Last night, I was watching the special features for The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn. Jamie Bell, the actor who played Tintin in the show, was saying how honored he was to be playing a role loved by so many people for generations. He said that Tintin has been his hero for years.
And this morning, during family Bible time, we were discussing how to be an example to others. I got to thinking about what Jamie Bell had said, and began to think: isn’t it amazing that a book character (whether drawn with pen and ink like Herge’s Tintin, or “drawn” for the mind with descriptions in a book) can have such an impact on a person’s life? Isn’t it amazing that a grown man like Jamie can say with all sincerity and honesty that a cartoon character is his hero?
That got me thinking of all of my literary heroes: Edmund Pevensie, Dym Ingleford, Tintin, Uncle Frank Willis, Henry York, Pippin Took, Ralph Moody. These are characters that have shaped who I am. By observing the way they live life – whether a fictitious life, like Pippin, or a real life, like Ralph Moody – my own life is formed. By studying their character, my character is molded and strengthened. The Bible isn’t kidding when it says he who walks with the wise grows wise (Proverbs 13:20). You become who you hang around, and that includes hanging out with books.
Doesn’t it just blow our mind to think of how a story is formed? A person gets an idea, drawing from real life experiences and the amazing gift that God’s given us, called imagination. They sort through those ideas and imaginings and form a story. They then put that story into little marks on a page called letters and words. When another person takes up that page and runs their eyes across the words, images appear in their head. As if by magic, they’re whisked away to another place, feeling sea breeze on their face or the searing heat of the Sahara. But most amazing of all, is that the characters in the story sink in to the reader’s heart. If they are good characters, they actually have the power to change the reader’s life.
So when Mom was talking about being a good example during Bible time this morning, I couldn’t help but think of Zeke Johnson from 100 Cupboards, or C.S. Lewis from Surprised by Joy, or Dym from Enemy Brothers, or Tintin. And I became so thankful for all of the ways that book characters have formed my life – I would be a completely, totally, all-around different person today if I had never met with and hung out with these characters.
I want my characters in my stories to be the type of characters that will stick with people. That are worthy of being heroes. I want to spend my time reading about those type of characters. The Bible is the first place to start. Read about Jesus first, mold your life after Him, and then go find stories that have heroes that are like Him.
It’s a huge responsibility to sit down and begin writing a story. The people you create and the places you design are going to impact people, for better or worse. Most likely, your story will outlast you by centuries – what kind of example are you leaving for future generations?
Thanks to Tolkien for Pippin, Lewis for Edmund, Wilson for Henry, and Herge for Tintin. These characters are my friends. They’ve taught me how to have courage, honor, and valor. They’re the framework for not only my life, but my story characters. With God’s help, I want to pass on the blessing to other readers. I want my characters to be an example for years to come.