Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Difference Between Being "Too Preachy" & Staying Within Your Genre

If you love reading or writing Christian fiction, then you probably can tell when an author is being too "preachy". Or perhaps you've read a few CF books that were nice clean stories, but they lacked spiritualness. There are always many complaints about this matter in the CF genre. So I've decided to do a little survey.

I randomly searched five different CF books on Goodreads.com and found that three out of five books were reviewed at least once as being too "preachy". Two of those books had at least one person complain in the reviews that the Christian aspect of the novel was too "watered down". And out of these five Christian fiction books, eight people considered it being too "cheesy/corny".

Here are some of the comments made on these books:
  • "I liked the story, but it was heavy on the religious side."
  • "It’s an inspirational romance that at times is quite heavy on the religious aspect in my opinion. " Another person said (on this same novel): "I think the purpose of this book was overshadowed by the very dark subject matter. A lot of people have called this a Christian Romance, I find that very hard to believe... For the subject matter and details given I would have give it at R rating."
  • "The writing is very heavily Christian; there's lots and lots of talk about God.”
  • "This book is sappy and overly religious. (Some Christian, Evangelical type religion) "
  • "First of all, this book was PG 13--which I didn't know when I purchased it... I probably should have mentioned this first--she takes her clothes off way too much... I would not recommend this book."
  • "Christian romance novels are just not my thing--too cheesy too often."
  • "But, honestly. Christian Romance Novels?!?!? Who wants to like those? They're so cheesy, so...naive."

As you can see, we all have different opinions and beliefs. So if you are writing for the CF genre, there will most likely be someone out there who will think that your book is too "preachy”, "cheesy” or "subtle" for the Christian market.

How can we draw the line between sounding too preachy and simply writing a Christian fiction story, but without having to water down the Christian aspect?

  1. First of all, understand the principles of how to avoid sounding preachy
. However, there will still be those who will consider your book too religious - simply because it's labeled under Christian fiction. I wrote this post a few months ago explaining a few tips that I have learned on how to stay away from this.
  • Don't be afraid of mentioning God.
  • Your book is, in fact, labeled under Christian fiction. I believe that CF is powerful and authors shouldn't shy away from using this power just because they don't want to offend their readers. Yes, we should weave the book's message around the story instead of weaving the story around it’s message - but still be able to write a story that is inspiring, uplifting, encouraging.
  • Don't abuse the power you have in writing Christian fiction
  • by trying to "save" people. Instead, reflect God's love without coming out and trying to shove religion down your reader's throat. No one likes this. Be nice to your readers.
  • Don't cross the borderline of Christian fiction.
  • What I mean is, people read books in this genre to draw nearer to Christ. Give them an inspiring story that they can come away from feeling encouraged, not having to question whether or not it is labeled under Christian fiction. If you're going to write in this genre, you shouldn't just mention God every now and then. He must always be the main focus of your books.
  • Avoid sounding legalistic,
  • and instead be real. One of the things that scare non-believers away are Christians who are judgmental, have unrealistically high standards, and act that they are much holier than everyone. The best way to stay away from sounding this way in our writing is by using real people with real issues that others can connect with, even if they do have different beliefs. Show love, not legalism or "religion".
  • Last but not least, allow God to direct your writing.
  • It is, however, His story. We're only typing it for Him.
    Keep in mind that you can’t please everyone, so don’t try to. If you have a story to tell (that happens to be Christian), then write it. Of course, you should know the tips to avoid on being too preachy and use common sense when deciding which details to expose to your readers; but most of all, write the kind of book that you would love to read. Who cares if your readers consider it cheesy, or if they think that it should be an adult rating. Your purpose in writing CF is to please God, not please people. So do it for him.

    “You can present truth through fiction. People love a good story,
    and if they can come away from it with a stronger sense of spiritually,
    the writer has done a good job.”
    ~Teresa Gayle


    What are some other ways that Christian fiction writers can try to add just the right amount spiritualness without sounding preachy?

    What are some other ways that Christian fiction writers can try to add just the right amount of subtleness?

    Do you mostly read Christian fiction or secular fiction, and for what reasons?

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