Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Back to the Whiteboard

Did you notice we have updated photos? Mine kinda looks like I'm wearing a feather headdress.  Hmm.  I might have to do something about that. 

In Latayne's last post, she shared her students' responses as to what makes Christian fiction, well, Christian.  This has been a hotly debated topic from time to time, with no definitive consensus reached.  So the debate continues. Here are my whiteboard choices for Christian fiction:

  • The story reveals the characteristics of God - love, sacrifice, redemption, grace, for example. These shine more brightly when contrasted with the evil, sin and godlessness in the story world.
  • Gratuitive sex, violence and foul language cheapen storytelling and don't have a place in Christian fiction. There are ways to get around these without being explicit or titillating.  The story can still be true and relevant without leaving the reader with a film of ick. 
  •  There are no fairytale endings, nor are all the loose ends tied up prettily, but the reader is left with a hopeful, positive resolution.  Despair, if present, is short-lived.
  •  Characters are authentic, flawed, unique individuals on spiritual journeys.  They don't have to stop and pray before every move, but they do come to recognize God's hand in their lives and grow in some way.
  • The story doesn't force an agenda or try to manipulate the readers' responses. The author trusts that if the story is told the way it was intended, God can be trusted to communicate with the reader. C.S Lewis' Narnia series is an example of great storytelling without preaching.
  • If appropriate and not contrived, a character can make a statement of faith as part of the character arc, but a really well-written story handles this with a light touch. Most publishers clearly state their their guidelines in no uncertain terms in regard to the manuscripts they purchase. You should check the guidelines of publishers you have in mind before you get too far along in your story.
  • Stories don't have to mention God or Christ by name to be Christian fiction. Aslan in Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a Christ-figure in that he takes the punishment for Edmund and overcomes death. But there is no footnote that says 'Aslan is really Christ.' I have seen other Christ figures in literature written by authors who are not categorized as Christian fiction authors specifically. That does not lessen the impact they made on me. God communicates in whatever way He chooses.
This is my basic but ever expanding, ever changing definition of Christian fiction. What would you leave out, or leave in? What would you add?  We'd love to hear.


Sharon K. Souza said...

This is a great list, Debbie. I especially like the point that says there are no fairytale endings, that a hopeful resolution is enough. I'm going to print this out for future reference.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Thanks, Sharon. I suppose in some genres the fairytale ending is expected, and that's okay. I was speaking more of general fiction, as I now you also write.