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The Truth About Christian Fiction

The Truth About Christian Fiction

‘Are these stories true?’ asked the petite lady, frowning as she read the back cover of my latest novel, Out of Silence.

I had been talking at the Women’s Institute meeting for nearly 45 minutes and then led a workshop on creative writing. I  encouraged everyone to make up stories using specific prompts I had provided them with. It was a great success with many of the ladies eager to read out their stories amidst much laughter and enjoyment. Then came this unexpected question from one of the ladies who was taking part, ‘Are these stories true?’ she was referring to my book. I had been asked this question before, but usually in a Christian context, not a WI meeting. Before I was booked I had been told very clearly that the WI was no longer a Christian organisation and I was not permitted to talk about my faith. So, unable to give the usual example of Jesus and his parables, I simply said: 

‘No, they are fiction. But I’ve drawn on my experience as a clinical psychologist to write them.’

‘So you made them up then?’

‘Well, yes.’

‘Oh, I thought they were true, I only read true things.’

She put the book back on the table and walked away. I nearly ran after her to ask what television programmes she watched and inform her that Eastenders was fiction too. But instead I turned to the next person who was eager for me to sign two books.

In this more secular environment the question felt strange. I am used to Christians being a bit wary about novels but when I give them biblical examples of stories which portray the truth, such as Jesus’ parables, and tell them that God has called me to write, there is a warmer acceptance of my writing. Often there is follow-up from those reluctant readers who tell me my novel has ‘made them think’, or even, ‘I couldn’t put it down’. 

There are deep truths hidden in many ‘secular’ novels; C.S.Lewis’s Narnia stories are a prime example. Or they may contain warnings like 1984, by George Orwell. Contemporary novels are not exempt, for example Cecilia Ahern’s The Gift has a strong message about the use of time.

But after the lady’s enquiry I began to examine why Christian fiction does not always sell well. This is a hurdle for publishers, authors and booksellers. Perhaps one reason is that the customer may not be sure what they are buying due to the variety of novels which come under the ‘Christian’ umbrella. Some are written by Christians who want to stress the fundamental principles of good and evil but this may be gritty reading, even including murder, as in Wendy H. Jones’ crime series. Or they may address difficult issues, for example child sex-trafficking as in Katherine Blessan’s Lydia’s Song. These novels may include a Christian character or Christian thoughts, but these are not given as the main theme. On the other hand there are novels about Christians exploring aspects of their faith, for example Fiona Lloyd’s protagonist in The Diary of a (trying to be holy) Mum. Then there are those ‘in-betweeners’, which challenge people’s views in the way I try to do, through normalising people having a faith, showing people can be restored and that mental health problems should not define a person.

Perhaps we need to better categorise our fiction books, for example crime, Christian life or simply thought-provoking. If the author has used his or her skills well, the stories in each of these categories can show truth in a way accessible to non-Christians and be so intriguing that it will help them become seekers of the Truth. They are unlikely to pick up a Bible or try going to church until they have reached that point of searching.

So next time someone asks if a Christian novel is true, please tell them what I wish I had said to my enquiring lady; ‘It’s a thought-provoking story that points to the truth. Why not buy one for your enjoyment and one as a gift for a friend?’

ISBN 9781909728660/Instant Apostle/Annie Try/£8.99/PB

Angela Hobday writes under the name of Annie Try. Angela Hobday has an MA in Creative Writing, is the Chair of ACW and is a retired Consultant Clinical Psychologist who has co-written four books on Creative Therapy. She uses her knowledge of people with psychological problems to put fictional characters in the context of interesting adventures, where they overcome the odds against them.

 

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Products mentioned in or related to this blog post
Out Of Silence (Paperback)
Try, Annie
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