Saturday, February 1, 2020

Infusing the Characters We Write With the Strength To Live Well

by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

This weekend, I was fortunate to be able to celebrate two lives that were obviously well lived.

On Saturday, my family went to the visitation of the 93-year-old mother of a friend of mine. Her obituary, told how she had grown up during the depression, had a career working for various federal departments, and, upon her retirement at 62, took up competitive swimming and continued swimming throughout her eighties. (See this link for my take on obituaries.) Every time I met her, she had a big, beautiful smile and wanted to talk about my family and me.

On Sunday, I carried my mother to our friend’s 90th birthday celebration. True to her nature, she didn’t want to have the party because, she said, “Who would come?”

Only most of the church and her extended family. Humble and gracious, she has touched a lot of lives without being flashy or outspoken, but by being present and caring.

Both of these ladies lived through many unhappy circumstances: a daughter who died as a small child, the lost of their spouses, and sickness. But they continue to have lives that give hope to those who knew them.

I want to show that in my life. I also want to show that in my characters’ lives.

The genre that I like most to read and write is mystery suspense. Not always a bright and cheery category. In fact, more and more I find books and authors who express darkness and the lack of hope or justice. Their characters face a life that is out of anyone’s control and, in the end, there is no reason to it. They have lives, but no hope or joy.

As a Christian, I know that isn’t true. There is a God who loves you and cares about you. Who has a plan and destination for each of us if we allow Him.  Whatever circumstances we go through, He’s there. And He wants us to know Him. Personally.

In our craft books and classes, we often discuss the different types of conflicts: physical, mental, and emotional. But there’s another we discussed at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and that is spiritual.

And yet it’s often the most important and the one we struggle with the greatest. Because if there is no God or He doesn’t care, like our feelings and circumstances can lead us to believe, then why bother?

And telling someone to buck up, lift your chin up, keep fighting, just rings hollow.

I’m reading another Eugene Peterson’s book, Eat This BookSee this link for last month’s comments on his Leap Over the Wall. I didn’t know he wrote anything but The Message. My bad.

He writes about how St. John in Revelation 10 is told by an angel to take a small scroll and eat it. “It will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.”

I think a lot of times our sharing and witnessing give folks bellyaches, especially if they aren’t used to it. A baby has to start with baby food and applesauce before it can dine on pizzas and rib eyes. It’s the same for whoever isn’t used to hearing about the gospel or our Creator. We need to be careful that we don’t make them sick by giving them too big a portion.

We need to be careful that the hope and faith we share is giving in a way that is enticing and digestible to our reader or hearer. What good is sharing the gospel if we’re just chasing people away. It’s not a merit badge or some kind of pin. Right?

In our writing, how we do this differs with what we write. With devotions and Bible studies, you can be more direct. But what if you’re a journalist, write science fiction, or write for a secular market. What if you’re trying to start a blog and want to please your readers? What do you do then?

I know this, everyone of your readers needs hope. The hope that is only found in Jesus.

Sometimes telling this is scary and you may think for your writing whipping out John 3:16 isn’t appropriate.

Yet your reader still needs hope. Sometimes it’s me who needs to hear that there’s hope, that I’m loved.

So how can we do it? Because I don’t know of a more important message to give someone.

I just finished reading Lynnette Eason’s Code of Valor(Told you I like mystery and suspense.) In it she shows (because we fiction writers don’t tell) the struggle that the main characters have in realizing that God gives a hoot for them and how they grow to realize He’s there.

Is it scary to write about something that we all experience but it makes us so vulnerable? Yes, and I’m sure it is for Lynnette, too. And she will probably get some negative reviews from that reader who can’t digest it yet.

She will also have readers who see themselves in her story and, just maybe, their problem will become a little less heavy. They will understand they don’t have to carry their burden, their yoke, all by themselves.

And if they were my readers, that would make me very happy.

Infusing the Characters We Write With the Strength To Live Well - @TimSuddeth on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Tim Suddeth is a stay-at-home dad and butler for his wonderful, adult son with autism. He has written numerous blogs posts, short stories, and three novels waiting for publication. He is a frequent attendee at writers’ conferences, including the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and a member of Word Weavers and ACFW. He lives near Greenville, SC where he shares a house with a bossy Shorky and three too-curious Persians. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at


  1. Another great post, Tim. Hopefully, all of us have known a few people with well-lived lives. God put them there for us - hopefully, we recognized them for the blessings they were (and still are.) Tim, your writing is among the clearest, tightest I've come across. It truly communicates and resonates - with me, at least. Thank you, my friend.
    Jay Wright; Anderson, SC

  2. Excellent point. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  3. Very helpful and insightful, thank you!