Why I Write Christian Fiction

CHRISTIAN FIC HEADER

My blog usually has a pretty light-hearted atmosphere because, for the most part, I’m a light-hearted person, but I wanted to write a more serious blog post today.

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve never really talked about what sort of fiction I write, or, more importantly, why I write it. So I’m going to remedy that today and talk about what I write and give my “writing testimony”, if you will.

Here we go!

 

My “testimony” is very similar to that of a hundred other young (and old) authors. As a kid, I got tired of the fact that my mum had to read absolutely everything I wanted to read before I was allowed to. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just pick things up and enjoy them. Why did everything–even books meant for ten years olds–have to be so full of…awful stuff? My mum will tell you that by the age of eight or so, I’d exhausted the local library’s supply of appropriate books and I was still desperately hankering for more.

The obvious answer? Books from the Christian bookstore.

Except that they were poorly written, unengaging, fluffy, condescending…I could go on. All I did was swap the bad content of the secular library books with the bad prose and flawless characters of the Christian books.

Of course, this is only a generalisation. There were good Christian books and good secular books–The Chronicles of Narnia, The Door Within, The Little White Horse, The Magician’s Daughter and The Dragons in Our Midst were all Christian books I loved then and still love now. The Eagle of the Ninth, The BFG, The Elephant in The Garden, War Horse and heaps of others, were and still are some of my favourites in the “secular” genre. These books (and of course so many others) showed me what a good book could do–it could make me laugh, it could make me cry, it could teach me things, it could inspire me.

But for the most part, I had to choose between bad writing and bad content.

Around my twelfth birthday, I decided, though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, that I would start to write the books that had inspired me so much. I would start writing so that other people would be able to pick up a quality piece of fiction without worrying about the glorification of sin.

Of course, at the time I only wanted to have fun. 😉

But as both my writing and myself have grown up over the years, I have come to recognise what my motivations were back then and they’ve become my code to write by.

I write so that children and teenagers can enjoy a good, entertaining, inspiring story that is free from the glorification of sin. Not free from sin, but free from the glorifying of it.

Okay, so now you know why I write fiction. But why do I write specifically  Christian fiction? After all, many of the books that have impacted me over my lifetime haven’t been overtly “Christian” books, though they may have been written by Christians. But some of my favourite authors are also explicitly atheist. So why do I specify myself as a Christian author?

Simply because of this. If you do a Google search for “is Christian fiction good?” or “bad Christian fiction” or “Christian fiction problems” you’ll get a plethora of lists, discussions, and rants all about how terrible the Christian fiction genre is.

And I agree with them. Most (but not all, please remember. There are some absolute gems in Christian fiction, like *cough* Nadine Brandes! Nadine is awesome and so are her books) Christian books are shallow, flimsy and all the things I mentioned earlier. The aim of this post isn’t to bash Christian fiction, so I’ll move on now.

But I found, in my perusal of all these Google searches (and then some!) that many, many people were literally advocating for the death of Christian fiction, or at least that it be relabelled as “Clean” or “values” fiction.

No. No. No. NO!

I believe that Christian fiction is a hugely important genre, particularly for kids and teens. My mother felt that she could walk into a Christian bookstore and pick a book off the shelf and give it straight to me with scanning it for questionable content. And I think that is an important thing. Teens don’t need to be scared to open the YA books they brought from [insert name] Christian Store. Theoretically, they should walk away from the book having learnt more about God’s awesome and complex nature. Unfortunately, Christian fiction is only really useful if you enjoy Amish romances. But I feel strongly that parents shouldn’t have to censor their kids books. Grandparents shouldn’t wonder whether these books are “okay” to buy for their grandkids.

It’s true that Christian fiction is a struggling business  (and I’m going to talk about why I believe it’s failing in an upcoming post) but that doesn’t mean it has to die. All it means is that it needs…work. A lot of diligent, hard work.

And passion. It needs people who are passionate about literature and, above all, God. It needs people who don’t necessarily want to become the next Christian bestseller. It needs a revitalisation and to be recentered in God. But just because it needs work doesn’t mean we should give up on it. That’s the easy way out and one that I am not willing to take.

Christian fiction is very important to me. I want it to survive. I want my peers and myself to be the ones who step up and do that. I want us to write fiction that doesn’t necessarily fall into the camps of either “squeaky clean” or “edgy”. I mean, my novels are hardly Amish romances, and yet I don’t include many of the things that are seen as offensive by people (including myself. I hardly appreciate opening a novel to discover seven hundred swear words).

Come on, People! For hundreds of years–thousands of years, even–God’s followers have been leading the way in basically every pursuit known to mankind. Science? Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Blaise Pascal. Music? Bach, Mendelssohn, Handel, Charles Wesley. Sport? Eric Liddell and Billy Sunday. Literature? Jane Austen, John Bunyan, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien.

Christians today should be setting an example with their writing, instead of making do with poor quality stories that cause the secular audience to mock us. We should be showing the world the meaning of hard work and dedication to a story, rather than the other way round.

That is what I aim to do.

Do you write Christian fiction? Why or why not? What’s your perspective on modern Christian fiction? What’s your “Writing Testimony”?

26 thoughts on “Why I Write Christian Fiction

  1. Hmmmm.
    I do love Narnia.

    Well, I never wrote an entire book. But the moral of my book I am writing now is “be kind, be compassionate, and forgiveness”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GREAT thoughts! I mean seriously, this is an amazing mission statement. I’ve observed similar problems in Christian Fiction (and film)–I must have read 28+ books of CF when I was a kid/teenager, and only 9 of them really impacted me in a positive way. (Wanting to chuck the volume across the room doesn’t quite count. 🙂 )

    So yes, this is an awesome goal, and one I believe God will honor you for! Keep up the good work!!

    (Also, do you mind if I steal this idea for my blog and post about my own writing mission statement? 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a very interesting, well-written post. It got me thinking, because I recently made the decision to abandon Christian fantasy altogether (unless I know the author, because I happen to know a few writers who write in that genre), and am highly skeptical of all Christian fiction. I actually wrote a post on my old blog about why I don’t write Christian fantasy and don’t intend to: https://fransthinkings.blogspot.com/2017/12/why-i-dont-write-christian-fantasy.html
    I agree that there’s far too much fiction that glorifies sin, but also think that non-Christians need books that don’t as much as Christians do. Also, Christian fiction is not ipso facto suitable for everyone: the first book that really shocked and upset me as a young teen was a Christian novel. And I think Christian authors need to tackle dark and difficult subjects in realistic ways, which could well include violence, swearing, and sex. So if it’s books parents don’t have to censor that you want, I’d actually suggest that it is “clean” fiction you’re after?
    You have a good point in saying Christians have led the world in many areas. That is something to be proud of. But Newton, Faraday, and the others didn’t do “Christian science”, they were just Christians doing good science. In the same way, Austen and Tolkien didn’t write Christian fiction, they were just Christians writing good fiction.
    With just one exception, I’ve never read Christian fiction that’s lived up to its secular counterparts. “Secular” fiction written by Christian authors often inspires me, as does fiction written by authors of other faiths, no faith, or even who are adamant atheists.
    I don’t exactly advocate the “death” of Christian fiction, because if other people want to read it, good for them 🙂 But I, personally, don’t care for it.
    Sorry that ended up so long. Apparently I have more thoughts on the topic than I realised 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post! I think that you hit on some really important things! You’re absolutely right about it being a pity that we oftentimes have to choose between content and quality when it comes to books.
    When I write, I write content that I would feel comfortable with sharing with my siblings and other people around me. Like you said, I really would like to write stuff that people can view as being wholesome and without the bad content that a lot of books are filled with while still having the quality there as well. While I don’t usually write faith-centered novels, oftentimes, I do like to throw in faith-related themes into my novels in some way, like having faith be something that comforts the characters. While maybe my aim isn’t for my novels to be targeted specifically towards a Christian audience, my goal is certainly to write things that Christian audiences can read without having to flinch or be offended at the content. That being said, I do really want to write something that is almost entirely about faith, namely something about the Reformation, but there’s still a lot of research that I have to do before I get to that!
    Modern Christian fiction is something that I have a sort of love-hate relationship with. I really love Lynn Austin’s s stuff because I think that it’s both good in quality and content. Plus, she writes historically-based novels and I’m all about that stuff! That being said, I think that you’re right on the dot about Christian fiction in the general sense. I really hope that we get more Christian fiction novels of a good quality because I think that there is so much potential there!
    This was a really awesome post and it really was a nice reminder that everything we do should be done for the glory and service of God!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. No worries, I love long comments and I loved reading your thoughts.

    I think you would be right in saying that what I want is clean fiction, unfortunately, the Christian fiction circles seem to say that “Clean” equals “good” when it usually just means sappy characters, dull plot and bad writing. But of course it’s free of sex, swearing and overt violence, so that makes it completely uplifting and inspiring *sigh*. I also draw a line between clean and “edgy” fiction (as they like to call it). Most of the books I read as a little kid were free from swearing and sex (they were children’s books though :P), but they weren’t free from heavy topics and important discussions. One of my favourite authors, Michael Morpurgo, writes pretty much exclusive for a middle-grade, 8-12 audience, but his books–while free from swearing, sex and major violence–dealt with things like war, death, illness, friendship, courage, heroism, children out of wedlock and the social stigma that brought with it, racism, divorce, and a host of other things. But his books were among the few that my mum didn’t feel the need to censor, because he did it in a way that was not only appropriate, but appropriate for the ages of his audience as well. I’m a big believer in being able to write clean books that are powerful as well.

    I would just add that at the time Newton and Faraday lived and worked, “Christian Science” was pretty much a given. Almost all scientists at the time had a belief in God and its only more lately that a division has been made between Christian and secular sciences.

    I like what you said about non-Christians needing those books just as much as Christians do, though in response to that I’d argue two things. One, that non-Christians have different ideas about what is “bad” and what is not, thus they aren’t always going to agree on what can’t be portrayed as good (an example would be the recent flood of LGBT characters in YA. Those books might be perfectly free of everything else I find “offensive”, but it would still be glorifying something I see as sinful. It’s not so much the content included, as the way the content is handled). Also, while a lot of YA books aren’t clean or particularly inspiring, I would say there are more of them than there are inspiring and worthwhile Christian books. Examples being, Rosemary Sutcliff, Marissa Meyer, John Flanagan (his books might not count as “inspiring” but definitely entertaining and clean), Emily Rodda, and a bunch of others.

    And finally, yes. Christian books can be just as damaging, if not more so, than non-Christian ones. I found this with the book “Divergent”, which is written by a Christian, though obviously not marketed as Christian fiction. I expected it to at least subtly hold up God’s ideals, but it didn’t, in my opinion, and I found it very damaging, depressing and hurtful.

    I plan to write a few more posts on this topic, which are going to address a few of these things in more detail.

    Thanks again for your thoughts 😀 (and I think my reply is even longer than your comment :P)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you! This post has been in my heart for a while and I’m glad I finally got it out into a public place. It’s seriously a huge passion of mine to be able to recreate some of the great books of my childhood and hopefully help eradicate some of the worst examples of Christian fiction 😛

    No, I definitely don’t mind! I’d love to read your own mission statement. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you!
    I think being comfortable in sharing your writing with siblings/friends is a really good rule of thumb. I’ve read quite a lot of The Stars Fill Infinity aloud to my brothers and sister and I’m comfortable with that (though I did skip over one scene, because I didn’t think they would understand the implications in it. Having said that, my novel is made for a teenaged audience older than three of my siblings, so I wasn’t bothered by that. If that makes sense).
    I don’t think being a Christian novelist means that all of your stories need to have explicit mentions of God. Comrade, for examples, makes reference to God in a few places but not in a way that I think non-Christians would find confusing or annoying, and it could probably be written off as a cultural and historical thing (people were much more free with talk of God around WW1). I think your Reformation novel sounds really awesome! My dad is currently studying the Reformation in his Bible-college course and it’s quite interesting. It’d also be interesting from your Lutheran point of view, since I almost always only hear about it from the Baptist point.
    I’d never heard of Lynn Austin until I stumbled upon her historical fiction on my library’s ebook loaning website, but as wary as I am of Christian fiction, I didn’t download any of her stuff. I should look into her one day though. In a completely different vein, I get annoyed by the fact that almost all historical fiction is historical romance. Urgh. All the more reason we need Clemency published post haste 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh. My. Word. YESYESYES! I was so excited to see that another teen writer had the similar goals as I do for Christian fiction. Thank you so so much for writing this post!!! 😀 ❤

    (seriously some club or group or critique group needs to be started for writers with this goal and views in mind… *goes off to research starting a critique group* )

    Liked by 2 people

  9. In my opinion its an awesome goal and I’m so, so glad it’s a goal you’re chasing as well!
    I think you’re reading my mind, I’ve had this idea so many times! *whispers* if you started a critique group I would totally join 😛 We could call ourselves…the Inklings! Oh wait, perhaps that name is already taken. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am actually seriously considering starting an online critique group. Just doing the researching part of it now, but you’ll definitely know when it’s officially started (whenever that will be) 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  11. That would be awesome and super helpful! I’ve alwys wanted to join an in-person critique group but there’s nothing like that where I live so an online would be really cool. (Sorry if I sounded like I was teasing you. I realised you were serious :D)

    Liked by 2 people

  12. All of the Fairy Frogs are deeply compassionate: my protagonist takes takes it a step further. The kindness is shown is in that.

    Forgiveness: at the beginning, the Fairy Frogs and Toads are known to be enemies. Not allowed to interact. Sparkle’s compassion on Marge soon leads all of them to befriend all the toads so these two creatures learn to forgive each other. At times, Sparkle needs to be forgiven by other Fairy Frogs

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  13. I think fiction generally should be as “clean” as possible, insofar as not including certain material doesn’t make a story unrealistic. But I don’t think all stories could work without that material, or at least they wouldn’t have the same impact if they tried to avoid it. Does that make the story “unchristian”? I’m not sure that Christian necessarily equals clean anymore than clean equals good. Is the assumption that Christians don’t like to deal with dark subjects, and that’s why Christian fiction would always be clean? I don’t know, I’m just trying to figure things out 🙂
    My point about the scientists was that something doesn’t have to be labelled as “Christian” to be good. I think comparing, say, Newton and Austen would be fair, as both were Christians doing great work in their respective fields. I don’t think comparing either of them with modern Christian writers is fair. Newton was both Christian and English, but I wouldn’t refer to him doing “English science”. As you mentioned when talking about Divergent, the author being a Christian isn’t what defines a story as Christian fiction. Instead, Christian fiction is defined by its audience, whereas science (and to some extent Austen’s or Tolkien’s novels) is for everyone.
    Okay, that was a bit rambling. Hopefully it makes sense 🙂
    In answer to your point about Christians and non-Christians not agreeing on what’s bad, have you ever seen Christians agree on that? Because I haven’t. 😛 My (mostly Christian) writing community once had a huge fight over whether including LGBT characters in our books was okay, and it actually got so bad the moderators had to shut it down 😀 . But that’s not the only issue. I’ve heard everything from violence to premarital sex to a character disobeying their parents both condemned and condoned by Christian audiences. Does anyone agree on anything?
    Anyway, those were some really interesting thoughts. I’ll definitely be looking forward to those other posts 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Those points are the sort of points I’m going to explore in another post and frankly, I don’t have an easy answer for that. There are definite lines I wouldn’t cross and that I don’t think others should, but ultimately I think what you do or don’t write is between you and God.
    Good point about science being or everyone 🙂
    how many churches have been wrecked because Christians can’t agree on what’s right or wrong? *sigh*. To a certain extent God clearly spells out good and bad, often in ways that don’t agree mainstream culture. Such as honouring parents. And I would suggest that a book (Christian or otherwise) can most definitely have a character who dishonours her parents, but that it shouldn’t be portrayed as normal or okay. And no, this side of heaven no one will agree on anything. I think we should be aiming to agree with the Bible instead.
    Also, in no way do I think there’s no value in secular fiction. I think we need both. I was just explaining my reason for being drawn particularly to Christian fiction.
    Cool 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Really, really excellent post! It is so frustrating that Christians have fallen so far behind in the arts. I mean, how did this happen? God is the ultimate Creator and our art should glorify Him! So it should actually be GOOD ART. Christians have settled for good messages and sacrificed artistic quality. Why not have BOTH? Also sometimes the good messages are greatly compromised by the awful quality of the book itself.
    Okay, but I’m not trying to bash anybody. I love how you saw a need and decided to fill it. And by what I’ve seen so far with The Stars Fill Infinity I would say you are already doing a great job with that!
    Personally I tend to follow more Tolkien’s style. I write from a Christian perspective, but I don’t necessarily have characters who are overt Christians. I am kind of obsessed with metaphors, and C.S. Lewis also has a major influence on my writing.
    You made some really good points in this post, and I am excited to see what God has planned for you as a writer!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Yep, it’s extremely frustrating! Honestly though, even some of the messages in Christian fiction are a bit theologically sketchy.
    Thank you. I know I can fall a bit on the heavy almost-preaching style but your words mean a lot to me! I love metaphors and symbolism too and I absolutely love the way Lewis and Tolkien both use them in their writing.
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I know, that is something I have found as well! They are supposed to be such good, clean messages, but the theology isn’t always as true as they seem to think it is? Just because something is “clean” doesn’t automatically make it wholesome or true. Jesus wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, and maybe we shouldn’t be either.
    You are very welcome, and thank you! C.S. Lewis is Tolkien are amazing. I aspire to get to their level of genius in my writing. 🙂

    Like

  18. Thank you for putting this into words! I struggled with the same choice between bad content and bad writing when I was younger, and still do to an extent. I am always so glad when I do find authors who are working to redefine Christian Fiction stereotypes. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

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