By Cynthia Herron
For readers not familiar with Christian fiction there’s the preconceived notion that if it’s Christian it must be wimpy.
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.”
With Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction (my tagline) there are indeed 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 hurts struggling with similar issues unbelievers or non-churchgoers have.
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.
My characters are vibrant, 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 show how God takes an imperfect character or horrible situation and uses them for His glory.
That being said, I still read many books in the secular market because when writers are well-read, it hones our craft and improves our skill.
I especially like good versus evil twists with 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 we may have to read the entire book before characters receive their comeuppance, if ever. Of course, because there are thousands of stories written from multiple viewpoints, 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. (Remember, no wimps allowed in Christian fiction.)
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 obviously, 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 is no story.
To be clear, how we convey 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. Why write for the Christian market if there’s no hope on the horizon or lesson learned? We needn’t beat our readers over the head with “religion,” but the spiritual thread-subtle or direct-is central to the story.
Now. Back to wimps.
Christian fiction writers write about fallible folks working through real pain and addressing real hurts while seeking the bigger picture. (See? Not wimpy stuff.)
We write about hardships, misery, and lives upended.
We write about mercy, love, and glory personified.
We write about relationships-some on the rocks and some lounging in the sand.
Because contemporary Christian romance is my genre, I’ll write the happily ever after BUT it doesn’t mean the hero/heroine won’t meet with adversity before arriving there. (The journey’s the best part because, despite all the angst, we know how it will end.)
Non-Wimp (Christian fiction) writers approach hard truths from various angles. We point out that poor choices by non-believers and Christians lead to consequences. We share raw and complicated stories without deviating from our main goal-the glorification of Jesus Christ.
The true heartbeat of Christian fiction is about lives broken, mended, and restored.
Christian fiction isn’t a misrepresentation of holiness and it’s certainly not for wimps.
Why do you write Christian fiction? What additional fallacies would you like to dispel?
Cynthia writes Heartfelt Homespun Fiction from the beautiful Ozark Mountains. She’s a member of ACFW, ACFW MozArks, and RWA. Besides writing, Cynthia delights in serving the Lord and spending time with her family and friends. She has a fondness for gingerbread men, miniature teapots, and all things apple. Connect with Cindy at www.authorcynthiaherron.com where she blogs and encourages every Wednesday and Friday.
One complaint I see often about Christian fiction is that the characters (particularly the teenage ones) are too “conservative”. People seem to have a problem with a character who doesn’t use profanity or engage in immoral behavior, because that’s too “unrealistic”. I know lots of people who don’t swear and disapprove of many behaviors the world says are OK. These characters obviously aren’t perfect, but just because they have morals doesn’t make them unrealistic people!
I write Christian fiction because, well, I don’t know how not to! How can I show a villain become good in the end, if Christ was not involved in their conversion? How can my characters ask life’s biggest questions, without God being the answer? How can I show hope and true love if our wonderful and perfect Savior is not present in the story?
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
Well said, Ashley.
I’m so thankful, too, that while we are seeing some much-needed diversity within the Christian market, we needn’t sacrifice godly standards or speech to communicate our stories.
As mom to a teenager, I well “get” the need to be real. Having a holier-than-thou attitude in any genre will lose readers and impart an ineffective take-away.
I like what our pastor once said–“I’m just a beggar telling another beggar where I found bread.”
Great stuff! 🙂
Challenging post, Cynthia. I think to craft a quality story with a spiritual thread is actually very hard. I think this is evidenced by the fact we do see novels promoted as Christian fiction being light on when it comes to their spiritual thread.
As Christians we are all at different stages in our walks with the Lord and this can get reflected in our novels.
Fortunately we have an amazing co-writer who loves working with us as we craft our stories. One of our many challenges is to allow Him into the process.
Thanks for a fascinating discussion, Cynthia.
Ian, thank you. Absolutely, crafting the spiritual thread is challenging. Sometimes, the process seems easier, while other times, the message is dilluted and may miss the mark.
I love what you said about allowing our “co-writer” to join us in the process. In our rush to get the words out, we may unintentionally fall short of that.
A learning curve, for sure.