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Behind The Fiction, Past
A Fiction Column
By Michael G'Francisco


CHRISTIAN FICTION

The object of this article is to explore a rapidly growing segment of writing titled "Christian Fiction". Although it has been referred to and considered a genre of its own, in reality, it isnít.

The Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) considers it an umbrella term to a wide variety of sub-genres, such as these Christian categories: Allegorical, Apocalyptic, Biblical, Chic Lit, Contemporary, Westerns, Fantasy / Science, Historical, Romance, Mystery / Suspense, Thrillers and Supernatural.

The CBA books basically have no explicit sex or swearing, and generally, possess a strong evangelical message, which sets them apart from secular houses. In most cases this differs from the books carried by the American Booksellers Association (ABA).

Regardless of what these two associations condone, people have always loved a good story. This can be proven by Jesus Christís numerous recorded parables in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. A parable, as explained in the dictionary, is designed to teach a moral. This is the case in all books of Christian fiction.

Author Janette Okeís book Love Comes Softly, released by Bethany Publishing in 1979, which covers historical, Christian and romance fiction demonstrates to a reader that Christian love can have an impact on relationships despite adversity and hardships. Her series of novels has opened the door to allow a flood of new writers to enter the field of Christian fiction.

In keeping with today, people are finding themselves confronted with issues of faith to cope with economic stress. The poor and downtrodden have always raised their eyes to the heavens for relief from their every day miseries.

Each time there is an economic crisis, religious books climb to a new height on the best sellerís list. The last few years have once again proven that fact and has given birth to the latest buzzwords "growing up" pertaining to Christian fiction. To quote author Jan Dennis, "Itís becoming more sophisticated," which means its involving more realism and different themes that deal with the nationís current problems.

Faith, to some, in many cases is tied to truth, which can be related through Christian fiction. But, only if the reader comes away from what is inscribed upon the pages with a strong sense of spiritually.

Christian fiction can be intended to instruct, such as Aesopís fables, which are didactic stories. This method is the simplest way to connect a relationship to God and a reader. Real issue stories tend to allow the reader to become "in mind," a character in the biblical story. Thusly, helping the reader to give God a significant role in their lives.

Older books pertaining to Christian fiction were usually set in a small town about ordinary people in ordinary situations. Their pace was normally "slow and gentle" and didnít contain profanity, strong violence, addictions and the sexual conduct of a character.

Now, the writing has picked up speed and more of the worldly situations are within the pages of Christian fiction books. This has been caused by todayís "now generation," which seems to crave allowing the devilís heavy hand to slip into plots.

The additions of more sub-genres have increased the Christian fiction segment substantially. Why? Because the stories are more "aggressively evangelical," which has been proven by a 2003 study that produced evidence that half of Americans read Christian books and one-third buy them.

Take for instance, the seventh in the "left behind" series Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession (2005) by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins which sold over two million copies of the forty million that have been sold, to date, in this series. This relates that fiction is one of the fastest growing categories in Christian publishing.

Letís take a look at one of the hottest categories in Christian fiction: "Urban Christian Fiction" (UCF). This sub-category usually portrays the everyday lives of the minority classes that depict their vivid and emotional conflicts that mix God, faith and the Urban Church.

Urban Christian fiction doesnít omit violence or sex from its story line, but weaves it into the plot thatís based upon its relevance. In some cases it can be called "Street Lit," except God plays an important part or is the center of the charactersí lives.

There are two main elements of Urban Christian Fiction: raw honesty, where the characters donít fully hide their feelings when it comes to God, themselves or men of the cloth, such as, pastors / deacons / priest / clergymen. However, blasphemy is not acceptable.

Drama is the second element and it must contain situations where the characters donít always do it right and sometimes they get caught doing it wrong. UCF neither hides nor covers up the sins or faults of the storyís characters. In exposing the characters' shortcomings, it also shows to the reader that God is all-powerful.

It is unpredictable, which allows the protagonist to get gritty and raw, and the story endings donít necessarily fall into a cookie cutter mold. In plots, the evil forces of the demon can sway the protagonist even with a strong relationship with God. This is especially true where there are church scandals that are eminent and unavoidable, which add to the drama of the story.

Personally, I tend to believe that this segment of Christian fiction is very forthcoming and will, eventually, take a strong presence among the top sellers.

There is a need for new talent in this fast growing field. But, donít begin to think that breaking into any segment of the Christian fiction market is easy. A successful writer in this field must possess the natural talent of placing enthralling prose that will keep the reader turning pages. You must stay within the parameters of the CBA, which has been mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this article. First, learn the rules and dictates that apply to this segment of writing.

Here are a few recommended technique tips from successful Christian authors (too many to mention) on how to write or create a page turning Christian fiction book:

  • Look up the word "Christianity" in the dictionary and understand the meaning of religion that follows the teachings of Jesus Christ.
  • Read the Bible. You donít need to be a Christian to write Christian fiction, but it pays to understand their ways and beliefs.
  • Use the Internet and its search engines. This will help you create a source for a reference list to store information and for possible biblical quotes. The Encarta Online Dictionary is a very valuable source of definitions of Christianity and Christian.
  • Nearly any subject is open to write about, just remember to use prudence in how you handle the subject.
  • The majority of Christian fiction readers want to be entertained, taught and inspired as much as readers in other genres.
  • There is a trove of family value plots in the Holy Bible.

Finally, religious didactic writing is on the up swing, but what you create must be a good product with spiritual artistic quality to be successful, regardless of what genre you use.

Itís a safe bet to consider writing about contemporary issues, where faith is tested by the challenges of the real world. Remember the conflict between good and evil isnít new, but it can be presented in many different ways.

As stated earlier, this segment is "growing up" and becoming more sophisticated, so keep that in mind if you decide to take a stab at writing any form of "Christian Fiction." And, of course if you do, I hope you the best in your endeavor.


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