back upon after he has a family, or if he faces a financial emergency, for which the long term commitment ought not be disturbed. Life promises to offer a lot of things. All of them look fascinating. However only those things are worth working for that have a lasting value. For most people these better things do not come easy, cheap, or by a stroke of luck. One has to work for them. Good writings explain these things to the reader, and in turn they create in the readers an intelligent commitment — towards long term as well as short term goals.
There are many who can look back into their past and testify that good writings helped them to become what they are now. Good doctors, lawyers, engineers, athletes, and professionals can testify to it. But what is more, good pastors, counsellors, writers, teachers, parents, housewives, and even good sons and daughters, who make this earth a better place to live in, can also often point to books and articles that helped them to become what they are now.
6-IT CONDEMNS EVIL, PRAISES RIGHTEOUSNESS: What is condemned by good writers imprints itself in the minds of people. At the same time, what good writers praise in their writings motivate people to aspire for it. Therefore good writings condemn evil, create an abhorrence against sin, praise righteousness, and create a desire towards righteousness.
Writings, specially that of popular writers or authority figures, have a great appeal for people. Readers consider their statements as authoritative truths. This means that the quality of the writing ultimately affects the quality of the way people think and act. Good writings, therefore, project the good things of life.
A good writer would like to keep people away from sins and sinning. His writings would therefore reflect this desire. Good writings do not stop with condemning evil — which it should do — but go further by creating in the hearts of people an abhorrence against sin. Only this is the long term solution to guide people towards righteous behaviour.
Good writers know that what they praise, people will accept as appropriate. Thus all good writings praise righteousness. But if people have to love righteousness of their own, a desire for it has to be created. Consequently, good writings skilfully create a appetite in their hearts for a life that is marked with straight forwardness and holiness.
Both sin as well as righteousness can become habits. It depends upon one’s tastes and preferences. The degenerate ones would like the world to love sin, but the good writer counters the tendency through what he says. Good writings therefore not only condemn sin and exalt righteousness, but also develop attitudes that will sustain this viewpoint.
Therefore good writings never even indirectly exalt sin, nor question things inherently or spiritually good. Their writers know that previous souls might be destroyed if they stoop down to doing this either actively or even through negligence. Their writings therefore reflect what they want people to do. They generate a revulsion against sin and a passion for righteousness.
In summary, all good writing praises good things and motivates people to prefer that which is good. This analysis applies not only to writings by Christians, but also to writings produced by non Christians.
Good writing is that writing which captures people’s attention, fascinates them, touches upon their pains as well as their aspirations. It motivates them into certain actions by changing their attitudes, viewpoints, and goals. It creates short term as well as long term commitment to the better things of life. What is more, it condemns sin, creates an abhorrence gains unrighteousness, praises righteousness, and creates a desire towards a life that is marked by honesty, and transparency.