Faith in Fiction

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There is a good deal of Christian Fiction out there; much more than even twenty years ago. It seems that lately, the genre is exploding. When you take indie published writers into account, like myself, there are even more. When we look at the genre, it is assumed that there will be some faith-component, some mentioning of God – specifically the second Person of the Trinity, Christ Jesus. It’s a bonus for me when all three Persons and their work is mentioned.

So how is that faith-component there? How is Christ brought into the picture of a fictional story?

Sometimes it is central to the story – one of the main characters has a crisis of faith, and this is the story. While this is certainly a valid and realistic (depending on the portrayal) tactic, I don’t enjoy feeling “preached-at” when reading fiction. Even if I believe everything written there, I’d rather look to a theology book  and be in a contemplative mindset when tackling that sort of reading. I also personally find a lot of books that take this approach leave out God’s action and center the attention on the character’s action. And while character’s choices and actions are what the story is about, we run into dangerous territory when we downplay or ignore the fact that faith is COMPLETELY God’s gracious love and mercy poured out for us in the blood of Christ and planted by the Holy Spirit through the hearing of the Word. But enough of my preaching. 😉

At other times, the characters go to church on Sundays, draw comfort or strength from their faith, and that’s about it. These sort of books have always left me feeling a little empty in the faith-regard. Of course, sometimes that’s all that the story warrants. But if our faith is not informing our lives and we are blind to the hand of God working in our lives and the lives of those around us, how are we genuine Christ-followers? Likewise with fictional characters.

Other writers will weave faith into the story as a thread that is not the whole of the fabric, but one that is present in every square inch of the whole, and that without that thread, the entire story would unravel. This is what I try to do. Of course, I don’t do it perfectly, but I like to think like myself, my writing is a work in progress. Here’s how I usually go about this weaving process.

  1. ASK: Spiritually speaking, where is the character at the start of the book? Where do I want him or her to be by the conclusion? These questions inform the brainstorming, plotting, and story arc that eventually flows from the process. Penelope had some serious growing and healing that needed to happen in her Spiritual Story Arc… She could not get to the point of receiving the blessings God had in store for her until her eyes were opened to see the benevolent Father that He is. This generated a good deal of the movement she made throughout the story, but there were other things at work, influencing and poking and prodding her. At the heart of her story, though, was her faith learning to bloom.
  2. Once I know where I want the character to go or grow, I can incorporate that into my outline of the story. When you read her story, you’ll see that Violet’s faith is strong and real, but she still has some growing to do. Don’t we all? When deciding what to include in her story, I always had to ask, “How will this affect her? How might God use this to grow her?” Sometimes the event/scene worked as it was, and sometimes I needed to adjust it to find the result that would move Violet toward her desired end.
  3. Finally, or perhaps I should say “primarily”, the other thing I do is PRAY. Even though it’s (just) a story, even though it’s (just) a novel, God can and does still speak through His Word presented there. My prayer with everything I write is that He would guide me to write what He would have me write, and to help me share the Truth of His love, always.