If you’re a Christian writing fiction, but not writing “Christian fiction,” you still want the words you write to honor Him who gave you the talent and the drive to write them. Here are ways to honor God in your fiction and still get marketed in your genre of choice.

You’re a fiction writer.

You’re not writing a devotional, or a thesis on Biblical history, or any work of non-fiction. Chances are, you’re not writing a work of Amish romance either (though if you are, good for you)!

There is such a thing as “Christian fiction,” but it’s a small niche and for most of us, that’s not the shelf we’re aiming for. Maybe that’s because we want to reach the folks that don’t know Christ; maybe it’s simply not where our inspiration lies.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be honoring God with our fiction. 

Next time you sit down to write, say a prayer first– for God to lead you, inspire you, and speak through you. Go ahead and ask Him to give you a really great story, too… you know you can’t do it without Him. Then meditate on these tips as you write.

 

Teach, Don’t Preach

It’s no secret. People don’t listen to preachy people. If you want a surefire way for that reader, Christian or not, to close your book and never pick it up again, just get preachy.

As fantasy writers, we have a special privilege. We get past peoples’ walls, past their defense mechanisms. We can introduce our readers to concepts they would otherwise never entertain. Even if you’re not outright laying down the Gospel, you can illustrate facets of Jesus’ teachings.

In FORBIDDEN, for instance, there are two prevailing religions among my characters. You guessed it; one of them is analogous to Christianity. Through this I am able to touch on topics including the sovereignty of God, purpose in suffering, and more. My goal isn’t necessarily to convert the reader. My hope is to help these concepts make sense to people who tend to disdain them… so that the next time they encounter these concepts in real life, or a Christian tries to explain them, maybe it won’t all seem so silly.

 

Responsible Representation

God created this world with beautiful diversity. No matter what genre we write, we need to recognize this on the pages. 

In fantasy, we have a bit of an advantage; we can create new and original races which may or may not comment on racial tensions in the real world; even so, we need to be careful not to reinforce harmful stereotypes related to skin color or ethnicity. We also need to be aware that certain characterizations or forms of description may be unexpectedly offensive. This becomes even more important for a writer of fiction set on actual Earth. Remember, everything you type will be interpreted very particularly by the people who identify with your characters. We must be certain, per 1 Corinthians 16:14 and Matthew 12:36, that every word of it is written with love and consideration.

There are helpful sites such as Writing with Color, and you can also consider hiring a sensitivity writer. Remember also that responsible representation doesn’t only apply to race– it applies to depression, disability, religion, and any number of defining characteristics. 

Don’t avoid representation, even if it’s intimidating, but be responsible with it.

 

Real, but Clean

 

Some of us are writing about some very adult topics. There may be battle scenes, torture scenes and– dare I mention it– sex. These topics CAN be handled by the Christian, with two caveats.

First, we need to be careful what our writing condones. Yes, it would be unrealistic to write a novel set in the Tudor court and pretend no one traded in sexual favors, but it should not be treated as something wholesome and without consequence. Yes, we may have racist and abominable characters, but these traits should be clearly portrayed as negative.

Second, we need to avoid being overly graphic. It is enough for me to know the characters had relations; I don’t need ten pages detailing every carnal pleasure they extracted from one another’s bodies.

As I was writing FORBIDDEN, I had to write a chapter that included torture for information. The victim in this scene was female. Realism dictated that the evil man torturing her would not avoid the threat of sexual abuse, but especially as I write in YA (young adult), I was very convicted by my initial drafts and had to rewrite several times. My final product acknowledges the threat, but with obtuse references instead of outright assault. I do my best not to trigger the traumatized, although I realize there may be some readers with more sensitivity on this topic. 

It’s hard to define a solid criteria for what is “too much.” Pray about it, seek trusted counsel, and learn subtlety.

 

Be Honest and Raw

The reason people read is the same as why people write: to FEEL.

It’s not just about the adventure, although of course it’s about the adventure. It’s about processing emotion. It’s about moments of epiphany. It’s about understanding someone else– and it’s about seeing yourself in a character. It’s about that overwhelming release when you realize you’re not the only one feeling this way, struggling in this way, facing those decisions.

You’ve got to speak to your readers, and you’ve got to give them permission to feel. Your job, as a fiction writer, is to put into words all those things the reader can’t. It’s your job, in a sense, to validate the human experience… and then the lesson of your work can permeate the experience of the person reading it.

 

Are you a Christian writer writing books that aren’t for the “Christian shelf?”

What ways have you found to honor God with your fiction?

 

 

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