Online Writer's Conference 2003

Shades Of Romance Magazine

August 3-9, 2003












Answering the Call: Writing the Christian Fiction Novel


Felicia Catching


You have always wanted to do it-----to write a novel.  You have thought about it, dreamed about it, even fantasized about it.  Now, you have been called to do it.  Your palms are moist, your heart is racing and your adrenaline is pumping as the reality and magnitude of the task descend upon you.  You call on friends and family for solace and advice, but they offer little comfort with comments such as "You are about to do what?!" and "Glad it's not me."  So, with pen in hand and barely a thought of how to begin, you do just that.  You begin.

What do you need to accomplish this awesome task?  In order to be a compelling writer, you must first be compelled to write. You can not have a choice in the matter…you simply have to write.  Just as you must breathe to exist, you must write to obtain a sense of joy and satisfaction from your existence. 

Now that you know you must write in order to have a sense of meaning and purpose in your life, how should you begin and what will you choose to write?  There are many genres from which one may choose.  For our purposes, we will examine the Christian fiction genre, discuss the defining characteristics of this art form, and explore various techniques used when writing this form of fiction.

First, if you sincerely desire to write this type of fiction, it is very important that you represent the namesake of the Christian fiction genre, Christ.  In order to do this, as the writer, you need to have a heart for God.  This is simply a must.  The characteristics of the work should reflect the values and principles of  God.  It should be your heart's desire to reflect through your writing the message of God's eternal love and tender mercy that He has for all of humanity. 

Second, you should examine your motives.  Are you writing the Christian fiction novel for fame, wealth or self-glory?  Are you writing to gain recognition and respect from others that you admire?  Perhaps you are writing to share the experiences you have had with your Heavenly Father, with the prayer that by sharing these experiences, others will come to know of His love and tender mercies just as you have.  You may have a gift or calling to write and simply feel a sincere desire to answer that particular mandate for your life.  Whatever your reasons for writing, you may wish to carefully examine them to make sure they are as you intended.

Third, as a writer, you should study your craft carefully.  Just as the Holy Scriptures instructs us to study to show ourselves approved, a workman that need not be ashamed, so we are to study the craft of writing.  While it is true that a large percentage of our ability to write is a God-given gift and divine inspiration, one should study and practice continually the craft of fiction in order to perfect the final art.  "Writing Fiction" by Janet Burroway and "The Weekend Novelist" by Robert J. Ray are excellent resources for study.

Fourth, be willing to open up your heart.  Yolanda Adams, a popular gospel singer, sings a song in which encourages each of us to open up our hearts to God.  The more time we spend in worship and prayer, the more effective our writing will be as we seek to express the true heart of God while writing Christian fiction. As writers, it is also important for us to be sensitive to our own emotions, and the emotions of those we come into contact with daily.  This is what gives our work, even though fiction, credibility.  Readers will be better able to relate to the characters if they are able to recognize feelings experienced by the character that they themselves sometimes experience.  Finally, be aware of your environmental surroundings.  Vivid descriptions of two characters strolling down a moonlit path with a warm summer breeze blowing off the ocean amidst the sounds of seagulls could do wonders to help the reader "experience the moment."  Is not the ability to see, hear, and feel what the character sees,hears and feels one of the most profound joys of reading in the first place?

Fifth, Network, network, network!  As a writer, it is very important that you attend writers' conferences and workshops, participate in Christian writers' discussion groups that you may recognize as listserves or bulletin boards, and attend book signings and other events in which Christian fiction authors will be in attendance.  The contacts you will have the opportunity to make in such venues are invaluable.  Also, the sheer enjoyment and fellowship that you as the writer will surely experience from attending such events is unimaginable.

Last but not least, pray for God's direction in order that you will be able to write the best novel possible.  You will want to ensure that you have a clearly defined story idea.  Know the story you want to tell. Whether it is human interest, suspense, or historical fiction, each story should have an overall spiritual focus.  Even though some of the characters may not be Christians, they should be of sound moral character or striving to reach that goal.  While humor is certainly a necessity, the language and actions of the characters should be such that a minister or mother of the church would not blush while reading the passage.  Remember you are representing Christian values, and you want your work to reflect this.  Your dialogue should be fresh and believable, creating tension in order to move the plot along.  The action in your story should be never-ending if you wish to have a truly dynamic, dramatic novel.  Your climax should be equally engaging, and your conclusion, strong and persuasive.

Well, there you have it.  You now have the basics for answering the call to write the best Christian fiction novel imaginable.  There is only one thing left to do…just do it!