The Christian Thing

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: How should/does my faith fit into my writing?

I have not yet written a single story that could be marketed by Christian publishing companies. Don’t get me wrong, I never have any sex/swearing/overly dark themes in my stories and I intend to keep it that way. I want my stories to be light PG-13 at their grittiest and the norm to be G or PG rated. However, my stories don’t have any Christian characters, clear Christian messages, or allegorical potential. Therefore, a Christian publisher would never agree to market one of my books, which is fine by me.

I didn’t choose to be a writer for young adults. The type of books I like to write decided that for me. I write the kind of books I love to read and I love to read books that are gripping, powerful, and usually fun without making me blush or cringe. I believe that all art (acting, painting, music, dance, writing, etc) is at least a partial reflection of the artist. Perhaps more importantly, the viewers of the art see it as an extension of the artist (how many people have crushes on actors just because of a role they’ve played?). Everything we listen to, watch, or read affects us and books have a powerful impact on the reader–they can change a person’s life! You can’t always help what readers do with your story (for example, I don’t think it’s J.K. Rowling’s fault if kids practice witchcraft–that was clearly never her intent and her books don’t support the occult). But I still believe it’s important to be very aware of what sort of influence your books could have.

In my sci-fi novel, I stay away from anything related to religion just as I stay away from anything political. This is not how it will always be, though. I’m going to say this now to go on record because I doubt anyone will believe me once I get published: In later books in the Atlantean series (not with Jezel, but with Mystra), I intend to write quite  a lot about Christianity and God. The basic plots of these stories have already been decided long ago and I will stay faithful to them. I don’t want to give anything away, but know that just because my characters don’t believe in God doesn’t mean he’s absent from my novels–my characters only think he is. I just want to mention this now so no one accuses me later in life of suddenly growing up and deciding I want to slap a Christian message onto my books midway through the series. Nope, that is where I intend to story to go, and I can prove it now because I wrote this blog :-P

Switching gears…I want a quick word about Christian fiction ~shudder~. It’s a really sensitive topic, but the truth is that most Christian fiction is woefully sub par–especially sci-fi/fantasy. It’s earned a reputation for being sappy, unrealistic, boring, predictable, sanitized, badly written, and most of all: preachy. This goes for Christian film (worse off than the book industry, if you ask me) and Christian art. Personally, I believe that the Christian music business is the only one that’s actually in the ballpark in terms of stylistic quality.

But all is not lost! Here is a short list of Christian authors who I believe deserve to be singled out as Contemporary Christian fiction authors who don’t suck. I say contemporary because, we all know that C.S. Lewis rocks.

Contemporary Christian Authors Who Do NOT Suck!

1. Kathy Tyers’ Firebird Trilogy: Science Fiction. Political intrigue, passionate romance, and telepathy!

2. Gerald Morris’ Squire’s Tales series: Hilarious Monty Python-esque retellings of Arthurian legend.

3. Sigmund Brouwer’s Mars Diaries, Cyber Quest, and Wings of Dawn: Science fiction, time-travel, and Medieval adventure.

4. Ted Dekker’s The Circle Trilogy: Parallel world jumping, lots of heart pumping action, all wrapped up in a non-cliche allegory.

5. Randy Alcorn’s Lord Foulgrin’s Letters: Modern version of The Screwtape Letters gives the story a new angle

6. Frank Peretti: Horror. I’ve only read one or two of his less-scary stuff, but he’s definitely a masterful writer.

The best part is that there are so many more that could go on this list that I just don’t remember. They do exist! You just have to search to find them!

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Desmond Glass
    Feb 07, 2011 @ 08:12:24

    Why is it that most Christian books are so poorly done? Does the label “Christian” mean that some people will automatically pick it up? Does the message, however forced or blunt, matter more than the quality of the content? Granted, I don’t necessarily mind the message (after all, The Circle Trilogy managed to present itself in a unique way), but it cannot carry a story by itself.

    One of the major challenges of religion in fiction is that the writer is the god of a story. If the writer wants to be cynical, then God of the story will not respond or be downright cruel. On the other hand, God can be extremely involved and/or direct with the characters if the writer wills it. God is just another element within the writer’s control.

    How should one write/portray God in fiction?

    Reply

    • missmystra
      Feb 08, 2011 @ 04:00:37

      Wow, thanks for the essay prompt! ;-) Serves me right, lol. I think that the Christian publishing industry has certain criteria for the books they publish and they are specifically looking for books with a strong Christian message, so authors writing for that genre tend to put a strong emphasis on that part of the story when they are writing. It’s really hard to write a book with a fantastic story if you start with the message first and then try to fit (often force) the story to the message. Sometimes this works, but a lot of the time, it results in a low quality story and poorly written prose. Plenty of authors make this mistake, but the Christian publishing industry seems the most willing of all the genres to accept it.

      As for the God in fiction issue…I have no idea if there is a good rule of thumb to use for it. I can analyze and give opinions on how I feel it works in certain books, but that’s about it. Maybe it’s best if the author shows situations where God is working, but doesn’t offer explicit commentary on God’s motives? I guess if I was going to try it, I’d have to pray about it a lot beforehand.

      Reply

  2. Trackback: Charming Note #5 = Fail! :( « To Reach the Unreachable Star

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