5 Ways To Create Valuable Christian Fiction

Christian fiction header

Last week I published a post on why I write Christian fiction, and it was very well received. A lot of people agreed with me on why we should be writing Christian fiction and it was really enjoyable to discuss finer points with readers who didn’t agree with everything I said. However, I’ve not quite finished the series I started with that post. I still have three(ish) posts left to do, including this one.

I’m going to be away next Saturday, so I’ll have a scheduled post for you guys, which may or may not end up being the next in this series. However, today I’m going to share five things that have helped me in my quest to write Christian fiction (and over the coming weeks I’ll be talking about what I believe is wrong in the current Christian fiction market and the pros and cons of Christians writing secular fiction over Christian fiction).

So what makes fiction valuable?

In my opinion, there’s a lot of things. First of all, it should be entertaining, it should teach you something–whether you realise it or not–it should encourage you, inspire you and bring you closer to God and His word–again, whether you realise it or not.

And that brings me to my next question. How do you write fiction that does all of the above?

I can’t speak for you, but personally, I don’t want to be the next clean romance bestseller. I want to write things that speak to people in deep ways. I want to create good and inspiring art.

(*I believe these things can be applied to any Christian who writes, or does any type of art, really. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to write “Christian” or “secular” fiction, but I will refer to Christian fiction in this post. In this context, I simply mean fiction written by a Christian).

1.   Immerse yourself in God’s Word

There are probably Christians out there who think they can write a novel without ever opening their Bibles. And there are probably some who do. But in my opinion, that would be like  trying to build the Lego Death Star without the instructions. You might get something out of it, but it isn’t going to be a reflection of the real thing (it’ll just be 3,000 Lego bricks stuck on each other at random).

The fact is, Christians should not–cannot–write valuable fiction without immersing themselves in the writing of God. I think I’ve learnt this the hard way, if we’re being honest. You can’t just throw John 3:16 into your novel and label it as Christian, the whole spirit of God–that’s found no better place than the Bible–needs to be present in your writing. You need to study God’s word, ask questions and seek answers.

Immersing yourself in God’s words may not always be a literal reading of the Bible, but also in reading trusted commentaries, listening to sermons, discussing Biblical issues with your pastor, youth leader or parents and the reading of trusted Christian (non-fiction) books. Either way, it should be growing your knowledge of God and His ways and the Bible should always be the touchstone.

In 2 Timothy 3: 10-17, Paul writes to Timothy, telling him to continue in the way that his mother and grandmother had been teaching him. He tells Timothy to keep on learning, to know the holy Scriptures more deeply for the word of God is able to make us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

2.   Pray

A lot. All the time. Sometimes our human wisdom is not enough to understand the exact meanings or implications of selected sections of God’s instructions and we need additional help, someone who knows better than us showing us exactly how to place that brick. And of course, that’s God again.

As writers, we aren’t afraid to ask our fellow writers questions about plot, arcs, prose, twists, etc, but for some reason, we shy away from asking the Author of all things these same questions. Do we think that God doesn’t care about our character arcs? Do we think the villain’s personality is too mundane for God to invest time in?

The fact is, people, that God has called us to this task. And He cares, He really does. I’ve been trying to practise this a bit more than I currently do. Lately, I’ve been worrying that the antagonist of Stars Fill Infinity is too dull and robotic. Instead of defaulting by going to my beta readers, I prayed, asking God to show me what to do with this antagonist’s arc. And He showed me her motivations. He showed me how to twist the story into something better and different.

God is much, much bigger than we think He is. He can use our novels to change peoples lives (the way He’s used novels to change our lives). If He is going to use the character arc you write to turn someone back to Him, then He will make sure you do it right, if you listen to Him and seek His will, in small matters, as well as large. Psalm 34: 15 tells us that God hears the cry of the righteous, 1 John 5:13-15 tells us that if we ask anything according to God’s will, He will hear us aand answer us.

And that doesn’t mean that we should never ask the advice of others, because sometimes He reveals His answers through them. All I’m saying is that God should be our first port of call.

3.   Study the Greats

You know the kind of people I’m talking about–C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, John Bunyan, G.K. Chesterton, etc.

This is a stylistic tip as well as a theological/spiritual one. These people are listed among classics such as Dickens, Tolstoy, Austen and the Brontes (study them too, while you’re at it) for good reason. But more importantly, they all understood the basics of Christian fiction. MacDonald, Bunyan and Lewis all wrote primarily allegories, Tolkien didn’t (I don’t know what Chesterton wrote :P). But they all wrote powerful stories, that are deep and full of light and truth.

They aren’t in any way “fluffy” or even always “comforting”. Lewis knew that God is “not tame”, that He is justice and mercy, that He is love, but not in a sugary-sweet way. Bunyan wrote, maybe better than anyone else, about the trials of the Christian life (this life is not a bed of roses guys)…

These people knew how to write valuable fiction that pointed people toward God. Sometimes they did that in a light hearted or comical way, sometimes they did it in serious, dark ways. Either way, they didn’t pander to what consumers wanted. They wrote the stories God placed on them.

Study them for style, study them for allegory, study them for their themes, even study them to find their faults.

4.   Work Hard and Do Our Best

Its important to also work hard. We shouldn’t be giving God our half-baked ideas in the hope that He will accept these offerings as good enough.

God demands our very best.

In Genesis 4, Cain is rejected because he did not give God his best. In the minor prophets, God often tells His people that they are only give Him their second best. That they expect Him to make do with injured, crippled animals as His sacrifices. God even tells them, in Malachi 1: “Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” These are rhetoric questions. No, a governor or a king or a president would not accept these animals, so why should the Lord of All accept them?

The fact is, we are to give God our best. Best doesn’t mean perfect. He knows we’re human and will never do anything perfectly, but we can do our best. And that is what we ought to do.

5.   Relinquish Control

Out of all five points, this is the hardest. It’s also a point that I’ve been realising with more and more clarity lately. To create truly valuable, impactful and powerful fiction, we need to relinquish control to God. We need to realise that this is not our story. It is God’s.

Our human nature’s want to control everything, but God will never be able to use someone who clings onto everything the same way He can use someone who has relinquished everything to Him. James 4:1-12 talks about submitting yourself to God, and frankly, it doesn’t sound like a pleasurable procedure. But it is a good one. Only in humbling ourselves and drawing near to God can we truly live as Christians. Otherwise, we’re just “talking the talk”.

Of course, I’m not perfect at this. I struggle with it more than anything else, but I’ve been practising. Every day now, before I write, I open my Scrivener tab, titled “Prayers” and I make a new note and I type out a prayer. In those prayers, I’ve been trying to change the focus from me to God. I used to say “God please bless my story”. Now, I try to say “God please show me how to write your story.”

Your own human talent can only get you so far. God has to do the rest. And we need to learn to relinquish (I just love this word! I don’t know why my obsession with it :P) everything–our talent, our stories, our characters, our dreams of fame and fortune and musicals based on our works, all to God to do with as He will.

Do you agree with me? Which of these things do you struggle with? Can you think of any other points that make valuable Christian fiction? Isn’t it amazing that God cares so much for us and our little works of art??

19 thoughts on “5 Ways To Create Valuable Christian Fiction

  1. Even though my book isn’t Christian Fiction, glad it still has themes of forgiveness and compassion.

    Glad God cares and loves us so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These are some great points. God has been trying to teach me to pray and read his Word more and put them first (cause I kinda got a bit distracted and forgot to do those that much. And put them first… Oops. I’m trying now though.), and remember to submit my story to Him (which I sometimes forget, but when I remember to the story is better. He is the Author of Everything after all. So when He says, “so and so is going to go blind and no making them see again.” He knows best. *nods* *grins*). When I don’t focus on Him, life always feels like a mess with an overwhelming flood. No matter how few things I must do. It is all a big mess.
    I think I pretty much agree with you, except…
    “(this life is not a bed of roses guys)”
    *clears throat* I think you mean to say that life is not easy. But… “Every rose has its thorns” Okay, now imagine lying down in a bed of roses. It appears very pretty, smells very nice, looks like soft petals with their lovely green stems. How comfy and beautiful. You lie down. “Aaaahhhhkkkk!!!” And jump right back up… (But I do agree that life is not easy. I just found this quote you used funny. Perhaps it could be used better to say life is deceptive. In which case life is a bed of roses. 😛 )

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, I absolutely love this post. You have so many excellent points here! I l really like what you said about God caring about the little things. It can be easy to forget this, because God is so vast and powerful, but the details matter to Him too. Sometimes I struggle with bringing things like my stories to Him because they seem so insignificant, but God tells us to pray about EVERYTHING. He cares about every part of us. He gives us these stories and these characters. This is such a good reminder.
    Speaking of these being God’s stories, relinquishing control is also something I struggle with. I get really possessive of my creative output. But God is the one who made me who I am, and He is the ultimate creator. I love what you said about changing your prayer to “help me write your story” instead of “bless my story.” That is such a crucial perspective. We write fiction so that God can shine into people’s lives, not to glorify ourselves. All creation is for God’s glory, including our creative expression. If we relinquish our creativity to Him, we will be capable of so much more than we ever imagined. I want to write stories that show people God’s abounding love, and who better to help me than God Himself?
    I really appreciate that you have “Work hard to do our best” on this list. We shouldn’t settle from some mediocre story or style, as if the fact that it’s clean and has a good message makes it worthy of God. If we look around us at the beautiful world that God gave us we can see that He didn’t settle for functional or practical. The world is bursting with vivid imagination. Shouldn’t we endeavor to create the very best art to reflect the awesomeness of our God?
    So many good things! Spectacular post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes me too! One thing I touched on in the post was that I use Scrivener for some of my writing and I just made a Scrivener tab for my prayers. Everytime I sat down to write, I’d type out a prayer that was either just general or specifically about something in the story that was bothering me and I’d save it to the tab. If you don’t use Scrivener you could easily make a Word doc or use the sticky notes function on your computer. That’s just one thing I would 11/10 recommend 😛
    Oh, is that saying about roses not a thing in America?? Its a saying we use all the time here, and you know what? I have pointed out the exact same thing before. Eventually I decided, for my own peace of mind, that it meant a bed of rose petals. I just used it because its a common expression and I thought everyone would know what I meant. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think there’s a balance we need to find between thinking that God is just our personal valet who does what we like and then coming to the genuine realisation that God is immense and yet cares deeply about small things and every detail of our life. That’s been my experience anyway. Yes, that’s so true! I should’ve put that verse in there.
    Yes! I think we undervalue hard work and dedication, as if just because we’re Christians God will do all our editing for us 😛 I believe that we should be working even harder than non-Christian authors to create good quality art.
    Every time I spend a long time in nature I’m just awed by the amazingness of creation. I especially love the fact that sometimes God just created things to be beautiful.
    Thanks for your comment, I really enjoyed reading it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Maybe I should do that. It sounds like a good way so you can look back at your prayers. *nods* Maybe I shall. Thank you.
    I think it may be a saying here, but in my mind it doesn’t picture right like we have pointed out. A bed of rose petals is probably what the original quote maker meant anyway. I knew what you meant though I pictured thorns. ;P

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post!! I think that you bring up really great points here! We really do have to pray all of the time and trust that God will help us to write the story that He wants us to write all for His glory! It can be hard, sometimes, to relinquish control to God but I always remind myself that God is ultimately the one who needs to be in control at all times and everything that we should do should be in service of Him! Thanks for writing this–it was a really nice thing to read as I set aside Clemency for now so that I can start planning my 2018 NaNo novel! Can’t wait to read the other posts that you have planned on the topic of Christian fiction! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks 😀 I appreciate it! Yes me too! I find I like being in control of everything, so making sure I daily turn my writing over to God is very important, otherwise I tend to go off the rails 😛
    I hope your planning goes well! (By the way, I’ve been using the snowflake method for my outlining and I’ve found it really helpful! It was great to cement the ideas that had been floating around aimlessly beforehand!)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. That’s awesome!! I’m glad to hear that it’s been working well for you! It really is a nice way to help rein in ideas in an easy, not-too-intimidating way!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I definitely agree! I find it hugely beneficial, and it’s also fun to look back and see how far you’ve come. 😀 Sometimes I wonder who invented these nonsensical sayings?

    Like

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