For readers not familiar with Christian fiction there’s the preconceived notion that if it’s Christian it must be all hearts and flowers.
For example, a friend once asked why I wanted to write for the Christian market and not the secular one.
It was actually something I’d thought about a lot.
“Well, a Christian is who I am. I think what I write is best suited to that niche.”
My friend thought about that for a moment. “Don’t you find all the God stuff limiting? Everything’s always so nice and neat and perfect.”
It was obvious she’d never read some of the books I had.
“No, it’s liberating because the characters I create aren’t always nice, neat, or perfect—and even the well-behaved ones still have their share of flaws. And their lives and stories reflect this.”
Even in Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction (my tagline) there are issues and decisions—problems—that must be addressed or believability suffers. If there aren’t difficulties, there’s no story.
I wanted to share so much more with my friend, but I could tell I wasn’t going to change her perception of Christian fiction in a sixty-second conversation.
What I wanted to add was this:
Writing inspirational fiction is far from boring. I create characters with real needs and real hurts struggling with the same issues unbelievers experience.
My characters aren’t fuddy-duddy prudes, wimps, or push-overs. They don’t always sing in the church choir or plant pansies in their backyards for recreation.
Many of my characters are vibrant and colorful and passionate. They may lose their tempers; they may even question God. Their paths may take them high on the mountaintop or low in the valley.
My favorite part about writing Christian fiction?
I can let the reader witness how God can take an imperfect character or horrible situation and still use them for His glory!
I still read many books in the secular market which is a must for writers, I think. (When we’re well-read, it hones our writing skills and it helps us gauge our own work.)
I especially like good vs. evil types of twists, with of course, good prevailing in the end.
I love a great romance (not the rated R or Fifty Shades of Polka Dots stuff), and I enjoy humorous and literary works, as well.
I don’t like to hear my Savior’s name taken in vain, so I don’t knowingly choose to read that type of thing. Just personal preference.
Now—what I don’t care for in some secular fiction (some, not all) is that it may take reading the entire book before a character gets his/her comeuppance, if ever. Of course, because there are millions of stories written from multiple view points, I realize others’ cups of tea just simply aren’t mine, and mine are most certainly not theirs.
From a Christian viewpoint, however, I believe it’s important we convey how closely choices, responsibilities, and repercussions intertwine.
As Christians, God grants us free will and He allows us to make our own decisions. Now, ideally we consult our Heavenly Father beforehand in those, but of course, that’s in a perfect world.
As a reader, I’m challenged to “press on toward the prize.” As a writer, I’m impressed to show characters at their worst as the Holy Spirit nudges them to be their best.
Christian fiction authors should write about flawed and imperfect characters because those are the people we identify with. Again—without conflict, problems, and drama there would be no story.
But on the other hand, how we choose to tell our stories is a huge responsibility. To portray sin without consequences is not only an injustice to our readers, but it’s a sad testament of our faith.
Do I think all Christian fiction must offer some moral take-away? Well—yes, I personally do believe that.
I write about folks who are working through real pain and addressing real hurts. (See? Not all hearts and flowers.)
I write about relationships––some on the rocks and some lounging in the sand—because contemporary Christian romance is my genre. (That’s the hearts and flowers part. In the romance genre there must always be happily ever after. It doesn’t mean the couple won’t experience hardship before arriving at HEA.)
And because I had a blog reader ask me a few years ago—no, you can’t write erotic scenes in Christian fiction even if the couple gets married, is married, or considering marriage.
If you’re writing with the Christian market in mind, here are some heart and flower considerations:
- You must adhere to stricter guidelines set forth by the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishing Association) and CBA (Christian Booksellers Association), as well as your individual target publishing houses. As you navigate around on their websites, there are usually mission statements along with their Tenets of Faith. You and your agent will discuss your goals and decide together which opportunities to pursue.
- Intimate sexual content has no place in Christian fiction, though some authors do write what is considered “edgy” Christian fiction where various situations are alluded to. In these situations, scenes must be depicted tastefully, keeping Christ in mind and pointing out that poor choices by Christians AND non-believers lead to consequences.
- There has to be some redemptive value to the scene, in other words. (And in Christian fiction, for married couples, you may take them to the bedroom door, but it’s not acceptable–or necessary––to show graphic details. While we get what happens, to dissect every little thing would be diverting our main goal from the glorification of Jesus Christ.)
- To just throw a Christian character in a book doesn’t necessarily constitute Christian fiction. Ask yourself these things: Does my story point others to Christ? Does my story seek to glorify God’s kingdom? Is the salvation message (subtly or directly) apparent?
The true heartbeat of Christian fiction is about lives broken, mended, and restored.
Christian fiction (including the romance genre) isn’t all hearts and flowers, but neither is it misrepresentation of holiness.
I’D LOVE FOR YOU TO SHARE:
The genre that’s evolving and why we read it:
Christian fiction—do our perceptions match the takeaway?
No wimps allowed. The hearts and flowers of a growing genre:
What’s your perception of Christian fiction?
If you write, where do you get your stories?
What types of stories would you like to see more of?