Is God Necessary In Christian Fiction?

August 6th, 2011

book photoWelcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

In Mike Duran’s post How Do We “Glorify God” in Our Writing? I discovered I wasn’t the only person asking if you can write Christian fiction without specifically mentioning God.

As Mike points out, it seems most Christian writers (and I would say most Christians) think you absolutely must include God specifically in a story in order for it to be Christian:

…And, sadly, that’s what many folks mean by glorifying God in their writing. For most Christian writers, glorifying God is all about their message. It means not backing away from the Gospel and not avoiding references to Christ in their novel. It means developing content that is virtuous, redemptive, and spiritually uplifting.

Which leads me to ask: Can only writers of explicit “Christian content” glorify God in their writing?…

IF NOT — if only Christian writers can glorify God in Christian stories — then how can a Christian ever hope to “do all to the glory of God”?

IF SO — if Christians can glorify God in whatever kind of story they write (or task, service, job they perform) — then how is glorifying God in a Christian story any different than glorifying God in a “secular” story?…

This is a question I’ve struggled with for years. I enjoy reading secular fantasy. I’ve tried reading Christian fantasy, but found it lacking (although I really enjoy Christian thrillers like This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti). My natural inclination is to write secular fantasy, but I feel compelled to follow the path writing greats like C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien have blazed. They wrote what they wanted to read because what they wanted wasn’t already abundantly available.

I want to write Christian fiction, specifically fantasy, that I would want to read, which may or may not explicitly mention God. But would it be considered Christian if I don’t get explicit about the Gospel?

So, what do you think? Should writers mention God in order for their work to be considered Christian, or can a Christian writer “glorify God” without getting specific?




Photo by chany14

Is There Christian Fantasy?

July 7th, 2011

book photoI love fantasy. My bookshelves, which I share with my fantasy-loving mother, are crammed two deep with fantasy books. Some shelves even have books on top of books. If there’s a limit to the number of books one can keep on a Nook, then I’m sure I’ll discover it and most of those will be fantasies, too.

Yet there seems to be a distinct line for many on what is secular fantasy and what is Christian.

Obviously those stories involving Satan or his demons as the protagonists can’t be considered Christian. The same is true of stories that make obvious reference to the Christian God and His angels as the good guys can’t really be considered entirely secular. Those aren’t the books I’m thinking of.

I’ve read mostly secular fantasy over the years. Some I can honestly say cannot be classified as Christian even with a lot of stretching of the imagination. Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series would be among those.

There are others, though, that I’m not so sure can be classified to my satisfaction.

For instance, in Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey Mysteries the protagonists, who happen to be talking cats, often mull over ideas that echo Christian thoughts.

And what about J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy? Nowhere is God specifically mentioned, though Tolkien himself said,

“We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. “

So, if God is not specifically mentioned, does that make LOTR secular?

And what about magic in fantasy?

Many people draw the line at magic, saying Christian fantasy cannot contain magic in any form unless it’s evil. Others, like John Edgell in his post The Writer of Christian Fantasy Fiction and Magic, set specific guidelines for magic usage.

For instance, Edgell says,

“…if the magic comes from a personal power source, whether outside of or within the one using the magic, that power source determines whether the magic at its essence is good or evil.”

In Edgell’s opinion, magic that comes from nature (he uses a glowing stone as an example) is neither good nor evil and therefore not at issue. However, if one person can use magic and others cannot, then it all depends on where that ability comes from as to whether the story can be Christian or not.

Personally, I look at the ability to use magic in a fantasy as simply a talent or skill similar to the ability to sing or write. It is the use of that talent or skill that makes a character good or evil. In this case, a fantasy written from a Christian worldview, as LOTR seems to be, can be classified as Christian fantasy.

What do you think? What makes a fantasy Christian or secular?

Photo by zeze57

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Christian Fiction Indie Authors Continue Success In Kindle Top 100

June 1st, 2011

As it was in mainstream fiction, so it is still among a lot of Christian writers. Many still believe the only way to be validated and sell Christian fiction is to be traditionally published. Validation, however, depends on the writer’s idea of what success means.

What is success?

If the only way a writer will feel as if he succeeded is to find his book in a brick-and-mortar store, then traditional publishing is about the only way that will happen.

However, if reaching an audience is the real answer to “what is success?”, then perhaps epublishing is the better choice.

Mainstream indie authors are continuing to prove the DIY method can lead to satisfying sales, but what about Christian indie authors? How do they fair in the Kindle Top 100’s in Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Here’s what I found.

Top 11 Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy

  • The first five books listed in Top 100 Paid were by Vaughn Heppneran indie author selling his books for $2.99 or less.
  • In sixth and tenth place was Mary Doria Russell, traditionally published by Ballantine and selling her books for $11.99.
  • Vaughn Heppner reappears in slots 7-9.
  • In the number 11 spot was Angela Hunt, also traditionally published by Thomas Nelson and selling her book for $1.27.

So what can we conclude from this little snapshot?

What’s happening in the mainstream is also happening in Christian speculative fiction. The main difference I’m seeing is that some publishers seem to be adapting quicker to the new paradigm: readers want good ebooks at low prices.

It also means that getting traditionally published will only validate your writing if that is how you view success. Indie authors writing Christian fiction have the same opportunities as any other author, provided we work smart and give it our all.

Success is a matter of choice regardless whether you choose traditional publishing or indie publishing for both mainstream and Christian fiction.


Hello world!

December 9th, 2010

Hello. My name is Virginia and I’m a recovering Minister…

Perhaps I should explain that a bit more. What that really means is that I was only a year away from receiving my Masters of Divinity and becoming Reverend Ripple (now there’s a name for you :P) when institutional politics made me re-think my career choice. During my third — and last — year in seminary I rediscovered my passion for writing. It became my safe haven during turbulent times.

Since then I’ve learned a great many things about writing, book design, self-publishing and — oh yeah! — living by faith. I’m still very much human, so God’s been slowly (at times very slowly) shaping me into whatever it is God wants me to be. That brings me to what I plan to do with this blog.

Like my other blog, The Road to Writing, I’ll be posting weekly. Beyond that I admit, I don’t have a solid plan, but that’s nothing unusual when one lives by faith. Just the same, I want this to be a place for renewal of Spirit, a place you may discover God in a new and unexpected way. I plan to cover topics such as meditation and prayer, as well as topics on speculative Christian fiction, specifically fantasy. That may seem widely diverse, but I think it never hurts our spirits to indulge in a little relaxing escapism once in a while. 🙂

I’m looking forward to all the wonderful new insights God has in store for us.