Christian fiction is an oddity, like Improved pineapple pizza or BK Healthy Menu. No one really knows why it exists or what it's goal is? We know what a Christian is: a follower of Jesus Christ who is obedient to the Bible. We know what fiction is: stories that are made up. But when you put them together you get a conundrum.
Secular fiction is easy to understand. A writer writes to entertain an audience. Any moral implications or hidden agendas are optional and not necessary. The metrics for good secular fiction are based on audience ratings and revenue. Simple.
Not so with Christian fiction. We are making up a story from our own head. Why? Because it's fun. Because we have an evangelistic mission? Because no one would listen to our moral lessons so we had to disguise it as a story? The agenda is what makes Christian fiction different from secular.
But there is not just one agenda. You can come at Christian fiction from many different angles:
Agenda #1: To paint a salvation picture that points to Jesus. the purpose of the story is to bring the opportunity for trust in Jesus Christ and saving faith.
Agenda #2: To bring up a moral lesson from the Bible that needs to be taught.
Agenda #3: To make a mirror that reflects culture and politics and present it through a Christian world view.
Agenda #4: To celebrate church culture in some aspect.
Agenda #5: To tell your own story of how you came to faith.
Writers will mix and match these agendas as they see fit. The Chronicles of Narnia is a combination of 1, 2, and 4, while Lord of the Rings is 3 and 4, with hints of 2.
This is why some critics think the genre of Christian fiction should not exist. It's too broad and seen as too pigeon holed. Some would even argue that the non-fiction stories of the Bible and the church is enough. Also, why are Christians making up stories about divine intervention? Isn't that playing God?
Sometimes I get too tangled thinking about the logistics behind "Christian" anything. What is storytelling, really? It's the ability to take pieces of your life and pieces of a reality that has never existed and marry them together. That is the most amazing thing we can do as humans. We sell fabrications in the form of prose in hopes that the audience will buy what we are delivering. It's a sales position of the most fantastic order.
Harry Potter doesn't exist, Hogwarts isn't real, Voldermort is not a real life problem, BUT I will stick with this journey until that wizard boy saves the world. The Russians are not waging war with us, the President doesn't have to choose whether to send a nuke, and the FBI does not have a terrorist mole, BUT I am sold on the adventure.
So let's revisit Christian fiction. We, like all storytellers, are taking the reader on a journey. It's made up. That is the fiction part. Our choice is to reveal a piece of our own life that we consider valuable. Is it Jesus' endurance to the cross? Will we touch upon the martyrdom of the saints? Will we glorify the benefits of godly wisdom?
My space colony is fake, there is no astronaut hero named Jiff Plasma, he does not need to win the heart of the Space Princess of Xenon 5, BUT let me show you how the trials of Jesus inspired this story.
As the writer of Artists and Earthians, I was confronted with the five agendas. Did I want to make a Gospel presentation (everyone loves a book that preaches)? Would my story be based on a powerful Bible verse? The options were many. I seem to always default to using pieces of my testimony and experience as a Christian. That explains why my characters get frustrated so easily (that and I like torturing them). The Boy and His Curse is a dedication album to growing up as a teenager in a secular world and being offered a once and a lifetime opportunity. Even though the main character, Ethan, is dead set on living off the crumbs of high school popularity and buying junk he doesn't need, he is thrown into a world that could end his life and enrich it at the same time. Faeria represents the opportunity to forsake the rat race of toys, power, and money and pickup the adventure of heroism, sacrifice, community and intimate relationships. Along the way, I enjoyed making the world of Faeria such a nightmare for Ethan because of all the danger and awkward tension with its inhabitants. I had so much fun thinking of ways to ruin his life. He is a teenager living in purgatory between a senseless worldly life and a strange world that has a deep prejudice for him. It's only the kindness of others and their confidence in the good that can come out of this that redeems him in the end. BTW, I didn't know that was my message until I finished it. I just wanted a cool swords, faeries, trolls, and magic story that had sweet fight scenes.
BTW: you can check out the book here: