The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

CSFF Blog Tour: Captives (Pt. 2)

By: Thomas F. Booher

I usually do these reviews to point out what I think is both good and bad writing. I do this so the readers and perhaps the authors themselves (if they read and are willing to consider my thoughts) can improve in their writing and storytelling. My belief is that some Christian fiction authors have fallen into certain styles of writing that are not seen as much or at all in non-Christian fiction writing. Thankfully, Jill Williamson avoids most of that in Captives. However, I was so inundated with characters and their names at the beginning of the story that I was having trouble sorting people out, let alone getting to know them and their place in the story. Maybe others can sort many characters out better than I can, but even if they can, I don't know if flooding your reader with characters up front is helpful. The story does jump from many different characters and their perspectives, so in a sense there are multiple protagonists and main characters, but only after I was nearly halfway through the book (also the point where I felt the story took a turn for the better) did I seem to get traction with any of the characters.

That aside, there are some characters I like. Jordan I do not like, but I don't think he is supposed to be liked. Jill Williamson, if you read this, I would also like to know why you constantly have him saying things like "son of a cock roach's guts" or other such bizarre nonsense. Further into the story you seemed to make a stab at him for saying things like that through one of the other characters smirking, and you refer to his words as something to the effect of incoherent babbling at one point, but do you really think Jordan talking like this helps your story? My suggestion would be, go all the way and have him use actual cuss words, or just mention that he let out a string of obscenities at his captors. What Jordan says just sounds silly, and nobody in that situation would say things like that.

Which leads to another main concern -- characters acting differently than humans would in real life. This I found to occur early on in the story. For starters, while I suppose it is possible one would unexpectedly throw up like Mason does on p. 50 due to the death and shock of the situation he is in, I found it a bit over the top. I don't think Jill Williamson meant it this way, but it can come off like, "well, in case you couldn't tell by my writing, this is a serious situation and this character is really upset about that, so in case my writing couldn't communicate that, his throwing up will." I understood Mason was conflicted without having to have him suddenly throw up, only to go on doing something else the next moment. The writing communicated adequately.

Another example and I think a better one is Omar on p. 58. Reacting to seeing his family killed when he did not plan things to go down that way, he concludes he is dreaming, and that this is a terrible nightmare. Then, he is snapped to reality. I don't think most people would conclude they were in a nightmare. Again, I suppose it's possible, but even if it is, that's not the best way to communicate his shock, not to mention it is a bit of a cliche. I think it would be much better to say that Omar felt as if this was a terrible nightmare, rather than he actually convince himself that it was one. Also, Omar seems to yell at the enforcers who killed his tribe one minute, and comply with them the next in chapter 5. This would be more believable if Omar cared less for all of his tribe/family, but in that chapter and the chapters that follow he does seem to have some love for them. In light of that, I think Omar would not comply with the enforcers, not so readily at least. It may slow the story down, but I think for the sake of realism and for character development this would have been worthwhile to adjust. Part of my problem may also have been that I was still mesmerized with all the different characters and their names at this point, so what was happening was hard for me to understand.

The reason these things are important to address is because if characters do not act true to reality, then they are unrelatable. If a reader cannot relate to a character, than that character is a bad character. This does not of course mean the character would respond the way I would respond; that wouldn't be much fun either. The character does have to respond in a believable way though: maybe his personality is different from mine and therefore he or she acts in a different way than I would, but I can at least see that character as behaving in a way that certain humans with certain personalities and beliefs and fears would act. Early on, I couldn't relate to some of the characters (at least fully).

I had these same concerns with some of the girls that were taken to the Safe Lands early in the story as well. I understand that they are having conflicting desires, but their initial love for the Safe Lands, in light of all that had happened to them, was unrealistic to me. Even for Mia, who makes the most sense given her character to enjoy the Safe Lands, she would have realized that it could have been her or her mother who were dead just as easily as it was her other tribe members. That alone would put everyone in a great degree of fear, anger, and doubt toward their captors and their way of life.

I imagine some of the reasons for the younger women (and Omar) behaving as receptively as they did to the Safe Lands and its way of life is due to their own personal self esteem issues and depressions. As the story went on, it seemed like the characters reacted in ways that were more realistic, more like you or I would react, and that went a long way in improving the overall story and its effects. In my next post, I want to talk about the morals of the Safe Lands and the morals of the people of Glenrock, who are supposed to be Christians. As I stated yesterday, I think the contrasting moralities of the story are one of the best parts of Captives, and I do think that teenagers would be able to identify with some of the more rebellious and conflicted characters, and hopefully mature along with them.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. 

Author’s website -

Check out other reviews of Captives for the CSFF blog tour: 

<a href=""> Julie Bihn</a>
<a href=""> Thomas Fletcher Booher</a>
<a href=""> Keanan Brand</a>
<a href=""> Beckie Burnham</a>
<a href=""> Morgan L. Busse</a>
<a href=""> Jeff Chapman</a>
<a href=""> Pauline Creeden</a>
<a href=""> Emma or Audrey Engel</a>
<a href=""> Victor Gentile</a>
<a href=""> Timothy Hicks</a>
<a href=""> Jason Joyner</a>
<a href=""> Carol Keen</a>
<a href=""> Shannon McDermott</a>
<a href=""> Meagan @ Blooming with Books</a>
<a href=""> Rebecca LuElla Miller</a>
<a href=""> Joan Nienhuis</a>
<a href=""> Asha Marie Pena</a>
<a href=""> Nathan Reimer</a>
<a href=""> Chawna Schroeder</a>
<a href=""> Jojo Sutis</a>
<a href=""> Jessica Thomas</a>
<a href=""> Steve Trower</a>
<a href=""> Phyllis Wheeler</a>
<a href=""> Rachel Wyant</a>


  1. Ouch. Some bold criticisms here.

    You're the second person who has commented negatively about the POV shifts early on. I've heard that this is a no-no, but she managed to do it in a way that kept me engaged, and for whatever reason, I didn't feel confused.

  2. I completely agree with the assessment that they don't act like normal people would.