Monday, December 22, 2014

Risky Writing

By Charis Joy Jackson

Being creative is what I live for. Whether it’s writing, acting or making movies. I love it and I’m blessed to work in a film office where I get to do these things.

One of my responsibilities is to supervise the film interns in their writing. I give them feedback on their screenplays and over the last few months the feedback has been the same on every story. It got me thinking, these are important things for every writer to know so I thought I’d share them with you. It’s not an extensive list, but I think it will challenge more than just your writing.

1. Take a risk - Make it personal
    Christmas is only a few days away and every year I can't help but think of the risk Jesus took in coming to earth as a baby.  Talk about being vulnerable. We should be vulnerable too.

    Whether you are writing fiction, non-fiction or a screenplay make it personal. The more vulnerable you are in your writing the more appealing it is to read. It helps the characters you write to feel fleshed out and whole, less like two-dimensional pieces of cardboard. It adds complexity to your story and helps you find lots of little subplots to keep your reader engaged.

    If you’re writing a work of non-fiction don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself and share embarrassing stories. It allows your reader to be vulnerable too. It gives them that “Ha!-I-totally-do-that/ I-thought-I-was-the-only-one type of moment. Your reader is more likely to want to hear what you have to say because who wants to listen to a know it all who never does anything wrong!?

2. Take a death-defying jump - Bring something new

    Every single one of us is unique. No fingerprint or snowflake is the same and no writer is the same.

    No one can tell a story like you.

    Working with Youth With a Mission I get asked to teach on different schools and topics. One topic was Intercession - the act of standing in the gap through prayer. I really didn’t want to study more into the topic. Intercession often seems stale and boring, sitting for long hours in a stuffy room while people repeat the same prayer over and over again. When I sat down to prepare my teaching I knew I had to change my perspective and this question popped into my head, “Why was I asked to speak about this and not someone else? What unique way do I view the world?”

     I speak through stories and symbolism.

    Thus began a long search for how I could show the exciting and even a little frightening side of intercession. In the end I showed the class a short video of a waterfall in Africa where people go to jump into the flowing water right at the edge of the falls. The place is called the Devil's Pool. It’s totally a death-defying experience. The current is strong and if you aren’t careful you will fall over the edge, but under the water there is a ridge that acts like a railing of rock to keep everyone safe inside the pool. The wall of rock literally stands in the gap. Just like we do when we intercede.

     This waterfall analogy is an example of how each of us adds something different to story as well. We could all sit down and write the story of Cinderella and on the surface they’d all be the same "waterfall". Yet in the details (under the water), my version would look different to yours, just as yours would look different to another author.

    My point of this list?

   The best way to be brave in your writing is to be brave in life.

   Take more risks, it kills fear. I’m always afraid I’ll get my characters stuck in a situation I won’t know how to write them out of, but when I’m brave enough to take those risks, I find my story is actually more appealing.

   What are some risky tips you’ve used to help your readers engage more in your work?


Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization & is part of The Initiative Production Company. She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel, which she hopes to create into a seven part series. 

Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder. 
Welcome to the adventure.


  1. Good advice. Trust God and go for it. He knows the outcome.

    1. Thanks Jennifer. Yes, trusting God is always the best.

  2. That's great Charis. You're so right about taking risks. It can be scary, but it gives your work that originality. God has challenged me a number of times to add personal details to non-fiction pieces I've written. Sometimes I've gone 'Eek, I don't want people to know that'. Sometimes it's still a little raw and the timing may not be quite right. But when I have made myself vulnerable and shared something personal, that's the time when I've gotten feedback that it's touched someone.

    Good on you for taking those risks. We'll have to meet at the edge of a cliff sometime :)

    1. Nola! I love it. "We'll have to meet at the edge of a cliff sometime" best line ever. Yes. Yes we will. :)

  3. I remember how vulnerable I felt after my first novel was released a few years ago. But I felt even more vulnerable when my first memoir came out in 2012 because I had revealed so much about myself. Yet I found this enabled people to engage much more closely with what I had written, just as you say, Charis. And I have just done it all over again with writing my second memoir! While it might be scary to take such risks, I think it is also very freeing--both to us and hopefully for our readers as well. So thanks for your encouragement to take this risks!

    1. Hi Jo-Anne, wow, yes! Writing a memoir would definitely be a vulnerable thing. I'm glad you took the risk!