Monday, June 25, 2012

Part I: What IS a Christian fiction book or story?


I am a Christian writer. That lifestyle, that point of reference for life informs what I write and how I write. So, does that mean I write only "Christian" manuscripts?


What, exactly, makes my writing “Christian” anyway? Do my manuscripts always talk about God, or Jesus, or church? Are all of my main characters Christians? Does every story have a Christian theme?

And, how do I make sure that an editor, an agent or an everyday reader knows that my manuscript is a Christian one?



While searching the Internet for blog posts about my question I found on ehow.com a series of short videos by a film maker, Nathan Boehme. I couldn’t find anything about his credentials, but his definition of a Christian fiction book captured my attention.


He says: “The basic premise for writing a Christian book is having characters question their faith as a central part of the story.” You can watch the three-minute video clip (and others) here.


I’ve decided that I agree. Regardless of the stylistic preferences of various Christian publishing houses, I suspect they would also agree with Boehme’s distilled definition.


In my opinion every great story has three great elements: sympathetic characters who face conflict and struggles which result in the characters’ change or growth. This scenario is tailor-made for "Christian"stories as defined above.


Doesn’t every story of redemption follow this formula? A character faces conflict and struggles in life, which lead to questions, relationships and events that push that character toward Christ. The character’s new relationship to Christ changes him or her and results in positive personal growth. This scenario definitely fits Boehme’s definition.


What about characters who start out (in the story) as Christians? Their stories feature Christian characters that face conflicts or struggles which lead them to a crisis of belief. Their responses to, and choices in that crisis change them and their relationship to Christ for better or for worse. They are forced to make a decision that alters their lives. This also fits Boehme’s definition beautifully.


However, is that all there is to a fiction manuscript being “Christian?” Should my definition be altered?


What do you think? Please leave a comment and let us know what’s in that fertile brain of yours.


I’ll share my thoughts in my next Monday blog post.

13 comments:

Linda A. said...

Jean,
This was an interesting post and video and it got me to thinking about being a Christian writer. I also saw that Nathan offers other free videos about writing. I plan to check them out too. Thanks for sharing his views and yours. Most of the writing I've had published has been Christian. The way I see it, I remain a Christian even when I am not writing/marketing to Christian publishers. That makes me a Christian who writes. When I call myself a Christian writer, it implies that I write for the Christian market. That's my take.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

I never thought of that definition - the whole idea of questioning faith. But I think it's a great way to put it.

I usually think of Christian fiction as being a marketing designation. In order to be published by a Christian publisher, sold in a Christian bookstore or put into a church library it is expected to express a Christian world view and not to offend the potential audience with unorthodox views, vulgarities etc.

But truthfully, I would like if we just told stories, did so with integrity and authenticity and let truth (Biblical or otherwise) emerge naturally without having to fit into any formulas.

I know that's not realistic. Readers want labels. It does help us to make decisions in advance of reading or buying a book.

Carol Baldwin said...

I don't know that I can add to what you already said Jean. Well put! I think this would be a great workshop for W2I!

quietspirit said...

Jean:
I am at a standstill on a "Christian" story. You have given me somethings to think about. Thank you.

Jean said...

Linda,

Your differentiation is interesting. A Christian who writes doesn't necessarily write for the Christian market. A Christian writer does.

Hmmm. Now I'm thinking.

Jean

Jean said...

Linda,

Your differentiation is interesting. A Christian who writes doesn't necessarily write for the Christian market. A Christian writer does.

Hmmm. Now I'm thinking.

Jean

Jean said...

Joyce,

I agree, I usually think of "Christian fiction" as a marketing device, also. The same with genre titles for the most part. They help booksellers and librarians classify the titles in some logical fashion.

I know 7 year-olds and 16 year-olds who enjoy MGs. The labels we use are often just "handles" to simplify the logistics.

Thanks for the thoughts,
Jean

Jean said...

Carol -

A workshop? Maybe something for /A Day Apart/?

Thanks!
Jean

Jean said...

Dear QS,

Put that mss away for a week or so and just think about it. Ask yourself a few "what-if" questions. I'm betting your brain will find the right way through that block.

Thanks for dropping in.

Blessings,
Jean

Donna Earnhardt said...

Good post, Jean. I'm pondering that question every time I write. I think that being a Christian writer means that I don't write anything that would eventually cause someone to stumble in their walk or push them away from God. That doesn't mean I have to write something explicity Christian, but I can choose to NOT write something that is explicity unChristian.

That was as clear as mud, wasn't it? :)

Jean said...

Wise advice, Donna. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

Jean

It was clear -- nothing to do with mud. :-)

Lisa Fowler said...

This is quite a thought provoking post. I too consider myself a Christian who writes and had always thought a Christian writer as one who writes primarily for the Christian market. However after reading your blog perhaps I have a different take. I suppose all we writers really want are well fleshed out characters with gripping conflicts. That said, is it really possible to separate our Christianity from our writing? Don't our characters reflect our own morals at heart? Great thoughts Jean!

Jean said...

hanks, Lisa, for leavin a comment and a question.

I once told a Christian teacher I was couseling that, "As Chrsitians we cannot separate who we are from what we do."

I believe that applies to every vocation and avocation.

How else will the world see Jesus if we do not live so that His power and love are on public display in our lives?

Blessings,
Jean