Friday, July 23, 2010

Inspire me please! Huh?

We've all heard the terms. Inspirational Fiction. Christian Fiction. We've also heard the scorn of each off these at one point and time.

"Inspirational is taking the 'Christ' out of it! How dare they!"

"Christian fiction? Seriously? Why does our fiction need to be labeled as Christian? Do we have to have a label? Do we have Christian toothpaste? No! Christian Sloppy Joes? No! "

Well, first, I'm not going into the debate. Mostly because I think it's just plain silly. (No offense...) It reminds me of the whole "Over or Under" debate! Just rip off the toilet paper, okay?

What I will chime in on is what makes a novel Christian or Inspirational. How much "God" must be in your book? Is there a difference between the terms? What boundaries must we have?


Inspirational novels are just that. They are meant to inspire you. To forgive, to love, to hope, to come back to God. Many times inspirational novels have subtle allegories, like Jesus' parables, that inspire you without you even knowing:-) We inspirational fiction authors are sneaky that way!

Christian fiction is also inspirational fiction, however it focuses on God in a deeper and more obvious level. Whereas an inspiry novel my feature a Christian character, the theme may not always focus on the spiritual. A Christian novel, however, will weave into its plot the character's spiritual journey toward a deeper relationship with God.

The best example I can think of off the top of my head would be comparing Denise Hunter to Colleen Coble. (I use these two out of pure fun since they are such good friends and blog together, AND I love both of their books!)

From the books that I've read of each, I would label Denise's novels as Inspirational and Colleen's as Christian. Denise always inspires and her books always carry an allegorical lesson we can learn from, but Colleen takes that a step farther and features characters who have a faith journey as well.


How much God should be in our Christian or Inspirational novels? Is there a test??

Nope. And really, there is no answer to this. This is a question for each author to ask God about, because I'm convinced He calls us each to a different level in our writing. Not one is better than the other. God can/does/will use Denise's novels just as much as He does Colleen's.

All this said, there are boundaries on both sides.

There is a point where an author can get too "preachy" and be out of the bounds of writing good fiction. This isn't because there is too much God in a book, but because God isn't organically (or realistically) woven into the theme. It can get tacked on and eye-rolling-worthy, cliche even, to the point where the message is lost or ineffective.

On the flip side, a lot of non-CBA books have inspirational themes such as love or forgiveness. So what differentiates "Inspirational" fiction from secular novels?

Again, my opinion, but I think it is in the limits we set. Bedroom scenes have a point where the door is discreetly shut. "Potty-mouth" words are left out. Violence can still be there, but there are limits. A Christian world-view is upheld. Bad things can be included, however they are clearly labeled as such. (i.e. characters might, behind doors, have pre-marital sex, however it is not shown as okay or acceptable.)

Within the above limits though, WOW. There are a TON of variables. Just when do you shut the door? What words are "okay"? How much violence is too much? I have distinct opinions on those, and when I'm back from maternity leave, will do a post dedicated just to this. However, my main point is this: You, as an author, are accountable to God. If you are obedient to Him in the content you include, that is what matters. Period.

Sorry for the headings. I feel like I'm in high-school writing a research paper (Intro, key points, conclusion... LOL.)

In a nutshell:

Inspirational fiction inspires toward Godly Values.
Christian fiction inspires toward Christ.

How is that for simple?

Any questions? Do you agree with my definitions? Would you define your books as Inspirational or Christian? Or do you write for the secular market (which I did NOT touch on here, but is an option many Christians choose as well!)


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I love the way you put it. Succinct. To the point. And on the mark.

I hadn't really thought of it that way, but it certainly makes sense. Inspirational inspires, Christian points to Christ. Love it.

Keli Gwyn said...

Krista, I got my lesson in the use of the "correct" term from the first agent to whom I pitched my story. I handed her my one-sheet, in which newbie me had referred to my story as a "Christian romance." She informed me that that accepted term in use in the industry is "inspirational." Thus, that's what I use and why.

However, I do like your distinction. Based upon it, I would say my stories are inspirational romance.

I'm praying for you and your precious little Annabelle.

Joy Tamsin David said...

I see your distinction. I tend to use both terms interchangeably. However, I notice there is a growing market for LDS fiction, and I wonder if CBA might move more toward the term Christian fiction to distinguish between the inspirational Mormon novels.

Beth K. Vogt said...

I love to sit back and listen to the debate and the whole "should they or shouldn't they" discussions that come up around romance novels. I appreciate your addressing the topic head-on, even with the sub-heads.
The one term I heard addressed early on along the writing road: Someone recommended using the term "general" market, as opposed to "secular" market, since ABA publishes both faith-based and non-faith-based books.
Made sense to me.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Good post.
This is a debate that creeps up in many conversations. Thanks for adding clarity:)
Thinking of you and family

Julia M. Reffner said...

Thanks, this is a well-thought out post. I'd seen the terms thrown around and wondered the difference so thanks for posting this :).

Congrats on your new addition!!