Previously, Gayle wrote What Makes Fiction Christian—Or Not?. She was asked how to discern when a spiritual thread has turned preachy.
As a new writer, I felt I had to preach the Gospel in every book. I’ve learned that any every book can illustrate a spiritual truth, not every book must be a salvation story.
How can you say what needs to be said spiritually but make it organic to your story?
Let your characters speak
When you intrude as the author, your story suffers. But if your character struggles with integrity, when he realizes the truth that your sin will find you out and that sin has consequences, bingo, it resonates.
Readers are intelligent. You don’t have to yell at them.
Sean watched Jerry being helped into the back seat of the police cruiser. That could have been him being shamed before the whole neighborhood. It would have been him sitting there if he’d stuck his foot over the line. His skin prickled at how close he’d come. No one’ll know, Jerry’d said. And Sean had almost fallen for that lie. It was like the verse said, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”
“Oh, Lord, You saved me from falling. Thank You!”
He looked at his wife and saw her disappointment in him. She knew how close he’d been skating to moral disaster.
“Marie, I’m sorry.”
She gave him a sad smile and walked to the house. How could he prove to her that he loved her as Christ loved the church? That he regretted even tiptoeing near sin? Shoulders slumped, he watched the cops drive Jerry away.
Example: Less is more
Sean watched Jerry being helped into the back seat of the police cruiser. That could have been him, shamed before the whole neighborhood. It would have been him if he’d stuck his foot over the line. His skin prickled at how close he’d come. No one’ll know, Jerry’d said. And Sean had almost fallen for the lie.
He looked at his wife and saw her disappointment. In him. She understood much more than he’d realized.
“Marie.” His voice cracked on the plea for understanding, forgiveness.
She gave a sad smile and walked back to the house.
He watched the police drive Jerry away.
In Scene 2, I didn’t spell out how conflicted Sean is as I did in Scene 1. We can tell without the words.
Truth reveals itself over time
Realization of truth may seem like it comes in one great burst of insight—but it doesn’t. When we look back, we see a series of incidents led us to the decisive moment. So it needs to be with your characters.
Gayle Roper, a Christian Writers Guild mentor, is the award-winning author of more than 45 books. She has been a Christy Award finalist three times for her novels Spring Rain, Summer Shadows, and Winter Winds. She enjoys reading, spending time at her family’s Canadian cottage, and gardening.