1. Kessie says:

    Really great Christian fiction isn’t preoccupied by being Christian. ND Wilson’s Ashtown Burials is a great example. His Christianity is buried so deeply in the story world, it couldn’t work without it. It’s wonderful (and totally action packed!).  The Wingfeather series is also busy telling a compelling story in a Christian-themed world. 

    • R. L. Copple says:

      So, Kessie, what I’m hearing you say quality Christian fiction involves:
      1. A compelling and engaging story, which would involve a well constructed plot and characters.
      2. Christian theme(s) integral to the story but not overt or self-conscious about it.

  2. Hannah says:

    “The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.” -C. S. Lewis
    While I think it’s important for an author to be aware of what audience they’re writing to and what sort of content they put in and to portray the message God puts on their hearts, I agree that Christian fantasy is rather sorely lacking in quality.
    As a matter of fact I had started becoming quite discouraged with it until I discovered Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s The Tales of Goldstone Wood which rank right up there (above in my opinion) in quality with the classics and bestsellers in the fantasy market.
    I truly hope that more and more Christian writers will show how a story can be written with incredible beauty and power.

    • R. L. Copple says:

      Thanks for the input, Hannah.
      What type of elements do you think go into making a story powerful and beautiful? Or to put it another way, how do you “measure” that for yourself?

  3. notleia says:

    Well, my answer about “quality” in my English major capacity would be different than my answer about “quality” in my casual consumer capacity. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but there’s a different set of expectations. The casual consumer expects more entertainment, while the snobs expect some sort of mental/emotional challenge. Y’know, like when they trot out that line “real art is offensive,” they mean that real art challenges your presumptions and expectations (though for the moment I’m not touching the question of what “real” art is with a ten-foot pole). But there are just some times when I want to read a JD Robb with snappy dialog and a fairly predictable but inventive enough murder mystery plot. JD Robb is my literary junk food, but at least Robb is good with character.

  4. Julie D says:

    I must say that my “English major side” and my “reader side” do have different terms, but the same tastes.  I prefer distinctive worlds and characters, and plots of discovery and character growth. 

  5. Martin LaBar says:

    Thanks for this post, and the previous one. For what it’s worth, I have attempted to answer the question, “What is a Christian novel?” here: http://sunandshield.blogspot.com/2013/02/what-is-christian-novel.html

    I’m not very satisfied with the answer, but, in summary, here it is: A Christian novel should include three things. First, some sort of important choice between good and evil. Second, there should also be evidence that a character has hope, beyond despair. Third, such a work should also contain at least one of the following, as a significant part of the plot, or the theme, or as an attribute of an important character: 1) A Christ-figure 2) Belief in important orthodox Christian doctrine, on the part of a narrator or character 3) Practicing prayer to a monotheistic divine being 4) Having a relationship with such a monotheistic divine being in other significant ways, including receiving guidance from him, or being placed in his presence.

    The post discusses the Narnia books, Tolkien, and Ursula K. Le Guin (who does not meet the criteria!)

    • Alex Mellen says:

      I’m not sure I agree with how you phrase your criteria. Jews or Mormons might also have characters “practicing prayer to a monotheistic divine being.” Also, a character may believe in Christian doctrines and state that, even as that character is being written by a non-Christian.
      You’ve identified important distinguishing marks for Christian novels that we need to be looking for, but I think the point is that we’ve focused too much on these criteria and neglected to practice quality writing that can compete with “secular” books.
      My favorite example of a Christian author “making it” in the secular publishing world is John Grisham. He has top-notch writing, and his themes are subtle, but they reflect Christian values–mostly without ever hitting a criterion of Christian fiction.

    • R. L. Copple says:

      Interesting, Martin. Like Alex, I’d probably not fire on all those elements.
      But that’s why I did the last post on what is Christian fiction, so folks would know what definition I’m using by the label. Christian theme targeted to a Christian audience.

    • notleia says:

      Whoa there, I would just like to clarify that Christ figures are not a terribly good indicator of Christian interest in any given piece of fiction. It’s a trope to be used like any other trope. Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” has a Christ figure, and Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” has at least one, possibly two, and none of them are…what’s the word I want? Sophisticated? Dignified? Steinbeck’s preacher man might even be considered offensive to some in how mystical-woo he leans. Though Steinbeck was obviously trying to invoke Biblical imagery and metaphors, just with LOTS of socialism.

  6. Martin LaBar says:

    Thanks for the feedback.
    I guess the question of what a Christ-figure is should be clarified. To me, a Christ-figure sacrifices him or herself, at risk of death, or even in death, so that others may be freed or redeemed. The real Christ-figure also returned from death. Fictional Christ-figures don’t have to do that. Gandalf was a Christ-figure. So was Aslan.
    Does a Christ-figure have to be dignified? I’m not sure.
    Does there have to be a Christ-figure in a work of Christian fiction? No. There may be other evidences of a Christian world-view.
    Other people might legitimately mean other things by the term.

    • notleia says:

      Yes, other people might mean other things by the term, but it’s good for them to clarify meanings when they use terms that have fairly commonly known technical meanings. You mean Christ figure more in the sense of copy-paste allegory, while Christ figure in the general lit snob terminology is less specific than allegory.

  7. Becky says:

    For me, what makes good fiction is an excellent story and well-developed, three dimensional characters. What makes good “Christian” fiction is both these things and a strong sense of hope throughout.

What do you think?