How is a Christian Novel Different?

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Many of you read my novels that are published by a Christian publisher. I’m often asked how my novels are different from a general market book, and my response is always the same:

Novels are about strong characters who have a problem to solve. It’s all about character.

But there’s more. A Christian novel is a story in which one or more of the characters solve his/her problems or strive for a goal from a Christian Worldview. God is a priority: His plan and His purpose for the character. Flaws and weaknesses are important parts of the character’s journey. Faith aspect is not an engine additive. It rises from the writer’s deep rooted convictions. Good overcomes evil. Period.

Sometimes Christian fiction is called inspirational, but the category is misleading because any religion can refer to a story that embraces core beliefs as inspirational.

A Christian novel can be any genre.

A Christian writer can create novels for the general market or the Christian market.

A Christian Publishing House understands the business is also a ministry. Many of these publishers contribute to charitable organizations and make an intentional effort to pray for their writers and employees.

Here are 10 of my writing objectives for every story:

  1. Realistic, unexpected, and unpredictable.
  2. Values and beliefs are shown, not told.
  3. Goals to entertain, inspire, and encourage readers.
  4. Internal beliefs fed by life experiences and often lies the character believes about life, the world, and him/herself.
  5. Well-developed characters with a rich backstory.
  6. A plot filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, stress, tension, and conflict. The character arc includes a spiritual thread.
  7. Dialogue that’s fresh, exciting, and in character.
  8. Narrative rooted in point of view.
  9. Provide realistic emotion and symbolism for the reader’s evocative experience.
  10. Create an antagonistic setting, where everything works against the character.

In a Christian novel, readers may be uncomfortable with what is stated regarding faith. A story is about a character struggling to achieve a goal, not an opportunity to pound the reader over the head with a Bible or a philosophy.

A few distinguishing attributes for the Christian novel:

  • Avoids cursing
  • Avoids sex scenes
  • Avoids violence for violence sake

What a Christian novel is not:

  • A platform intended to evangelize all those who are not Christian.
  • Preachy, where the characters are unrealistic, unsympathetic, and their actions predictable.
  • Filled with words only other Christians might understand.
  • A narrative of sermons, people quoting Scripture, or lengthy prayers.

A common theme for all novels:

  • Show strong characters who are not victims but survivors.
  • Pit characters against the forbidden, frightening, and unknown. Adversity is the classroom for spiritual growth and positive change. Adversity also reveals who the inner character really is.

The next time someone asks why you’re reading a Christian novel, feel assured to say, “It’s all about character.”

How do you describe a Christian novel?

DiAnn Mills



DiAnn’s Library Corner

Librarian – Are your patrons aware of the many fiction & nonfiction Christian books in your library?

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Comments 17

  1. Gloria

    Great post, DiAnn. There is a way to grab non Christians without turning them away. I see reviews where people don’t think Christian fiction because they feel it is too preachy. You always do a great job.

    1. DiAnn Mills

      Hi, Gloria, I understood what you meant and thank you for your kind words. I believe a story is first a way of engaging a reader into a character’s life. My hero and heroines are often Christian – and my goal is for them to show their faith. I appreciate you!

  2. Frances Wilson

    At the time, when I am sweating (even in the cold) over my novel blueprint, this is information which cost several gold nuggets.
    Thanks Diane. I tend to think Christian, and while there is nothing wrong with that, I realize now, I can push far from me, those I am seeking to win. Without being like the world, I as a writer can reach the word through wisdom, and a commitment to delivering well. Again, thanks.

  3. Katrina Epperson

    Diann, this is a wonderful post. I love to read and years ago I would read anything that had a good romance or suspense. Looking for a new author at the library I was directed towards the Christian section. I picked up a book from Dee Henderson and was immediately hooked. The first thing I noticed was how much more indepth both the plot and characters were. I think what I’m trying to say is they both felt so much more real. So I started reading Christian authors. I now can’t imagine reading anything else to be honest with you. Funny thing, about two weeks after I picked up that first book my pastor preached a sermon about what we watch, listen to and read. He challenged us to ask the question how would you feel if Jesus was sitting beside you seeing, hearing or reading the same thing you were? I continue to ask myself that when reading a book. Again thank you for sharing. Blessings

    1. DiAnn Mills

      Hi, Katrina, many years ago I had the same experience. What if Jesus was peering over my shoulder and reading the book in my hands? That revelation changed how I read and how I later wrote. Thank you!

  4. Robin E. Mason

    all excellent points, DiAnn – my pet peeve in reading Christian Fiction is #2! “church speak” in nearly every sentence or paragraph!! nobody talks that way, at least nobody i know (well, i can think of one lady.) the story doesn’t flow when it’s overloaded with “church speak!!!:

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  5. MS Barb

    This is an excellent post! And I love your books b/c you do something “unexpected” with your characters! I also appreciate the research authors put into the geographical locations & how they include true little tidbits w/in the story line… THANKS!

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