Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Balanced Writing: Guest Post by Jessi Roberts

Note from Keturah Lamb: Hey, I'd like to introduce you all to my friend, Jessi Roberts, whom I met at the Realm Maker's conference a couple years ago. She writes sci-fi stories centered around aliens and is an overall fun person to talk to — Love how she thinks critically about interesting subjects! I hope you all will enjoy what she has to share today!

When it comes to writing, there’s a line authors sometimes debate about, and that is the line between writing clean fiction and writing realistic fiction.

I’ve thought about this myself. While I don’t believe it’s wrong to put swear words in stories, I don’t use them, other than references to “h***” as a place. It would make my audience smaller, and since it feels unnatural to me, I might use them in a way that doesn’t feel realistic.

Some authors try to show that what the characters are doing is wrong, but when I feel the author’s view coming through and telling me the POV character is doing something wrong, it takes me out of the story. I’m supposed to be in the POV character’s head, not the author’s. These stories often come across as preachy, a problem common in the Christian and general market.

I like to portray morally diverse characters since that’s how life is. 

I might show a good soldier on one side, but he could be in opposition to insurgents who are also portrayed positively. I leave it up to the readers to decide what that soldier should be doing. In some story lines, I might have him change sides, or I might only mention him/her in passing and not expand on what’s going to happen to him/her.

In these cases, I think it’s fine for the readers to think about it and come to their own conclusions. I don’t believe it’s likely they’d be harmed if they chose the “wrong” outlook. I got them to think about it, and if they’re thinking about it, I figure I accomplished my goal.

I also have characters who are “good guys” but may have some beliefs I disagree with, such as racism/ speciesism or slave trading. I figure that, because society opposes these beliefs strongly, there is little chance my readers would become like the characters being portrayed.

However, there are a few things I have decided I will never portray without showing it as a bad idea. Homosexual relationships, fornication, lying for selfish reasons, and disrespect of (good) parents.

Why won’t I portray these in passing like slave traders, racism, and other issues? Because unlike those issues, our society is confused about these. 

When society doesn’t know something is wrong, authors have to be much more careful about portraying them. 

We can mention some things in passing, or even portray the characters as allies to the good guys without harming the reader because the reader will know those things are wrong, but if the reader is unsure something is wrong, we must be more careful not to normalize sinful behavior.

 What about you, readers? What are some things you won’t show?

About Jessi Roberts:
I live and work on my family’s cattle ranch in eastern Montana. I have a flock of chickens, a hyper golden retriever, some cows, and a few horses. I enjoy fantasy and science fiction and my head is full of wild sci-fi story ideas, some involving apocalypses and others involving aliens.

I’ve been published in the October 2015 and April 2016 issues of Havok Magazine, an imprint of Splickety Publishing Group.

You can connect with Jessi on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


  1. Lovely post, Jessi! I'm so glad you decided to share with us. Something I won't show? I'll admit, I've shown a lot of things in my writing, but I try to not ever show the exact sin in "all it's glory". Such as I've had characters living in fornication/ adultery but I won't actually show the sex scenes. In fact I do as little kissing as I can (which to some people is still a lot). I never use curse words, or even vulgar words. I might infer them or say the character cursed. But I don't use the actual words. Also, when I show these sort of things, it's for a purpose. I'm a big believer of themes and I try to weave them in so that the story not only entertains, but edifies as well :)


  2. Great post! (And I agree with you about the themes, Keturah....)

    Something I probably won’t show in my stories.....probably homosexuality, for obvious reasons.

    1. Yeah, I'm very passionate about homosexuality. So I may someday write about it, but I haven't found the way to do so yet. And may never ;0

    2. I think if one wanted to write about homosexuality, it would be best to heavily research the Christians who identify/have identified as that in the past. I don't know any who were homosexual and changed, though I have seen a large group of them who are Christian and have decided to be celibate.

  3. That's basically how I feel about all these things, too! I love it when I see people who agree with me on this controversial issues. :)