16 November 2010

Some Thoughts on Christian Fiction

Christian fiction is a hot topic these days and a growing book market. Opinions on Christian fiction range from the ecstatic (from people who are looking for a specific and narrow kind of reading experience) to the disgusted (from people are predisposed to hate things spiritual).

What is Christian fiction, anyway? According to some, it is a story that contains the plan of salvation and centers on someone who undergoes a conversion experience. There are even publishers who require these elements in any book they publish. But if that is Christian fiction, then every novel will have the same, predictable story line. Moreover, there is little or no room for a subtext to enrich the world of the book.

The purpose of that kind of book is to proselytise. Now that is a legitimate activity if the other person is willing to listen, but it is not the stuff of a novel. The text for that already exists and no one can do it better: the four Gospels in the New Testament. If you want to proselytise, talk primarily to people who want to hear, give them a synopsis of the gospel story, and refer them to the Gospels for a full account. It is not likely to work well at all in a novel.

For others, Christian literature is a safe place to read, where the world of the book is the same as the imagined culture of the American Bible Belt minus all its ugly aspects. The world is not really like that, though and that is a problem for the novelist.

What really makes a book a Christian novel is that the author is a believer. Like any author, the Christian author should be able to deal with any topic of universal importance that will contribute something of value to the reader. Major Christian writers include Pascal, Tolkien, Flannery O'Connor, and Dorothy Sayers. None of them wrote to proselytise and all dealt with issues from the real world in some way or another.

Readers: Read widely. Writers: Write what you are given and be faithful to your calling.

To learn more about my book, please visit www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html


  1. From the Christian fiction that I have read I have enjoyed the ones that didn't preach or come off heavy handed but made it the way of life.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  2. Yes, yes! Finally a Christian writer who is not afraid to question the Christian publishing industry's practices. Your advice to read widely is right on target. The best writer is a critical thinker and reader. I've been blogging on various topics for almost three years (Walk2Write in Florida) and just recently started a blog (Big Bend Over Easy in Florida) to focus on fiction--my own short stories. I would appreciate some critical assessment if you have some time to spare.

  3. It was interesting to get a definition of Christian fiction. I think it's good advice, not matter what your beliefs or genre, to avoid preaching to the reader when writing novels.

  4. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments.

  5. Thanks for the comment on my recent post regarding Christian fiction. I think CF is misunderstood by the public at large and misused by publishers. I am amazed at some of the stuff passes off as CF. I guess your right. If you claim to be a Christian, you can get published as a Christian fiction writer.

  6. Thanks, Don. Just one other angle: If the writer is truly a believer, any book he or she writes will be Christian, regardless of who publishes it and regardless of what themes are dealt with.

  7. As a Christian writer, my characters are based upon real people I know. They share what Christ has done in their lives--thus, those who would never read the Bible themselves might be interested in finding out more! My purpose for writing (even in a heartwarming, entertaining story): to share the gospel with readers. And, thank you for stopping by my blog :).

  8. I admire what you are doing and I'm grateful for it. You bring up a highly important point: what is the gospel? It is the story of Jesus' birth, ministry (teachings, exorcisms, healings, and nature miracles) arrest and execution, and resurrection, bringing the hope of His coming again. Tell the story and reference the source (the four Gospels). Very few Americans (as compared to the entire population) have ever heard it stated clearly and succinctly.

    Thanks for stopping by :)