For much of my young adulthood…and middle adulthood, I’ve been a heavy reader of non-fiction. Yes, I was one of those self-help book readers. Whatever was the problem, I was reading a book with the solution…within reason! (Yes, this was before blogs!) I was always reading to improve myself.
It’s not like there wasn’t much work to do. I had plenty of improvments that needed to be done on my life.
But in between the non-fiction, I managed to squeeze in fiction here and there…for escape. Much of my teen years included lots of fiction…”christian” fiction.
What is good writing in a novel?
Not much of what I read was very good writing really. I didn’t even know how to define a well written book for most of those years. Then it came to me…with help from the right friends, even my grown kids! A well written book involves your mind in positive ways, often your senses, and your imagination!
And many books that aren’t “christian” books can move us more positively in the directions outlined in this Books that teach us about the good, true, pure and wholesome? These are the kind that our minds will think on long after we have read the book. The characters have grabbed us. We want to know them and what is going on with them…even though we know they aren’t real.
I like reading novels about characters who are believable and complex but also move me to a higher level of thinking about some aspect of my life and how to live it. I know that a good book can be that way even if it isn’t under the label of “christian”.
Chronic pain changed my preference for books
A few years back, I was in a car accident with very few serious injuries…followed by a number of years of chronic pain! Life took on extremes that I had never known before!
Until that point, I had had childbirth pain…but then it was over. I had had headaches that were relieved with aspirin, severe cramps that were relieved by prescription meds followed by advil (once they learned that worked!)
This was a whole new arena of pain! Some days, I had to stop and give in to it. Many days, I had to keep moving through it…somehow! The idea that I would live the rest of my life coping with that kind of pain was something difficult to get my mind around…and depressing as well!
I know…what does this have to do with a novel? Well, as part of the treatment for my pain, as the doctor went down the list, counseling was one of the treatments recommended…along with physical therapy. That was when I realized I wasn’t always the problem in difficult relationships.
Yes, I’m as flawed and broken as the next person, but it is helpful to know that in a messed up relationship, rarely is the problem one sided. We can’t take responsibility for all of it.
I stopped reading as many self-help books as I once did. Besides, there were times it was too frustrating. Constantly having a change agenda is hard…and keeps a person from enjoying the relationships they do enjoy.
What does this have to do with Christian fiction?
So, what does this have to do with Christian fiction? I heard that newer Christian fiction had improved over the Grace Livingston Hill novels I read as a teen. They were all the same…I didn’t notice it at the time however. They gave me a weird picture of relationships, marriage and adult life in general!
I don’t claim to have read all the fiction out there, not by a long shot, but I’ve been trying to read some lately and I’m not impressed. The women tend to cover their feelings for the men they are falling in love with…why? Yes, I grew up in that world too but the older I am, the less it makes sense. It is like playing this crazy game and hoping the guys will guess that we like them back. Really? When we don’t show them in some way that we are interested in them? In what universe does that even make sense?
One Christian fiction book I listened to recently (audio) the couple wasted 7 years because they assumed the other had married!! Please! They had been serious before the one left town where they were both attending college. Neither one checked on the information they received from a third party who had much to gain from breaking them up! Why would we read a story, even in fiction, about stupid people?
The other problem that abounds in these books is that they can be so preachy, there is little space to get the story in…that is what I am dealing with in the book I’m listening to on audio now! I would never be able to read it with all the preaching. Listening helps because I can do something while it is going on!
I miss the characters that have depth to them who, when they get angry might even say a bad word here or there because emotion has overcome them! At least they have feelings! The characters in christian books seem fake and one dimenional while the non-christian books seem to be much more three-dimensional.
Here is part of the problem…so I offer a challenge to good writers
I’m tempted to try to write a good novel except that I realize I’m just not that good a writer. I know my limitations. I would love to try, but I think I would fall short…by a long distance.
Is there anyone out there who can write a christian novel with characters that have some depth to them that won’t preach at me but will allow the story to do the talking? I know it can happen.
Think of how powerful the parables are, especially once someone explains the culture of the day that relates to the individual parable. Surely, the talent is out there. Please, could a good author write a great novel with great characters of depth? I would love to read about them.
I would love to read of their choices that are moral and courageous, strong and brave in the face of danger and fear. I would love to read of people who don’t spout cliches and after horrible life events, don’t pretend that they are fine just because they are christians. I would love to read of couples who are deeply and passionately in love. Who are deeply tempted to break the sixth commandment, but because of their love and respect for the person they love, they will wait until they marry. Or maybe they did fail, but found forgiveness and grace in mutual forgiveness as they talk honestly with each other, not avoid and pretend that all is okay because they are christians.
Do authors exist who can write honestly about such people? Please, tell me these authors exist…somewhere? Better yet, please tell me there are publishing houses that want to publish said books. That instead of writing books that blithely tell you in 5 steps or 7 steps how to fix your life, that they llustrate it more clearly in the life of a person in a good fiction story that grabs me into the life of a person and moves me into his or her life, helping me realize that even in fiction, a person can live morally and couragousely.
Or in a time of grief, they will have feelings that won’t always make sense. Also, in times of love and romance, they might even get a little crazy! They won’t always have every feeling completely under control at all times!
I guess I sometimes feel there is more concern that the heroes/heroines not make mistakes than that they are real people who often do. Do authors honestly think that we want to read about perfect people with perfect lives in christian novels?
Speaking for myself, I find that depressing…reading about these perfect people! Ugh! They aren’t real and I can’t identify with them…and what christians are that way? Not any that I know.