What Themes Work Best in Christian Fiction?

While reading On Writing (and Writers): A Miscellany of Advice and Opinions by C.S. Lewis, which is a collection of quotes from his writings, I discovered a passage in which Mr. Lewis discusses writing blatant or latent themes in Christian fiction. It got me to thinking about what themes work best in Christian fiction

Blatant Theme or…

“Blatant” means obvious, so Christian fiction with a blatant theme is one that presents itself without any disguises. Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love is obviously a reworking of the Book of Hosea, set in the American West. The main male character is named Michael Hosea. Christian readers know what to expect.

Latent Theme or…

Latent themes are the ones you have to dig for. Such as the Christian themes in The Lord of the Rings. Gandalf’s death and resurrection mimics Christ’s. The people of Gondor have long expected the return of a king, like the Jewish people awaiting the Messiah.

Both Blatant and Latent Themes

My stories so far fall in this category. On the one hand, my main character and many of her close relatives are Christians. It makes sense for them to discuss problems in light of their faith.

The main character of my YA mystery series is Rae Riley. She’s turning twenty in my next novel, working title A Storm in Summer. She’s still getting to know her father Mal and his family. Tension between Rae and Mal rises when Rae wants to help people in trouble and her father wants her to stay safe. He sees she has a gift for mercy and suggests they both read up on that in their Bibles. This makes sense because they are Christian characters.

But I like working with latent themes much more. In all my Rae Riley mysteries, Rae’s journey to know her father can be seen as a similar journey Christians take to know their Heavenly Father. I don’t have Rae think things like, “Wow. Trusting Dad is as hard as trusting God.” My characters don’t comment on the latent theme. I present it and hope I do it in a way that makes readers think and encourages them to uncover the theme themselves.

That’s something else l like about latent themes. The author gives the readers room to make their own discoveries, rather than spelling out every letter of the theme for them. The reading experience is more meaningful if the author regards readers as partners in the process of unveiling the hidden gems in a story, rather than as students who have to be instructed on the theme.

Preachiness Can Be Found in Secular Fiction Too

I read a YA mystery in the last few years that included in the wrap up a speech from the main character about the case she just solved. She lets readers know exactly how they are supposed to judge the victim and the guilty parties. I wish the author had trusted readers to come to their own conclusions.

What themes works best in Christian fiction in your opinion? Why?

Finding Writing Inspiration in the Bible

Finding writing inspiration in the Bible isn’t confined to historical fiction or modern retellings of Biblical stories. Because the Bible contains all sorts of people, who faced all sorts of challenges, as well as discussions of human frailties, a writer can find limitless material for stories.

Need a Realistic Character?

Want to build a believable villain? Or a flawed hero? Study David, Solomon, Gideon, King Saul, King Ahab, Jonah, or any of the people mentioned in the Bible at length.

I’ve always found Abigail an intriguing person. She’s a woman in a difficult marriage. I admire how she handled what could have been a fatal decision on her husband’s part. She didn’t try to sweet-talk or harass him into changing his mind. She did what needed to be done and then told him.

Daniel is another fascinating person. I’ve just read Alister Begg’s commentary on the first seven chapters of Daniel, Brave by Faith, and gained a much better understanding of Daniel and God. From a fiction perspective, Daniel presents the building blocks for a unique rebel. In so many fiction stories about a country being invaded by another, the conquered people rise up and fight back in a military way. Daniel actually becomes one of the best administrators in Babylon–hard working and honest. But he is faithful to God. As Mr. Begg says, Daniel knows when it’s okay to do what the Babylonians ask and when it isn’t.

Even more surprising, Daniel always wants the welfare of his Babylonian overlords. When Nebuchadnezzar is warned by God to acknowledge Him or face the consequences, Daniel wishes the warning was for Nebuchadnezzar’s enemies.

Darius the Mede throws Daniel into the lion’s den. When he opens the cave and finds Daniel alive, Daniel’s first words are “May the king live forever!”. Not “You idiot, I hope my God gets you.” Not even “I resign from your administration”. He can be kind to the man who condemned him. Now that’s a refreshing approach to character building.

Need Family Drama?

The Bible is full of stories of families riven with conflict and tension, starting with Cain and Abel. Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants provide enough inspiration for millions of stories. One thing I find interesting is what a bunch of shysters Rebecca and her side of the family are. She tricks her husband Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob, her preferred son, and Jacob goes along with it. Jacob also tricks Esau out of his birthright. Then Rebecca’s brother Laban tricks Jacob by marrying off his older daughter to him first, instead of giving him Rachel, whom Jacob loves. Rachel even tricks Laban when Jacob leaves Laban’s lands with his wives and children by stealing her father’s idols. And I haven’t even gotten to what Jacob’s kids get up to and the jealousy that leads to so much heartache.

All this double-crossing would seem excessive in a film noir. But the Bible shows that no matter how vile the act, there is the chance of redemption.

For more posts on Christian fiction, click here.

Who are your favorite people in the Bible? Or what story from the Bible has inspired your writing?

Creating Christian Characters

Along with my new theme for the month, I have a new author to introduce to you, Rocklyn Grace. Rocklyn has recently published her first Christian novel and writes about creating Christian characters. Welcome, Rocklyn!

I am a new author, and I am a Christian. I decided to enter the world of writing Christian Fiction because when I read that literature, I saw beautifully created characters. I also saw characters who did not strike me as “real” in the scheme of life and living in the world.

On the pendulum, some had the proverbial “thorn in the flesh”; some had other issues concerning prayer, understanding the Bible, or church attendance. On the opposing swing of characters, I saw characters so caught up in spiritual matters that the plot of the novel would be consumed by that which is “unseen”–angels, demons, and such interactions. 

Don’t get me wrong here: I loved reading those books. 

I noted, however, an opportunity for myself to create a Christian character that might reach a slightly wider audience — an audience that dips into both arenas of believers and unbelievers.

Thus, I crafted my goal: Create reality in my Christian characters. That is, they have the following characteristics:

  • They are believers who are highly flawed in some way — or many ways. 
  • They do not live easy lives. 
  • They struggle to read the bible sometimes. 
  • They question God even though they are convinced of His existence. 
  • They might struggle to pray or even utter a curse word in between a quick beseech of God for some much-needed grace and mercy.

In fact, one of my characters may outright sin and suffer consequences thereof, but the same character will also experience strength in weakness and the redemption, the table set before him/her found because of walking through death’s shadow.

How much greater the reconciliation when the reality of life is actively engaged by a character, and thereby, a reader. 

Here is my crafting process, or the questions I answer for him/her: 

  • What “flaw” will my character struggle with? 
  • How does that affect their actions? Their words?
  • Their laughter and joy? 
  • How does that affect their interactions with an antagonist? Another protagonist? A parent? A sibling? A husband/wife or fiancé?
  • How does it affect their reactions to types of trauma to themselves? Toward others? 
  • Ultimately: How does the flaw manifest in everyday situations? 

And finally, how does the redemptive power of Jesus rescue, heal, and help the character? How does that affect others around the character?

Once I have my character created — with those questions answered, it’s then a fantastic journey to write their story, let them face challenges, and always find Jesus.


Soaring Eagle dreams of reuniting his family and his western rural tribe despite the dystopian government restrictions that have forced them apart. In his efforts to pursue his goals, his plans are thwarted by his capture and a young woman who saves him from certain execution in the only way the laws of her sector allow: marriage. His entire life is upended, his secrets exposed, and now Soaring Eagle must seek a new pathway to his dream. How can he unite his family without losing the woman he also desires?


Rocklyn Grace lives in the beautiful mountains of Colorado where life is wildly free and beautifully peaceful. She raised two sons with her husband. Together, they fill the empty nest with rock music and loud praise. Rocklyn loves morning coffee, sunsets in the cool evenings, and the interruption of a moonbeam across the living room late at night. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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