4 Things that could refresh Christian Teen Fiction (and 3 things that need to retire)

Adding the word Christian to fiction has been a problem. We are not even entirely sure what we mean when we add that label. I don't wish to define the genre, but I do know that a well meaning Christian authors are always trying to win an audience and deliver a good spiritual message. We may never find a perfect balance between made up stories and the redeeming message of the Bible, but here are some things I believe are sorely missing from the genre.

1. PLEASE ADD: Weird and Unexplained Things: In the fantasy and sci-fi world, the weirder the plot device the more intrigued your audience gets. Having something in your fiction world that doesn't make sense right away or is too out of place adds to the mystery of things. It doesn't have to be as wild as a unicorn dropping from the sky during a murder mystery, but there's a lot to play around with. Why does the main character have seizures when he looks at a certain picture? Why does the king of your mystical land have a puppet on his hand? It's that kind of attention grabbing wildness that makes things more memorable. 

2. PLEASE RETIRE: Over Explaining the MC's POV: Whenever the main character has a feeling, opinion, or philosophy that is when the author gets on his soap box and illustrates this wonderful prose about how he/she thinks. It is sometimes laid on too thick.

3. PLEASE ADD: Christians That Go to the Dark Side: Christians can't and won't fail in a fiction book (at least not at the end). What kind of message would that send to the kids? But what if the self proclaimed religious person did something evil? What if someone who is on the side of the church had a sinister plan? I have always dreamed of writing about a dystopian city that executes Christians and the one who is in charge of that is a believer.

4. PLEASE RETIRE: The Pastor Knowing Everything If there is a pastor than that automatically means that he is the smartest and most helpful person on the team. He cannot and will not be wrong. 

5. PLEASE ADD:  Ambigious Endings You can tell it is a Christian book because Jesus gets all the glory by the end. The bad guy is defeated and the believers are saved. We believe that a Christian book has to end with a shiny bow on it because any other ending would insult God's powers for good. Not true! I would like to see a book end in tragedy or with the main character not becoming a full believer. I would like to see the good guys "fail." You can still have a wonderful God centered message, without having to end with sunshine and rainbows.

​6. PLEASE RETIRE: The Pressure of an Allegory When it comes to science fiction and fantasy, Christian authors (like myself) tend to jump on the spiritual symbolism a little too hard. Oh no! The dark shadow is a metaphor for sin. The King has a son. The main character's sword is a Bible. We get it.

7. PLEASE ADD: Unanswered Prayers When a Christian prays in a fictional piece it is almost guaranteed they are going to get their request answered somewhere in the book. I remember that scene in "Facing the Giants" when someone prayed at a football game and God changed the direction of the wind so the kicker could make the shot. In fiction, prayer is an homage to God that he is a powerful character who can do things for good. Unfortunately, our fictional representation of God sometimes forces him to answer prayers. Is that the theology of a holy other cosmic force? Unanswered prayers that disappoint the MC or ruin a perfect plan add dilemma. It means the reader has to suspend their disbelief about God.

8. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE: Write Something Dangerous I am not suggesting you cross the line just for the sake of being a cool rebel. I am not even hinting that your next book have a vivid love scene and at least three cuss words. I am opening up the door to have your book poke at a sacred bear. Everyone's sacred bear will be different. A religious believer who is a murderer, a world where magic is real and not a metaphor for prayer, a steampunk world where the church owns the state. Dangerous stories are what get us out of the slump of genre copy/pasting. This is not strictly Christian. How many novels are about a boy who finds out he is a wizard or about a fallen detective who needs to redeem himself by solving a murder? If you paint with the same paint brush as the other guys than your readers might as well just read the other guys (they have better Google SEO marketing).  There's nothing new under the sun, but that doesn't mean we have to find what is popular and baptize it in a good clean message.

Anyway, if you get a spare second, please look at The Boy and His Curse on Amazon.  It doesn't follow the rules above perfectly, but it is a cluster bomb of fantasy fun. 0 Comments

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Michael P Mordenga is always writing. Someone please remind him to make friends.


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