1. Rebecca, as someone who has experienced a lot of darkness and pain most popular Christian fiction rings hollow for me. My life is more like something Shirley Jackson wrote than Janette Oke. The fact that most Christian readers see Prairie/Amish romances as true to life makes me think they have cushy lives.

    I like Flannery O’Connor. But everyone I talk to says she can’t be a Christian because her stories aren’t Nice. Sigh.

    I may just write for non-believers. They have problems and admit that bad things happen.

    • Kin says:

      I do agree that most of the popular Christian fiction is unrealistic with how life really is. I have found some authors though that I really like that portray characters and stories with struggles and truth. Jaye L. Knight is great with showing both the highs and lows of life in her fantasy series. She doesn’t sugarcoat the ugly, but she doesn’t forget the happy moments either.

    • In my opinion I’ve had a pretty decent life, all things considering. But I have dealt with some hard things, and simply from what I’ve observed of human behavior, I agree that a lot of the popular Christian fiction rings hollow sometimes. Same with some of the secular stuff, too.

      Not every story has to be dark and stuff, but it’d be nice if people would speak to real life experiences more. Quite a few of my stories are Christian fiction, but the lives of many of my chars are extremely harrowing simply because that’s what makes sense for their circumstances and it’s often better that the audience has characters that can illustrate/help them deal with their struggles.

    • notleia says:

      Christian culture has a reputation of prioritizing appearances over reality and yeah, I have experienced that.

      I think a big step forward would just be admitting that things don’t always follow the Approved Cultural Trajectory. Or that things might be better if it DIDN’T.

    • Interesting perspective, Rachel. I work in our church library, and one day I asked a women who was checking out a prairie romance why she liked those books. Her answer: because I have to spend so much time in the problems all around me, I don’t want to read more of that. In other words, I know there is one person at least who doesn’t read Christian romance because her life is easy.


  2. Travis Perry says:

    I think we need to keep trying. I think that marketing to already-existing groups is doomed to failure in some ways. I think we need to take the lead and persuade others that they SHOULD be giving our books a chance and etch out a market rather than go find a market that already exists.

    God knows the future and I don’t, but I don’t see me ever giving up on writing speculative fiction that is mostly eschewed by people who share my religious convictions and mostly looked at with suspicion by people interested in the type of fiction I like.

    (God willing, I’m gonna be like the Lord in Monty Python, who built a castle in a swamp, which sank, so he built another and another and another until he finally got one to stand. 🙂 )

    • There is a big market for good, epic Christian fiction, I think, it’s just that the current stories being published don’t cater to that market, therefore we don’t hear from that market much.

      Some of the best authors are probably ones that would love to write regardless of whether they made money off it. Maybe they don’t publish things they can’t make money off of, but they still write even if it’s just for their own sake and are constantly trying to hone their craft.

      Simply writing the types of books we’d like to read will probably help, though. If we keep trying to write good quality Christian fiction that addresses the difficulties of life, takes place in a cool story world, etc. then we should eventually be able to appeal to people with the same tastes.

  3. There are small niche markets out there that like things like Christian horror and other such things, and sometimes catering to niche markets can be an excellent publishing strategy. But people don’t always know how to do that well, so when trying to appeal to niche markets it’s best to do a lot of research.

    Christian elements don’t have to be off putting when placed in a story, but they seem off putting because of the way people tend to write those elements. Making sure they are a very natural part of the story world and characters can go leaps and bounds as far as whether or not the story is preachy.

    Another thing is to let the characters struggle and wonder. If they’re usually super sure of themselves the entire story and rarely experience character growth, that comes dangerously close to sounding like the author is trying to say ‘This character is the model Christian and his opinions are the rule book for life’.

    • notleia says:

      That’s a thing, too, I’ve noticed, that a lot of Christian authors feel like they have to write Role Models rather than characters. They’re about as engaging as wet cardboard, tho.

      • Yeah. Role model chars can be ok sometimes, but they have to be well written. Flawed, too. To me the best role models are ones that learn from their mistakes and therefore show people how to learn from mistakes. Some Christian fiction authors seem to be afraid to write that as much as they should.

        Another thing I’ve noticed is that a character can be a good role model for some traits, but not others. Several chars I write can probably be good role models for traits like adaptability, resilience, problem solving, etc. But some of their other traits are ones that people can’t and shouldn’t copy now days because our world is so much different than theirs.

        Some of my chars are much more violent because that’s what their world and situation calls for, for instance, but that isn’t something a modern person should copy. That kind of mirrors real life in the sense that we can learn good things from almost anyone, but there’s a point where we have to realize we can’t copy everything they do.

  4. So no books that are making it which we can look at? That’s disturbing!

What do you think?