I think it’s vital to be honest in the way we portray our characters, whatever their religious views might be. I’m a Christian and inevitably approach writing from that point-of-view. I believe that there is one good and gracious God who’s both loving and just, that good and evil exist in our world, that our lives are beautiful but marred by pain, that hope and redemption are ultimately available only through faith in Jesus Christ.
These beliefs about the world—that our lives and choices matter to God, that evil is real, that justice and love will prevail, that redemption is available—affect the stories that I tell and the way that I tell them. If I were to tell a story that glamorized evil or celebrated the things that God abhors, I wouldn’t be writing in a way that is congruent with my convictions. My stories are by no means sermons, but you’ll see themes related to these issues of justice and evil, of hope and love and accountability woven through almost all of the stories I write.
Whenever I’m writing from the perspective of someone who doesn’t believe the same things as I do, I strive to be as honest as I can in portraying that character’s views and beliefs.
But how much rope do I give myself when the character I’m writing about (say for example, a serial killer) has different views of justice, of sin, or accountability to our Creator? Well, I do my best to step into that character’s head and write what he or she would naturally think. And, yes, sometimes it’s frightening. In a few cases, it’s been terrifying.
When I was writing Opening Moves, the villain named Joshua (don’t worry, that’s not a plot spoiler), really startled me in how he viewed people and how alluring it was to him to cause pain in their lives. I had nightmares writing a few of the scenes in this book. I suppose that’s one of the drawbacks of entering into your writing on such an emotional level—it can’t help but affect your emotions. But honestly, I don’t know any other way to write.