How Christian is your Fiction?

by Dan Walsh, @DanWalshAuthor

I suppose it’s fair to say the majority of writers who regularly read this blog write what the publishing world calls “Christian Fiction.” I recently submitted a request for a BookBub promo on their website. They ask you to pick what genre you write in. More than a dozen to choose from.

Oddly enough, they lump all the fiction written by Christian authors into one category. You guessed it, Christian Fiction. Even though we write in just as many different genres as they do. What sets us apart, I guess, is the Christian theme that appears in our books.

But as Christian authors, we have another issue to consider besides what genre we write in. That is, how much “Christian” should we put in our Christian fiction novel? It’s a subject every Christian author must wrestle with as they craft their stories.

Do you include a lot or a little? Do you see the writing task as a call from God to preach the gospel to unbelievers through your fiction stories? Some writers do. Others are concerned unbelievers will be turned off (even some Christian readers will be) if the novel gets too preachy. I’ve read many Christian readers complain about this on Facebook groups.

For the sake of clarity, I think we can put the kind of books Christian authors write into 2 distinct categories:

  1. Message Novels
  2. Worldview Novels

By a Message Novel, I mean one where the writer is clearly looking for a way to present the gospel message, or some other overtly Christian theme, through their story. Hopefully, they do it in a way that doesn’t come off as overly preachy. But even if well done, they want the message to be strong and clear.

By a Worldview Novel, I mean a book where the Christian message is more subdued and less obvious. Perhaps some of the main characters are Christians, but they don’t seek to deliver any specific Christian message as the story unfolds. When issues of right and wrong or morality are shown, they are presented from a Christian (versus secular) point of view. A Christian message may not even be central to the story (think clean entertainment).

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Out of the 19 novels I’ve written (20 including my WIP), about half are Message Novels and half are Christian Worldview. I don’t have enough time here to say which ones are in which category, or why I write both kinds of books. I don’t believe one type is more right, or better than the other. Usually for me, the story itself favors one approach or the other.

Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to write the “perfect blend novel.” One that has just the right amount of message and just the right amount of worldview to make everyone happy. Readers’ expectations of what they hope to see in a book are all over the map (including many Christian readers).

Consider my Jack Turner Suspense Series (the first three books are depicted here). These are not Message Novels. My goal in writing them was to create a clean, somewhat romantic, very suspenseful set of stories, not unlike the big secular thrillers people read; only instead of having the main characters sleep around, swear profusely and display rebellious attitudes, I wanted to show how credible Christian characters might handle these same kinds of intensely suspenseful plots and situations.

Thankfully, for the most part the reviews have been outstanding. But a few Christians have complained that the Christian message isn’t strong enough for them. In these novels, it never will be. They’re not Message Novels. If these readers read my Message-type Novels, they’d think they were wonderful, as is.

I hope I don’t come across as mocking here. I believe Message Novels have their place in Christian Fiction (why I write them also). But I want to end this column with something I’ll pick up again next month, and elaborate more fully. That is, I’m not sure it’s a realistic goal for a Christian author to think they can write a strong Message Novel that will appeal to a huge unbelieving (non-Christian) audience. I believe the Bible would even speak of some built-in obstacles to such a “Crossover Hit.” It can happen, but I think it’s rare.

When I write Message Novels, my intended audience and even my goal somewhat, is to strengthen and encourage Christians in their faith. I don’t see it so much as effective evangelism. If I’m able to win some converts to Christ, I’d be thrilled.

More on this next month. So, how about you? What kind of Novels do you write? How much Christian do you put in your Christian Fiction?


Saving Parker

After years of abuse and neglect, Parker is found chained in a junk-filled backyard after a drug bust. The little guy is terrified of people. Officer Ned Barringer brings him to a nearby shelter for medical care. When Ned learns how hard it is for dogs like Parker to get adopted, he decides to take him in. He’s also instantly taken with Kim Harper, one of the shelter managers. She offers to train Parker for free and Ned instantly accepts. That same day, he meets his next-door neighbor, a ten-year-old boy named Russell. Russell tries to hide a black-eye, compliments of two bullies at school. This angers Ned. He was also bullied as a child, the main reason he became a cop. But, really, what can he do? A series of tragic events occur. What vital role does Parker play in bringing these three lives together?

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 18 novels including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times), 3 Selah Awards and 4 of his books have been finalists for RT Review’s Inspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Word Weavers International, Dan writes fulltime in the Daytona Beach area. He and his wife Cindi have been married 42 years. You can find more about his books or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Pinterest from his website at http://www.danwalshbooks.com.