What Makes Fiction Christian—or Not?

Too much fiction today fails to consider spiritual issues. That men and women would actually ponder God and His place in their lives doesn’t seem to occur to most writers, or if it does, they don’t let these knotty issues bleed into their writing.

Christians, on the other hand, bring certain assumptions and convictions to our characters and our plots, because we are believers in Jesus. We assume:

  • The depravity of man, even in our heroes and heroines.
  • The grace of God to transform lives, even our villains.
  • The heart of man is either in rebellion against God (and therefore our characters are capable of any evil) or in submission to Him (and therefore our believing characters are capable of any strength).
  • Our characters have a vacuum that can only be filled by the presence of Christ.
  • Our characters can’t self-actualize, but they can grow and become more than they were because of a developing relationship with God.
  • The love of God is a legitimate motive for action and the power of God is a reasonable cause for change.

God’s story in your story
The trick is translating our beliefs into logical stories with characters who live and breathe. Everyone likes a good story and we recognize Scripture as God’s story. We teach our children about the adventures of Bible characters and encourage them to visit storyworlds like Narnia. And we devour by the score adventures, romances, mysteries, and speculative books.

Story doesn’t lecture. Story doesn’t point fingers. Story shows.

Readers invest in our characters—these imagined people who work out the complications in their lives. In so doing, readers—real people with real complications—find patterns they can apply in their lives. No sermons. No harangues. Patterns based in Truth. Patterns offering hope.

And, because it’s a story, the patterns are bound in a tale so rich and lively it keeps them turning the pages.

React: What do you think of when you hear the term “Christian fiction”?

Photo: Gayle RoperGayle Roper, a Christian Writers Guild mentor, is the award-winning author of more than 45 books. She has been a Christy 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.

Comments

  1. Julie Marx says

    Great article, Gayle. I totally agree that most Christian writing omits the ‘relational’ aspect of characters and God. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in their lives/minds as well as He is in mine. Misinterpretations and all. Why not show it?

  2. Jackie Barrow says

    I like your article, Gayle. I’m wondering how an author discerns when she is lecturing or preaching verses telling and showing . . . any thoughts? I have a book for young adults that I’ve written and there’s a place in it where I feel like I’ve crossed this line but I don’t know how to soften it to get it back on the other side. I wonder if you have some examples of what might be considered “lecturing” or “preachy” verses acceptable . . . :) Also, could you give me an example of “showing”? Thanks, Jackie

    • says

      Jackie, Quick answer on how to make certain the Christian content of a story isn’t preaching: every thought or word comes out of the character as you’ve created him/her. Brief is better so the reader doesn’t skip over the thought to get to the action. You’ve got a whole book to make your theological point. Don’t dump it in one place.

      • says

        Next week, look for Gayle to share on how a writer can know he or she has crossed the line into preaching.

        “It’s a hard line to define,” she says, “but you know it when you cross it.”

        Stay tuned.

  3. Cathryn Swallia says

    In a story I completed recently I have one character who is a retired Army Colonel and has an IQ to match. I had him deliver a short speech that is rather wordy and on the preachy side on purpose to emphasise his austerity. I’m hoping that this brief flirtation with preachiness fits within the boundaries of “keeping to the character”!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *