Since this month’s theme is Christian fiction, I thought defining Christian fiction would be helpful. Below is my post from last year, explaining the basic elements of the genre. My definition here is based on my own writing process and thinking and the definition used by many professionals in the Christian fiction industry.
Many times when I visit a page for a Christian writers group or publisher, they post a list of what they publish or represent. Often this includes they are looking for stories that demonstrate “a Christian worldview.” One publisher I found puts “Evangelical Christian worldview.” Since the Bible is a big book, what does that mean? Below are the basics of that worldview.
- Theres is a God and He created the universe and all the people in it.
- Sin is disobedience to God, and it cuts us off from Him.
- Jesus is God’s son and God himself. His choice to take the punishment for our sins gives us a chance to reconcile with God.
- When we accept the gift of forgiveness, we spend the rest of our lives learning about God and growing closer to him as well as telling other about the gift.
- When we die, we go to live with Him forever.
Christian fiction publishers will likely expect more from a manuscript, such as no graphic content, but if at some point, it deviates from the above list, it’s not a Christian worldview.
As I’ve written in the genre, I’ve discovered two approaches to writing Christian fiction. One is deciding at the outset to that you’re going to write about a Christian theme. Author Francine Rivers took the book of Hosea and moved it to the American West in Redeeming Love. Someone else might want to put a modern spin on the story of Paul. Or construct a plot to demonstrate God’s love or mercy in any genre, whether it’s historical, speculative fiction, or thriller.
The second approach is to write a story with Christian characters, or characters who will become Christian, and see how they handle the situation they are in. This is how I write. I’m a character writer first. I build my main characters and then concoct plots that will test them, develop them, and are a ton of fun to write. My teen detective, Rae Riley, is a Christian because I am and it’s easier for me to imagine how she does life as a Christian. As I write, a Christian theme may emerge. Or I may start with a theme in mind but it has to work naturally with the story. When I wrote “A Rose from the Ashes,” I’d thought the theme was mercy and forgiveness. That’s there, but about 18 months after I wrote it, I realized it was also a spin on the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Clean reads are not Christian fiction, although most Christian fiction would qualify as clean reads. What are clean reads? These are stories without graphic sex or violence and little to no bad language, but they don’t have Christian themes or characters. Most cozy mysteries in the secular market could be called clean reads because readers expect the violence and any sex to take place off stage and not described in nitty gritty detail. Sweet romance stories fall into this category too.
If you read or write Christian fiction, how do you define it?