Friday, February 12, 2016

I'm a Christian...But I don't write Christian fiction

I am a Christian. I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember. My faith is a vital piece of who I am. It’s the foundation on which I build my life. 

But I don’t write Christian fiction. 

Not every writer who is a Christian is a Christian writer. And that's okay! I don’t speak for anyone other than myself here, but I don’t feel called to write Christian books. I have read and enjoyed a few Christian novels, and I’m not at all knocking the genre, but it's not where my passion lies. 

Where my passion does lie, is in creating more wholesome fiction in the mainstream world. Is my writing 100% family friendly without a shred of offensive material? No. But it’s realistic. And I can pepper in characters who have life-like flaws and have made relatable mistakes, but who also have integrity and the desire to do what’s right (whether they follow through or not—they have minds of their own, am I right?).

As a Christian who is a writer, it's sometimes daunting to put my work out there. It's easy to worry what people will think—people who know what I stand for. But not every character can have the same moral belief system. That would be unrealistic. Not every character can constantly say or do "the right thing." What kind of cookie-cutter, robotic character-ridden story would that be? A boring and far-fetched one at best. 

So that brings me to a few aspects of modern fiction I would like to touch on, and how I approach them (or don’t) in my writing—not to tell other writers how to write or to tell other readers what to read—just to paint a better picture of who I am as a writer, and how my faith affects my writing.

Photo credit: Aaron Burden // Unsplash


If you’ve read Still the Song, you know that my characters curse from time to time. Sometimes it’s for comic effect, but usually it’s out of anger or distress. To me, this is very realistic. Most people (unless they’re a saint or a child) tend to curse when they’re angry. I know I’m guilty of that. I don’t love vulgarity, but what kills a heated literary argument faster than a severely watered-down expletive? I try to tone it down as much as possible, but my characters don’t call each other poo-poo heads or cotton-headed ninny muggins. 

However, you will never see the use of “GD” in my writing (its euphemistic form is “gosh darn,” if you’re not sure what I’m referring to). Personally, I find that one the most offensive. I won’t use any form of “taking the Lord’s name in vain.” Jesus Christ is the name of my Savior, not a curse word. That said, I also feel the F-word is universally offensive. It was edited out of the first draft of Still the Song, where it appeared only once. I’m not entirely opposed to using that word in dialogue, but only if it is absolutely necessary. Arguably, bad language is never necessary, but since you can’t physically see or hear these characters, colorful language goes a long way in conveying extreme emotion in profoundly dire situations. So far, the F-word appears twice in my current work, Paper Walls. I feel that the characters who used it were justified in their usage, as they were in very furious or emotional situations. 

Some may not agree with my usage of language, especially those in the Christian realm, but that’s okay. We all have different convictions. For me, it’s important to write a believable secular book, to get positive messages out there in a realistic manner. 


These days, sex is a central topic everywhere. Not just in entertainment. Sex has become so typical and casual in our society. It’s becoming more and more rare to read a book (or see a movie) where no one has sex. Some storylines are centered around the very act. 

Personally, I don’t enjoy reading steamy sex scenes. I find them awkward and uncomfortable. I do not judge writers who write love scenes (it takes a lot of bravery!) or readers who enjoy books that contain them. To each their own! But you won’t stumble across any sex scenes in any of my novels. 

This was something I struggled with, to be honest. When I was writing Still the Song, I had a hard time deciding what was realistic and what was a forcing of my own beliefs. I believe in saving sex for marriage. I know and respect that not everyone shares that belief. As a Christian writing a not-necessarily-Christian love story, I felt like I was expected to produce the typical scenario. Because everyone has sex, right? Ultimately, I decided to go against the grain and give my characters some self-control and patience. Because it’s also cool to wait, and we should be allowed to share that message without reservation. 

Does that mean all of my characters are virgins and waiting for marriage? No. Still the Song readers know of Jonah and Hannah’s past. And in my current work, Paper Walls, some of the characters are still virgins—some by choice, some by default. And some are not virgins—some regret it, some are happy to play the field. Just like in “real life.” The subject of sex comes up between characters, just as it would with actual real-life teenagers and young adults. It’s not a taboo topic. It’s a word that I keep using here: realistic

However, I like creating characters who value sex as a sacred act of love—not just something as casual as a kiss, where saying “I love you” is viewed as a bigger deal than sex on a first date. I’m well aware that not everyone views sex in the same way, but that’s the beauty of diversity. Everyone is different, just as all characters are different. We won’t be able to relate to every single aspect of every single character we read about, and that’s okay. The belief that sex is sacred has just as much of a right to be represented in fiction as the trend that sex is casual and inevitable. I don’t write to shove my values in other people’s faces, or to shame or convict, but to portray a different demographic that is very real and very underrated. 

Drugs and alcohol

I’m not against the use of drugs and alcohol in my writing, but I don’t glorify it. I'm currently writing a character who is a smoker (which has honestly been a fun challenge to depict accurately since I've never smoked). There is a decent amount of inebriation in Still the Song. If you’ve read it, you can attest to the fact that it causes problems on a few occasions. Some people don’t agree with the consumption of alcohol, but the average person does drink. It’s a typical part of life for most. People party, people drink to unwind, to celebrate, to chase their pain away…so from time to time, my characters will participate in such activities. And some won't. Because everyone—in real life and fiction—is different.

I don't have a problem with other people drinking (responsibly!), but I personally do not drink, 1. because my medication requires abstaining from alcohol, and 2. for a lack of interest. I’ve never tasted anything that I’ve really liked. I absolutely detest the taste of beer. And to be quite honest, I am perfectly content with Mountain Dew. ;)

So far, I haven’t had any characters who abuse drugs. I guess I wouldn't be opposed to that if it fit into a storyline, but it would never be to condone it. 

So there it is. My random thoughts on the popular, sometimes controversial, elements in today’s fiction. I felt the need to address this topic, maybe as somewhat of a disclaimer, especially for those who know me and what I stand for. I would never want to compromise my integrity or have people judge my beliefs based on what kind of characters I produce. They are not always a testament to my personal character or beliefs. But to always instill every single one of my beliefs and ideals into my characters would be unrealistic. My books are just fiction, not autobiographies. 


What are your favorite types of characters to read about? Do you enjoy the flawed, tragic characters, or the do-good'ers? Do you enjoy characters who are a lot like you, or ones who are your complete opposite? Writers, how do you approach topics that don't coincide with your personal beliefs? 

No comments :

Post a Comment