Monday, October 8, 2007

why i read christian fiction

I want to see God. I want to read stories about people dealing with real struggles, but handling them in a way that shows God's grace, power, and love. I want to see redemption. I want to see reconciliation. I want to see that the things that matter to God are so much different from the things that matter to us. Not because He has the wrong priorities, but because we do.

I don't want to just be entertained. I am disappointed in books that are nice reads and the character happens to be a Christian, (we know this because she occasionally goes to church).

I want to be challenged. I want to learn. I want to be convicted. I want to be different in some small, (or big) way from having read it.

I want to see people living the Christian life the way it should be lived, not the way it usually is lived.

I have read so many comments by people saying they don't want to be hit over the head with Christianity in Christian fiction. My question is, why do they read it then? I have read a lot of good secular books that are clean, and have a great message. Why not just read those?

Christian fiction is written for Christians. We shouldn't have to soft sell God in Christian fiction. If it were a story written for unbelievers, then some gentle tact is required in getting the message across, but the message still needs to get across. And it should probably be an ABA book so the person will pick it up in the first place. Most non-believers aren't buying up the Christian fiction, are they?

What I'd like to see more of: Characters who pray fervently about their decisions instead of winging it. People who look to God for direction and guidance. More stories demonstrating the sovereignty of God. People with questions and dilemmas that don't necessarily get solved. And I'd love to see some tragic endings. I am so tired of predictable story lines. Life doesn't always go the way we expect. How about stories showing that God is still in control even when our world falls apart. Life doesn't tie up neatly, there are always loose ends. I've read books about worlds falling apart and God picking up the pieces, but they always have the predictable happy ending. What if the person doesn't get cured from a deadly illness, but instead finds God's peace and strength to bear it? What if the handsome neighbor turns out to be an abuser, but the woman calls off the wedding just in time? Or what if she doesn't? What if a lovelorn woman continually has bad relationships until she realizes God is her all in all and that He will be sufficient for her in a life of singleness? Not everyone gets married. Not everyone gets cured. Not everyone has a marriage that is roses and walks in the moonlight.

Well, I hope there is some kind of market for this stuff that I want, because it's the way I plan to write.

I'm not saying there aren't some books out there like this. I'm saying there aren't enough. Lisa Samson's Tiger Lilly is a great example. If you know of some, tell me what they are.


  1. Hi Kay, good commentary! I don't even know how I came across your blog, but I sure do enjoy reading it. I haven't read any of Lisa Samson's books yet, but I plan to. I really enjoyed Eve's Daughters by Lynn Austin -- have you any of her books? I actually really enjoyed It Happens Every Spring by Catherine Palmer and Gary Chapman.The title didn't grab me, but I felt the storyline was realistic in many ways. I'm not sure these are the kind of books you're looking for, but I thought I'd pass on the titles.

  2. Thanks, Aneta! I will look for those. I don't know if I've read Lynn Austin or not. I used to be very bad about remembering authors. I'm trying to keep better track of names now.
    Glad you said hi!

  3. I love the first three paragraphs and agree completely. However, I'm in the opposite camp in terms of wanting to be entertained as well. I don't like the bittersweet or tragic endings. I need a happy ending.

    It's funny, and I've told Lisa this, I love her writing. She's one of the best writers I know. But I can't read her books all that often because they aren't happy enough for me.

  4. I enjoyed a book called The Alabaster Cross by Richard Exley. It might be something you would enjoy. I have to admit that I am usually hoping for the happy endings, but it would be good to read realistic books showing God's sovereignty.

  5. I agree with you,I love Marion Bond West-she was instrumental in turning my life around

  6. Thanks everyone for your suggestions!

  7. I haven't found many Christian titles that live up to your post. (I'm looking for them as well.) Since you posted on Athol Dickson's blog, I'm assuming you have read his work? If not, River Rising is one of my favorite novels put out in the CBA.

    Mike Snyder has one coming out in February called My Name Is Russell Fink. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by it.

  8. Well put, Kay. I don't have to post on this now. :)

    There are 80 million evangelicals in this country - why not write stories about them ( meaning characters they connect and identify with going through struggles that are familiar to their own ).

    I think the evangelical outreach potential of Christian fiction is grossly overestimated.

    Your reasons in regards to Why you read Christian Fiction is exactly the target reader I'm writing for.

  9. Wow, you are so intuitive, so honest, and so......right on. Thank you for posting this! You said what has rolled through my heart for months but I couldn't put words to. Blessings on you today!


  10. As the author of Christian fiction, I was very encouraged and inspired by your post, Kay. We authors get mixed signals--constantly. Some of our readers (and even some of our publishers) want more secular books or books with a subtler message. I've found that I can't please everyone, and shouldn't try to. I must please Him first, and write the books He wants me to write. I've got to be the best Nancy Moser I can be (in all respects, far beyond writing.) Are my books perfect? Never. But I guarantee they are the best I can do at the time I am writing them. My other author friends and I try very, very hard to get it right. That we sometimes hit a home run, and other times bunt and only get on first, is all part of it. As a reader take heart in knowing we never stop trying for the home run (however "home run" is defined is a whole other subject.) Thank you for reminding me that sometimes we do get it right and make a difference. Knowing that makes the hundreds of hours in front of our computer worth it.

  11. Have you check out The Novelist by Angela Hunt? The whole storyline is unusual, and it ends far from all neat and tied up in a bow. Yet it is a satisfying story.

  12. Thanks, Kay! Great post!

  13. Great comments! I found this blog through Kim Sawyer's comment on the ACFW loop. I was blown away by what you said. I pray that the Lord will let me write like what you're saying. God bless--
    Kristy Dykes

  14. Hi Kay,

    You had me until you said you didn't want to be entertained. That's the best part about reading. I'm also into happy ending, mainly because real life sucks sometimes and I like to see books end happily.

    I like your comments because as a writer its always good to see what a reader looks for.

    I'll definitely check out the book suggestions.

  15. Kay,

    You covered my thoughts quite well :) I agree with all you are saying - realistic books are good and for all the reasons you mentioned, but I do enjoy a good Cinderella story too.

    I look forward to reading your books one day and enjoy reading your posts now! Thank you!

  16. Great commentary! I am currently struggling with what direction to take my own fiction. I don't really enjoy most of the Christian fiction I've been reading. The suspense isn't that suspenseful and the characters are either too churchy or I can't even tell they are Christian.

    I believe Christian readers want the same thing as non-Christian readers--a great story that draws them in with characters they identify with. Guess what? I identify with other Christians.

    Thanks for the post. I agree that stories need to be real. Not everything ends happily. But I don't think I would want to read too many stories in a row that left me bawling at the injustice and cruelties of life. Transport me to a better world. But hey, that's why I seldom watch the news.

  17. Hey, Loop de Loops in La La Land! I saw on Michelle Pendergrass' blog that one of her favorite movies is "Eight Seconds". How about that? Hey, Michelle. I had a cousin who was a lot older than I was and he had a daughter who is about my age. She had a son named Lane Frost. Lane was an interesting boy. He would get acquainted with kids at a rodeo (he was their hero, you see) and he would be able to call those kids by name the next time he was in that arena. He loved the Lord, and witnessed whenever he got a chance. The family more or less had to give the movie makers a little free rein so they livened up the story a little, if you know what I mean.


I love to hear your thoughts!