Let’s face it–like it or not, the word romance is often associated with sex. So what makes a romance novel–Christian? Good question.
First and foremost authors of Christian romance have the daunting task of not crossing a fine line when writing about a man and woman falling in love, recapturing love, or saying goodbye to love without offending sensibilities. These authors are held to a standard of writing God-honoring stories without resorting to sensual scenes in every chapter.
Just as in non-inspirational romance, characters in Christian/Inspiration romance struggle with real life issues, and, as in real life, the answers to those problems may come with holes in them.
So exactly what is a Christian novel? I turned to CBA (Christian Bookstore Association) for the answer: “Christian novels have a definite religious viewpoint from the perspective of evangelical conservation. It’s not simply the faith of the writer or that God is acknowledged, but a distinctly religious viewpoint, and usually, one or more characters are converted. You don’t have to be an evangelical Christian to write for this market, but you must understand the values that are the basis for Christian fiction. People are in need of encouragement in these troubled times, and they look for books with answers. There is a depth to these books.”
According to Harlequin’s Steeple Hill: “Each story should have an emotional, satisfying, and mature romance, however, the characters should not make love unless they are married. Drama, humor, and even mystery all have a place in this genre. However, foul language, swearing, and scenes containing violence do not. Although an element of faith should be present, it should be integrated into the plot, and the conflict between the main characters should be an emotional one, arising naturally from the characters you’ve created.”
Christian fiction has many sub genres: thrillers, romance, mysteries, medical mysteries, future and end times, and science fiction. Books in a series are popular, so create characters who can live through several books.
Write about real-life issues: physical and verbal abuse, domestic violence, unfaithfulness, abortion, divorce, drug addition, alcoholism, illness, death. Show your characters’ wrong choices, create problems for themselves and others, but show how they make a comeback and overcome challenges; and how, through rough times, they grow in their character and faith. Most of all, weave a shining thread of God’s love and faithfulness throughout the story, and show how He makes all things beautiful in his time.
Other requirements: As with all novels, create believable characters. No stale, wooden people who drift through the pages like robots, espousing Christian ideals and quoting Bible verses. Their faith is an integral part of the story as is their GMC. Avoid creating perfect characters. They must be flawed like real people. Ask yourself: What is different about them? Why are they telling their story?
It is important to find different ways to express euphemisms (instead of pornography use adult entertainment, or instead of prostitute use a comfort woman). Be creative in your language when communicating intense feelings without resorting to profanity. Avoid nudity and sexual acts. Gratuitous violence is unacceptable.
As with all genres, it is important to read Christian/inspiration books first. Analyze them to see how the authors weave in the characters’ faith so it isn’t preaching.
If you enjoy romance novels, read Janette Oke and her frontier series to learn how to handle the sex lives of your characters.
Mary Higgins Clark and John Grisham are not considered Christian writers, yet their mystery novels have a depth of faith and belief. Neither of these authors use gratuitous violence or profanity. Grisham’s “The Testament,” is an outstanding example.
Other excellent Christian/Inspirational authors to read: Jessica Nelson, Karen Kingsbury, and Debby Mayne
Writing Christian/Inspiration fiction follows all the guidelines of commercial writing: GMC, plot, point of view, setting, pacing; the characters must grow as they struggled to overcome controversy, but the ending must be happy and include an uplifting faith message for readers to take away.
As you can see, writing Christian/Inspiration fiction is to create quality stories that reflects the salvation and love offered by Jesus Christ, but novels that are enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians, alike.
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