What is Christian Fiction

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I’ve been asked to write about Christian fiction for the Realm Makers Conference blog hop. For this post, I’ve chosen to write about something every one of us asks: what makes Christian fiction?

About a year ago, I downloaded a story from a Christian publishing house. This is not just a publishing house that is run by Christians, but its fiction has been very definitely Christian. Any reasonable reader would come to this conclusion. The story was set in a world that I have read and enjoyed. The author is an active Christian and his other books I have read have been evangelical without being preachy (not that I mind preachy, just trying to describe the works).

I was excited to see this new work. I read it eagerly, then I sat back and thought, “Wait a minute. What makes this story Christian?” None of the main characters were people of open faith (there’s one I’m curious about). I think some monks were mentioned almost in passing. I don’t think a deity was even mentioned, certainly not as important to the story. None of the characters had questions about God that were addressed either explicitly or implicitly. Most importantly, I had not learned anything about God in my reading of it.

So I asked the same question about my own works. What makes the Shylocke Averyson stories Christian? He doesn’t come to salvation in “Sunset over Gunther.” In fact, he goes from indifferent to God to hatred of Him in the course of the story. But in the process, he has come to understand some very important things about God. The only Child of the Son character on the page is a young boy who has less than 5 lines. He doesn’t mention faith, he’s just happy that Shylocke hasn’t killed him.

But the stories are Christian. At the end of the story, Shylocke has moved in his feelings toward the God of Aviterr. He has provided a negative example for the reader. The reader sees how Shylocke’s attempts to be the hero have resulted in his failures. He has tried to be strong in himself and failed. And the story sets him up for further episodes with additional explicit Christian characters that will try to bring him further in.

The same can be said of “The Strong Survive.” Granish is not saved at the end, but he has seen that his worldview is seriously lacking in some very important aspects. He has seen that the Children of the Son do not have these lacks, but he isn’t convinced they are the completely right either. But he has heard the gospel and is better for his time with the Children.

Stories like CS Lewis’ Til We Have Faces might have similar critics of what I have said about the first book. The Queen is vengeful and selfish for almost the entire story. The gods are those of myth (with a caveat that a greater one is coming). But the Queen learns in the end. She sees that her actions were misguided and selfish.

In the end, I decided that the only criteria I could apply that fit all works was subjective. For a work to be Christian fiction and not just fiction written by a Christian, it must be different. You have to ask “If this book were written by a non-Christian, how would it be different?” The answer should be “in significant ways no matter how much text is different.” If that is so, the work is Christian fiction.

What are your thoughts about what makes a book Christian?

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Faustian Bargains

I’ve been working on Lou’s Bar and Grill stories since the idea for first one hit me like a truck in November.  I wrote it, then one in December, and one in January. There are plans to write seven Lou’s stories–one for each of the seven deadly sins. After writing “Snake Oil Man,” other things came up, and I haven’t written more from Lou’s. Besides, I’ve been letting my creative side lead lately and it hasn’t been engaged with other things on my mind.

Until today. Today I was thinking about the stories I have planned for Lou’s and needed something different. Lou’s stories are Faustian Bargains. The three I’ve written all involve the person making the deal getting exactly what they wish for but not at all what they want. However, other Faustian stories have the person thinking they have the better end of the deal only to have the tables turned at the end. That’s where this one is going. I don’t have a title yet, but it will deal with envy.

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End of January Writing

I started off the year well on the track to my goal of 12,000 words a month. “Snake Oil Man” flew from my fingers and clocked in at 7,500 words in just a few days. Ever since, other priorities have taken the place of writing.

Then at the beginning of the second to the last week of January, I started seeing how the sequel to Rebirths would come together. I already had written down some ideas for one part of that work. However, I needed a lot more than those strands. They started coming that day. I jotted down the ideas, knowing that later I would weave them into a coherent whole. I even started writing the first part which has the working title of “The Old and the New.”

At the end of January, I had 10, 206 words of fiction. That’s a good number. It’s shy of my goal of 12,000 per month, but I’m not disappointed. Sometimes, there are other things that need to be taken care of. I did submit three stories to paying markets, so I’m good there.

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Listening to the Critical Side of the Brain

I started this year off with a good run at my goal of 12,000 words a month, plus submissions to publishing markets. At this point, I have one story completed at 7,500 words. That story has been submitted to an anthology along with two other stories (one to a different publication).

The story is a Lou’s Bar and Grill story. I have been reading Weird Wild West and needed to write a Lou’s story. Putting Lou in the Weird West fit like a hand in a glove. But the story wasn’t all smooth sailing, and that was my fault.

I started out listening to my creative side and just letting the story tell itself. I wrote into low light (which I have found I like). I knew how the story was going to work out but not the details.I had almost 6,000 words in two days. The story looked done until I made my editing pass. At that point, I realized my mistake. When nearing the 6,000 word mark, I started listening to my critical side. I knew  the story had to end at 6,000 words. That’s the definition of a short story that I have seen in several places. But as I approached it, I started cutting things out mentally. I skipped scenes and told what had happened in them in the next one.

There was only one solution: add the scenes and go over the word limit. I decided to look around first. Listed on the Submission Grinder, I found markets that allowed for more than 6,000 words in a short story. I sat down and let the story unwind itself. At 7,500 words, it was done.

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