YA Christian author M. Liz Boyle is back to describe how to weave themes in Christian fiction. This is a critical skill for writers of Christian fiction. If we’re too subtle, readers don’t notice the theme. If we’re heavy-handed, it reads like a sermon with a few fictional characters. So glad to have Liz share her experience with this technique.
Writing Christian fiction has many merits and can be done in many ways. From fantasy and allegory to historical fiction that explores the lives of Biblical characters, Christian fiction comes in many forms. In the contemporary Christian fiction stories I write for young adults, I seek to honor God and Christ by including two main elements:
A Biblically-based theme that the characters learn
Whether it’s a specific verse, such as pressing toward the prize of the upward call of God, or a broader theme, such as the Golden Rule, I aim for my characters to be impacted with a theme which readers can glean too. A way that I include Biblical themes is to challenge my main character with the opposite of the theme she will learn. For instance, in my book Ablaze, the main character Marlee learns about forgiveness. She learns how to forgive when she endures a few situations that make forgiveness difficult. Meanwhile, a secondary character extends forgiveness to Marlee, which shows her how to forgive the characters who have hurt her. This journey really shapes who Marlee is by the end of the story, and readers who are also learning about forgiveness can relate to Marlee’s character arc. This leads into the second element I like to include in Christian fiction:
Characters whose faith is strengthened throughout the story
As a teen and now as an adult, I want to read about characters who are like me – already a Christian, but not perfect by any means. Salvation stories in which a character resists God’s call throughout the story and eventually chooses to become a Christian definitely have their place, but I also think there’s a need for stories that show how Christians live out their faith in the day-to-day. How do characters handle life’s stressors? How do characters change and grow over the course of the book? In fiction and in real life, our experiences help shape who we are. Hopefully in the course of our lives, our faith grows stronger. I like to reflect this in fictional characters. Similar to what I described in the first element, we can challenge the main character’s faith throughout the book to eventually strengthen her faith by the end of the story. For instance, if the main character is a believer, but her trust in God has been jaded by life’s harshness, I’ll have her go through trials and conversations that prompt her to keep clinging to and trusting God. My hope is that readers will be encouraged in their own faith when they see my characters press on in their Christian faith and eventually reap blessings.
Thank you for having me on your blog, JPC Allen! Writers, I hope you find these descriptions helpful as you write Christian fiction. What other pointers do you have? Readers, what are your favorite aspects of Christian fiction?
Adventurous teenager Marlee Stanley has a knack for finding herself in natural disasters with her sisters and the Miles boys. When their adventures take a turn for the worse, will Marlee cave under pressure, or will her faith in God be strong enough to guide her to safety? Check out the books on Amazon!
Liz is the author of the Off the Itinerary series, the wife of a professional tree climber, and the homeschooling mom of three energetic and laundry-producing children. Liz once spent a summer in Colorado teaching rock climbing, which she believes was a fantastic way to make money and memories. She resides with her family in Wisconsin, where they enjoy hiking and rock climbing. Liz and her husband have also backpacked in Colorado and the Grand Canyon, which have provided inspiration for her writing. She makes adventurous stories to encourage others to find adventures and expand their comfort zones (though admittedly, she still needs lots of practice expanding her own comfort zone). Follow Liz on her website, Facebook, Instagram, GoodReads, and BookBub.