Shocked you again, didn’t I?
But seriously, though… today I want to share with you about the problem I have with many works of Christian fiction.
They force a message/moral on the reader.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been turned off of a Christian fiction book because of preachiness. A stiff sermon in the form of fiction really frustrates me. If you really want to write an essay on Christianity, please just go do it. ‘Cause that’s what your exposition should be. Please don’t mask it with fiction.
I firmly believe that fiction should not be a platform for preaching. Tell your story and let it do its thing.
Disclaimer: please understand that I’m not knocking sermons or essays… I love them. I’m just saying that they have their own distinct place… they don’t need to masquerade in fictitious literature.🙂
Believe it or not, it’s possible to glorify God through fiction without preaching at your readers.
The people who influence us most are not those who buttonhole us and talk to us, but those who live their lives like the stars in heaven and the lilies in the field, perfectly simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mould [sic] us. – Oswald Chambers
I believe this applies to fiction, as well. I can’t tell you how many works of fiction have made me stop in my tracks and evaluate my relationship with God and how I live it out… without being preachy. The writer just let the story play out… and let me, the reader, learn from the natural flow of the story.
In my opinion, writing a story to teach your readers a lesson is stepping into dangerous territory.
A couple of years ago, God was teaching me something amazing. My natural reaction was to share my new-found knowledge with others. And so I thought…
Why not write my (beloved) Civil War story so the main character learns the lesson I just learned?
So I started doing it. I planned to put my main character through a series of disastrous and depressing events (which is something my writer’s heart morbidly enjoys doing), and have her come through this scarring experience with the realization that Jesus was enough for her, no matter what.
Thankfully I set that project aside for a time. When I came back to it, having learned more about the writing craft and just life in general, I realized I had messed up.
I was trying to force my story into a preconceived mold. A preachy mold.
I know people laugh when writers complain about their characters getting out of control and doing things the writer never meant for them to do… but it’s a real struggle. A well-developed character should surprise its creator and do things that it was never “supposed” to do. Annoying as this is, letting the characters live their lives authentically is one of the best things a writer can do.
Trust that your readers can learn from your characters’ experiences without preachy interference.
I’m certainly not implying that stories shouldn’t have themes and morals… they should. True stories have these! In short, I’m saying that the stories you write can (and should!) be meaningful and convicting without being awkward and preachy.
Let your story be just that – a story. Trust the incredible power of fiction… let your story play out and let your readers glean from it what they will… just like they observe real life and glean from it without exposition.
This is my opinion… what’s yours? Do you agree with me? Disagree? A little bit of both? Please share… I always love feedback and discussion.:)