Raising the Bar on Christian Fiction

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Have you ever heard a reader say they didn’t read Christian fiction because of poor writing? Either the characterization, plot, dialogue, setting, emotion, or description disappointed them. Professional writers always evaluate their craft to raise the bar and attract readers to an outstanding story.

Some Christians write for the Christian market, and others write for the general market. The adage is true that we can take the Christian content out of the writing, but we can’t take the Christian out of the writer. In the Christian market, writers typically avoid profanity, sexual content, and graphic violence for violence’s sake. But every aspect of the story must be stellar.

Christian fiction is a story in which one or more of the characters solve their problems from a Christian worldview. Values and beliefs are shown, not told. Good overcomes evil. The problems can be tragic or chaotic. No character is immune to facing the consequences of their behavior or facing what others might plan for them.

Christian fiction is not a platform to evangelize those who aren’t followers of Jesus, neither is the faith aspect an engine additive to encourage a specific audience. Unrealistic and predictable characters, preachy content, and verbiage, only a Christian understands can condescend any reader. The practice lowers the importance of a writer’s priority: entertaining the reader with a quality story.

We strive for outstanding craftsman and literary skills that show high standards in the publishing industry.

A quality written novel must have:

  • Well-rounded, three-dimensional characters
  • Intriguing plot
  • Show don’t tell
  • Emotion and symbolism to enhance the reader’s evocative experience
  • Witty dialogue
  • Body language unique to the character
  • Antagonistic setting

When writers refuse to master the above literary techniques, their stories fail. No matter the audience or genre, the writer’s belief system has no bearing on poor writing. The professional writer uses a mastery of the craft to create an excellent read.

A Christian writer adds a unique element of insight to their stories, a deeper look at God working in the lives of those who are open to a glimpse of what dependence upon God means. It’s a feature of truth shown in the character’s actions. The character’s faith can demonstrate courage during a crisis and doesn’t have to quote Scripture. The behavior gives pause to the reader. Did the character face the problem from a human perspective? Or did the character reach out to a power beyond him/herself?

We writers may have God on our side, and He is the Author of where we find our storylines. But without consistent time devoted to developing our skills, we can’t expect to impact readers with excellence.

What else can we do to improve Christian fiction writing?