By Narelle Atkins
Last year I was on a romance panel at the CALEB Christian Writing Conference with ACW members Mary Hawkins and Andrea Grigg. We discussed the faith element in Christian romance novels and the power of story to share spiritual truths with our readers. Many Christian fiction writers have a strong desire to share their faith with readers through the lives of their characters. Jesus used parables and stories to teach his disciples and followers Biblical truths.
An important question all Christian fiction writers should ask is why do I want to write Christian fiction? I’m a storyteller and I love creating stories for the characters who live in my overactive imagination. My faith is an integral part of my life, and the hero and heroine in my contemporary inspirational romances each have a spiritual story arc. Their faith grows and matures during the story.
A criticism that’s often leveled at Christian fiction is the books are preachy and bang the reader over the head with a faith message. How can writers avoid being preachy? The writing craft technique of showing the story rather than telling the story is a practical way to address this problem. It’s rare to read a long narrative conversion scene in Christian fiction books published in recent years.
I believe the fundamental answer to the preachy fiction question relates to a writer’s motivation. Story rules, irrespective of genre. Writing a beautifully crafted story that entertains readers should be our primary goal if we’re writing for publication. Readers pick up a fiction book because they want to be entertained and escape into a great story. They may prefer a lighthearted story, or a story that tackles deeper issues, but a well written story is always an essential ingredient.
During the romance writing panel, I generated a collective gasp in the room by voicing the following statement: If your main goal for writing Christian romance is to share your spiritual message, do the romance readers a favour by writing your message as non-fiction.
Readers who are looking for answers to specific spiritual questions usually turn to the Bible, their pastor, or non-fiction sources. If you visit a typical Christian book store in Australia, you’ll find eighty plus percent of the shelf space for books is Bibles and non-fiction books.
I occasionally read Christian fiction stories that tackle issues. Story can be an effective way to teach us how to empathize with people who are in difficult situations. Through their point of view we can gain valuable insights into how they think, feel and respond in specific circumstances. We can experience their emotional roller coaster and cheer them on as they seek to overcome problems and obstacles in the story.
In my new contemporary inspirational romance release, Her Tycoon Hero, the story touches on alcoholism and addiction issues. Alcoholism is an element in the story and my heroine, Cassie, is a recovering alcoholic and new Christian. But, the core story is the developing romance between Cassie and Ryan. Cassie’s alcoholism and past behaviour has created problems that impact the story. One example is her difficult relationship with her father. He struggles to believe that she has changed and her faith has made her a better person.
Cassie Beaumont Believes in Second Chances
Set on proving to everyone that she's no longer a party girl, Cassie is focused on her career as an event planner. But her dad's top executive, Ryan Mitchell, proves to be a handsome distraction. Especially when someone from Cassie's wild past tries to get her tangled in the life she's worked hard to escape.
Ryan is taken with his boss's beautiful daughter. But having been fooled by a brother who ran in her same circles, he is slow to trust. When Cassie's newfound faith works its way into his heart, Ryan soon finds he wants to claim both her faith and Cassie as his own.
Narelle blogs regularly with International Christian Fiction Writers and Inspy Romance. http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/
She is also a co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA).
Twitter: @NarelleAtkins https://twitter.com/NarelleAtkins
Do you have a favourite issue-based story? Is there a particular Christian fiction book that has touched your heart and encouraged you in your faith journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
To celebrate the official release of Her Tycoon Hero yesterday, I'm giving away one print copy (worldwide, wherever The Book Depository delivers) to a reader who leaves a comment on this post and enters the Rafflecopter giveaway below.