Saturday, November 21, 2015

When You're a Christian But Your Characters Are Not

Is there such a thing as a Christian novel?
posted by Michelle Griep for Rachel Allord

Once upon a time there was no such thing as Christian fiction. There were only novels. Some referred to God, some even mentioned Jesus, and some did not. Then one day a line was drawn. Christian fiction was demoted to an itty-bitty shelf in a mainstream bookstore, or ended up in its very own Christian bookstore.

When did this segregation occur? I’m not sure. Some time after Dickens and Hugo and C.S. Lewis, but before Grisham. This distinction isn’t necessarily bad, but it does force writers who are Christian to ask: am I a Christian novelist, or am I a novelist who is a Christian? And yes, there’s a difference.

My first book, Mother of My Son, neatly fell into the genre of Christian Fiction. Well, not neatly. A drunk college girl leaving her baby beside a dumpster is anything but neat, but the story highlights redemption and found a home with a Christian publisher.

And then this other story began bubbling inside of me. As it surfaced, I realized this baby wasn’t going to make the Christian fiction cut. I could have forced a conversion scene I suppose, but the story was working and the characters had captivated me, although they were not behaving, even uttering a few mild four-letter words every now and then. My characters, those weasels, wouldn’t shape up and I couldn’t rid my manuscript of their PG profanity. As tame as it was, I knew it wasn’t going to fly in Christian fiction.

So. What’s a writer who is also a Christian to do? Pray and let the story, and The Spirit, lead.

While Christian fiction writers must realize and stay within the parameters the genre imposes, writers who are Christians are limited only by imagination and personal conviction. To be honest, I struggled over the “controversial” elements of The Ground Beneath Us but after a whole lot of praying, and after listening to reader/friend feedback, I took a cue from the Beatles and let it be.

It’s futile to write for shock value, to rebel against conventional Christian fiction simply to rebel, but neither do we want to Christianize every story. Force it to fit into a box when it shouldn’t.

Don’t murder art. Let it breath. Bring your story before the master Creator and beg for wisdom. If you’re a Christian who’s a novelist, allow your faith to flavor and undergird your writing. Allow spiritual truths to seep in and surface symbolically—often the most effective way to pierce culture and prompt readers to ponder spiritual truths they might not otherwise consider.

Life is hard. People are messy, Christian or not. Both Christian fiction and fiction written by Christians have the power to feed His sheep, to offer hope and reveal truth—all while telling a killer story.



‘Til death do us part. But what if the marriage dies first?

Feeling trapped in a lifeless marriage, Holly Lewis runs away from home one morning. She’ll come back of course, to her humdrum husband and two children, but after running into Seth, the divorced artist down the street, Holly begins to question everything. It doesn’t help matters that one of her friends seems to have an ideal marriage and another friend is starting over. When Seth helps her train for a half marathon, Holly wonders if she’s missing out on her soul mate. Should the promise she made to her husband, who now seems like a stranger, trump her own happiness? Can a dead marriage be resurrected? Available on Amazon

Author Rachel Allord

Rachel Allord grew up as a pastor’s kid, vowed never to marry a pastor, and has been contentedly married to her husband, a worship pastor, since 1995. She is privileged to be both a biological and adoptive mother. Her stories and articles have appeared in MomSense, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and various other publications. Her most recent novel, The Ground Beneath Us, released in October of 2015. Rachel lives in Wisconsin where she avidly consumes coffee, sushi, and novels—preferably at the same time. Connect with her: RachelAllordFans on Facebook Twitter


Joan said...

Thank you for this post, Rachel. I'm a Christian, but I don't write Christian fiction. When I first began writing, I thought I "had" to write in the CF genre, but my work seemed forced. Therefore, I put my desire to write a novel on the back burner. Since I made the decision not to write in the CF genre, I'm happier with my writing and plan to publish the first novel in a series sometime next year.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rachel. You explained -- clearly -- what I haven't been able to. Best wishes for this book.

Rachel said...

Joan, isn't freedom a blessed thing? Yes, nothing forced ever seems to work. All the best to you as you write.

Anonymous.... thank you!