The Moral of the Story: Weave, don’t patch
I’m on chapter four of a Christian young adult novel. It starts out with an interesting premise, involves time travel, great characters, and excellent writing. I’ve loved it so far and can’t wait to see what happens. Review to come.
But I was a bit startled in chapter four when the main character suddenly begins calling upon God to help her. It’s not that she shouldn’t, but why did she not do so at any of the scarier, more suspenseful events that happened in the first three chapters?
In another Christian YA novel I recently read, a parody of Hell fire and brimstone preaching was the only “inspirational” element I found, at least before putting it down only half read.
It’s not that I purchase Christian fiction hoping to be preached at. This is what I was subjected to in another book—really a sermon disguised as a novel—by another best-selling author.
Her 16-year-old character had me rolling my eyes on more than one occasion. I lost track of how many interruptions to the actions I endured while she thought spiritual thoughts and prayed. That probably makes me sound like a heathen. But like most people, what I’m looking for is a good story with believable characters. Sure, I want the characters to be heroic, but I don’t mean perfect, sugary sweet, and able to spout Bible verses and Christian jargon with a single bound.
And I know I’m not the only one put off by this. These are excerpts from actual Amazon.com reviews of a Christian novel:
The book started really well, and I saw it as very promising, especially with accurate historical references . . . But as it dragged on, it became less of a novel and more of an over-religious Christian story. . . .The exaggerated evils and virtues of the main characters became a bit too hard to swallow as the story progressed.
. . . once the heavy-duty Christian proselytizing began, my interest waned. . . once I started feeling beaten about the head and shoulders with a religion stick, the author lost me.
I kept ignoring the signs, hoping the Christian theme was just a plot element, but at exactly 62% in, I started getting hit hard with the proselytizing. I have to give the book 4 stars because the writing is awfully good, but if you’re like me and can’t tolerate Christian fiction, skip this one and read . . .
Now I realize we’ll never please everyone. Some nonbelieving readers will be offended at any whiff of Christianity. Some Christian readers will be offended by the slightest bit of realism. But to reach the widest audience with the gospel through our fiction, we must continue to hone our skills–with characterization, dialogue, plot, but also our weaving skills. We must learn to weave biblical values and themes throughout so we aren’t left with trying to patch them onto the story.
It would be so nice of you to share!