Truth and Fiction

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnn Mills

I believe fiction can be a vehicle to communicate truth. From the moment I sensed a call to write, I understood my focus would be using story. This isn’t an original concept. Jesus spoke in parables and is known for deepening spiritual principles through the power of story. When disciples asked Him why, I have a feeling they were a little irritated.

“Why can’t Jesus just explain the ways of God?”

“Seems like He beats around the bush and wastes time. We have other people to visit.”

“These people can see the miracles and hear His teachings. So why the stories?”

Four thoughts come to mind about Jesus’ method of speaking to others:

  1. Jesus is God, and He has the perfect means of conveying truth. Authority goes a long way.
  2. People simply don’t listen to instruction. We’re a rebellious sort. Given the opportunity, we’ll insist we know best and don’t need God. So spending time digesting should and should-nots makes us cranky.
  3. Since time began, stories have entertained people. We love a good tale.
  4. Story is a nonthreatening environment to convey tough subjects.

Let’s look at three examples of how story can impact readers in an unthreatening or safe environment to instill truth.

  1. A woman is physically abused by her husband. She feels trapped and doesn’t know where to turn for help. She can’t read a nonfiction book that guides an abused woman because her husband might find it. But she can read a novel in which a woman faces the same nightmare. Through reading how a character finds the courage to rise above her circumstances, the reader makes positive steps toward healing.
  1. A little boy doesn’t understand why his mother died. He’s in counseling and surrounded by people who love and support him. He doesn’t think they understand his loss. He’s afraid to express his anger. When he reads a story about a child whose parent has died, the little boy experiences the same emotions through the written word. He becomes receptive to working through his grief.
  1. A man in his thirties looks back on his life. He sees the deliberate breaking of the law, drug abuse, and an inability to keep a job. While sitting in jail, he reads a novel about a man who regretted past decisions but chose to change. The character climbs out of a well of despair and leaves old friends and ways behind. He enrolls in night school while holding down a job.

Think about how easy it is to be lost within the parameters of a story. Readers experience the adventure, vicariously living the thrills and defeats within the pages. As the writer creates memorable characters, he gives them a problem to solve or a goal to accomplish. Characters are placed in unique and challenging settings. The writer tosses in everything that could possibly go wrong; allows the characters to learn and grow into better people, then teaches them something that enriches their mind and soul. Spiritual values are drop-shipped into our hearts without our realizing it.

How much easier is it to engage in a character used as an object lesson than have a finger pointed at us? Sprinkle the story with love, hate, forgiveness, sacrifice, godly living versus earthly selfishness, and we have Biblical truths wrapped in fiction. Makes sense to me.

Here’s another tidbit: as a novelist, if I don’t change and grow into a better person while writing a story, how can I expect my reader to experience the same?

Christian writers wrestle with how much spirituality to place in their novels.

“Do I need prayers?”


“A priest or pastor?”

“Are my word choices offensive to a reader?” Years ago, I had an editor delete the description of a child’s playground equipment as “monkey bars” because a reader might think I believed in evolution.

My advice to writers is to simply pen a dynamic story where one or more of the characters solve their problems from a Christian worldview. Study the craft to develop character, genre, plot, and other techniques to create an entertaining story that inspires, encourages, and shows truth.

God gives me stories, and they come from everywhere: dreams, movies, history, media, and overheard conversations (eavesdropping). With prayer, how the words transform into an unforgettable and meaningful novel is a two-way dialogue: God and me.

Where God dwells, there is truth. And that means in the heart of fiction, He has glory. What are your thoughts on truth and fiction?