Think of your favorite biblical hero. David? Moses? Paul? Now, imagine some grouchy biblical novelist (like me) writing David’s story—but giving the beloved king a terrible flaw. Maybe he bites his fingernails or incessantly clears his throat.
What if Moses had a receding hairline? Not a problem while he’s a prince of Egypt—wearing a wig all the time—but certainly a different picture when he’s eighty years old, wearing a frumpy wool tunic, and wandering around the Sinai wilderness.
And Paul—don’t even get me started on Paul. What was his thorn in the flesh that he asked three times for the Lord to remove (2 Cor. 12:8)? Were his eyes weak and weepy, leftover symptoms of the supernatural scales that fell from his eyes at his conversion (Acts 9:18)? That’s what some commentators have suggested. Eww. Icky and eww.
The Bible Exposes Flawed Heroes
I’m so thankful biblical novels don’t have to “drum up” fiction to make a biblical character flawed. God’s Word reveals the Truth about our truly flawed heroes. All three—David, Moses, and Paul—were murderers. By all accounts, David was small of stature (1 Sam. 16:7-13). Moses was a tad-bit snobbish (Ex. 2:11-14), and Paul was a little mousy when he spoke in person (1 Cor. 2:1).
But PRAISE GOD, these men are remembered for their victories! They’re remembered as God’s mighty men. Forgiven, blessed, and favored by God in order to bless millions through flawed flesh, made capable by a perfect God.
Think About Solomon
Sometimes, it’s tough to imagine true human flaws in those we’ve held in such high esteem.
When I wrote Love’s Sacred Song, it was hard to write about King Solomon’s glaring flaws yet maintain the obvious favor God has lavished upon this man. Solomon was actually named, Jedidiah, loved by God (2 Sam. 12:25). The Lord displayed his pleasure by lavishing more wisdom on Solomon than on any man before or after him (1 Kings 4:29-34). Our God adored Bathsheba’s second-born son (2 Sam. 12:15-25).
But Solomon’s thousand wives and pagan altars tell us he was human—so very human and flawed. So, the wisest king on earth was given flaws by a trembling biblical novelist on her knees in Vancouver, WA—3,000 years after his reign.
Writing Good Villains
Just as biblical heroes must have flaws to be believable, biblical villains must have good qualities to seem real—and to keep the reader from throwing the book across the room. A villain that’s TOO evil—without any room for sympathy from the reader—will become a cause for consternation rather than an engaging part of the story.
Last month, we talked about Ginger Garrett’s portrait of Queen Jezebel in her book, Reign, and what a fabulous job she did with the greatest female villain of Scripture. Ginger introduces us to Jezebel with a horrendous event in her childhood, immediately giving the reader a foundation for all the evil that springs from this some-day queen. I still despise her, but at least I understand her—and even pity her.
Tosca Lee’s book, Iscariot, offers a masterful characterization of a biblical villain that goes a step farther. In my recent interview with Tosca, she says this of Judas Iscariot:
“I love the character of Judas because he’s the Everyman. Halfway through the book, I realized I was no longer writing his story, but my own.”
The art of writing a good villain isn’t about making the scenes gory or finding new ways to kill folks. Writing a good bad-guy means creating a character that every reader identifies with a little.
Reading For Real—the Good and Bad
God’s Word was meant to be read—for REAL. The people, the places, the struggles, the victories, and the defeats—they ALL lived, existed, happened. Too often, we read Scripture as if it was a biblical novel, a story penned by a human imagination.
God’s Word is God-breathed Truth, penned by human hands under the direct instruction of His Spirit.
But read it ALL. Read the good and the bad about these characters.
- Read their failures, and find strength to walk away from your own.
- Read their victories, and know that the same God offers you His aid.
- Read their praises, and join the crowd around the Throne, singing:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
- Writing a good bad guy means creating a character that every reader identifies with a little.
- Bible heroes, blessed millions through flawed flesh, made capable by a perfect God.
- The Bible reveals the Truth about flawed heroes, and God is bigger than their flaws.
- Be careful not to read the Bible like a novel and biblical novels like the Truth.
- Who is your favorite Bible hero, and what flaw did he/she have?