Thursday, July 30, 2009

Christian Writers & Christians Who Write

Spinning off of Monday's post, I want to spend a little time today talking about the difference between Christian writers and Christians who write. If you look up these terms on Wikipedia, you won't find an entry, but I think that it's pretty widely accepted that there seem to be two camps when it comes to Christians and writing.

First off, you have Christian writers--people who define themselves first and foremost by their almost evangelical approach to their art. Christian writers publish in the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and often view their books as a way to present Christ to a certain readership. These readers usually consist of other Christians, but the books can also act as an outreach tool. There isn't necessarily a formula for these sorts of books (though it may seem like there used to be), but they usually include Christian habits (i.e. praying, attending church, going to Bible study, etc.), quotes from Scripture, and direct references to God. It also seems there are certain rules that define what is clean and decent in a work of Christian fiction. This means no swearing or cussing and no graphic sex scenes. Violence, however, doesn't seem to be a problem... Hmmm. Wonder why that is?

On the other hand, you have Christians who write. These authors are definitely Christians, but their religious beliefs may not be quite as overt or obvious. Their primary objective may not be to present Christ to an audience, therefore their goals might be much more broadly defined or even change from project to project. It seems that underlying these sorts of books are overarching themes of grace, redemption, and hope. But there is also a willingness to go deep into the raw places of our depravity and present it for what it is. There may not be direct references to God or Scripture, and religious themes may be subtle or even allegorical. These books are often--but not always--published in the ABA (American Booksellers Association) and may include things that CBA books would deem indecent.

Okay. So, working with those two definitions (which, keep in mind, are only my very flawed observations), I have a few questions for you. I'd love it if you'd take a minute to answer even one or two of them!

Is there anything that you would add or take away from the above definitions?

What do you prefer to read? Books by Christian writers or books by Christians who write? Why?

Do you think that Christians should read (and write) certain kinds of books? Why?

If you write, what sort of a writer do you consider yourself? A Christian who writes? A Christian writer? Or neither?

Sorry if this post seemed technical to you! I'm heading somewhere, really I am. Like I said, in the next little while I'm going to be introducing you to some of my favorite authors and giving away some books. The first giveaway will be tomorrow! So stay tuned...


  1. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed books by "Christian writers" such as Lori Wick, Dee Henderson, and Karen Kingsbury. They often use scriptures from the Bible and detail God's word in their stories, and they are enjoyable and gratifying all the same. However, I find that I'm more attracted to books by "Christians who write." Books like your very own, "The Moment Between," William P. Young's "The Shack," and Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." The reason for this is, although shameful, I'm not 100% comfortable in my Christian sin - it's not good news, but it's true. I like to read books about people in similar situations; people who are seeking and forming a relationship with God, but may not be as equipped as other Christians.

    I do not think Christians should have to read and write certain books. Unless a book or a book you're writing is tempting someone into sin or diverging beliefs away from the Bible and God's word, there's nothing wrong with general fiction, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and such. It's like what you said in an earlier blog, I as well appreciate that I can read a book like (you said Harry Potter, I'm going to say Twilight) and not believe that I'm going to one day have a vampire lover sweep down and whisk me away to Vampire Land, because no such land exists, nor do vampires. And I can enjoy them without my beliefs altering. I'm more so a person who will pick out something in a book that I disagree with rather than let that something change what I feel and believe in. For instance in Twilight - I forget which book, possibly New Moon or Eclipse - Bella says if she has Edward, she doesn't need Heaven. Boo. I disagree. That tells people that if you have some Casanova hunk in your life who truly loves and you love back, you don't need God or His Kingdom. I found it extremely disheartening that Stephenie Meyer had put that in the book. I basically have to pretend that Bella never said that, because it was so disappointing to read.

    I've always said that I don't think I could ever write a book that didn't have some aspect of God and His workings in it. Whether or not I explain that a certain situation is because of God, whatever happens in a story I write, God's grace will shine through the scene. I would say I'm a "Christian who writes," though. For example, the book I'm working on right now has a simple theme unrelated to the Bible or God. It is simply, you can't run away from your past. However, there are elements of God and spirituality in the story. My characters aren't all perfect and God lovers, some are, some try, some fail, some don't. They all have sinful pasts and faults about their demeanor, but they seek redemption.

  2. I love the way you catagorized these. I've been doing a lot of thinking on this topic lately, perhaps even over thinking it. I am drawn to books by Christians who write. However, there are some phenomenal Christian living books that I've enjoyed. So, final answer would be: non-fiction--Christian writers, fiction--Christians who write.

    I am a Christian who writes. You know I'll be back to check out the giveaways. :D

    Have a peaceful day,
    ~ Wendy

  3. 1. Nope - I think you got it covered. I think Christian writing is on a sort of spectrum, from very overt to the more subtle.

    2. I will read either, and even books by nonChristians who write. As long as the story pulls me in, makes me think, and doesn't offend me (I'm not easily offended, but gratuitous use of the f-bomb really makes me cringe)

    3. I think Christians should write the stories they feel God has placed on their heart. We should write the stories that make us feel passion and excitement. As far as reading - whatever floats your boat...just as long as the stories aren't tempting us to disobey God. Personally, I loved the Harry Potter books. But I never was involved or tempted by any sort of occult practices. I might think differently about them if I was. Who knows.

    4. I'm a Christian writer. All three of my stories have characters who go through a spiritual arc and grow closer to God. I've tried writing secular fiction before, but it always ends up coming back to God.

    Interested to see where this is going! :)

  4. Thanks so much for all your honest feedback! I'm finding this all so helpful as I struggle with my own life and work.

    I think that I would define myself as a Christian who writes, but it's a hard balance to walk sometimes because I want everything I do to be God-honoring. Sometimes wonder if "fiction for the sake of fiction" is valuable or if it's a pretty waste of time. Most of the time I believe that stories have inherent worth simply because they speak to us, our condition, our past, present and future. But every once in a while I wonder if there shouldn't be more... Hmmm. Food for thought. In the meantime, I loved Harry Potter and the first book in the Twilight series (I thought they took a serious nose dive after Book 1), and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Hey, I even loved Silence of the Lambs, Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, and the controversial Tess of the D'Ubervilles. They made me wrestle, they made me think. And that's what I love in a book.

  5. well, what a thought-provoking post! i absolutely agree with you, nicole, that you are a Christian who writes. TMB didn't clearly spell out the gospel 1.2.3.a.b.c. but the themes were definitely of grace and redemption, and you touched topics that a lot of Christian writers would not touch with a 10-foot pole. here are my thoughts - i think those definitions are definitely true, and that Christian fiction (in reference to your last post) has gotten edgier. our relationship with Christ is supposed to permeate every aspect of our living, and for example, I am reading Karen kingsbury right now - she is a Christian writer. she spells out the gospel, her characters are generally Christians, but i really find so much of her Christian characters as unrealistic. a writer who is a Christian allows those biblical truths to flow through their stories, but don't necessarily focus on explicit Christian themes. Your characters have more meat, more uncertainty, and more authenticity, i think because you don't require that you have a Christian as your protag. and even if your protag was a Christian, i doubt that he/she would be the "perfect Christian" that we all have in our minds that we should be, and that is so often portrayed by Christian writers. I feel like I'm rambling, but I hope you get it :). i used to write, and i went back and forth from writing as a Christian writer and a Christian who writes. but i agree with a comment made above - i could never write a story that was absent of God - He is part of everything, and He is ultimately sovereign, so I don't see how a person, as a Christian, could leave Him completely out of a book. I read both types of fiction, certainly, but i find that i enjoy Christians who write far more than Christian writers because i can generally identify with the characters more (although i will make an exception for Francine Rivers fiction - I lose myself in her novels!). ok, off to lunch break - will check back tomorrow for a giveaway!!!

  6. I just realized I had a typo, and I must say, I wouldn't correct it if it weren't a rather altering typo. I said "I'm not 100% comfortable in my Christian sin" and what I meant was "I'm not 100% comfortable in my Christian SKIN yet." Sorry about that.

  7. This has been a very interesting discussion. I've enjoyed it.

    To be a Christian writer, I don't think my books have to spell out the gospel. In fact, my books don't spell out the gospel. They deal with Christian themes, and my characters (who are very flawed, with one protag who actually resents Christianity) all go through a spiritual arc based on Christian truths.

    I don't think Christian writers have to have a protag that is Christian. And I definitely don't think Christian writers need (or should) have cookie-cutter, "perfect" Christians as their protag, because who can relate to that? The point is that we all struggle. We all mess up and deal with temptation and sin. I want to create characters who my readers can identify with. Characters who touch on the heart of humanity and faith.

    I guess a very simplistic way to see it is this: what publishers am I looking to query? When I reach that point, I'm planning on querying publishers in the CBA. So by industry standards, I'm a Christian writer. By my own standards, I still consider myself a Christian writer.

    Just my two cents. Not worth a whole lot. :)

  8. I personally read both, but I probably read more written by "Christians who write". I do find myself drawn to the edgier novels in Christian fiction. Loved the Moment Between by the way. Just did a review of it on my blog.

  9. I see you as a Christian who writes, and those who've posted above me have spelled that out nicely. I think that it is fine either way as long as God is the driving force behind the story, and behind the writer. It doesn't have to be direct quoting from scripture or anything, but if it's a true Christian writing the work, then the grace of God will shine through.

    I am an aspiring writer and my stories (really only at the idea stage now) are geared toward the fantasy/sci-fi crowd. I've just begun to dabble into reading Christian sci-fi/fantasy. There's much more out there than just the Narnia books, as I am discovering! I fit in with this crowd and hope that God's love and grace can be seen by the things that my characters will face and strive through. I do plan on my "huge epic story" (as I lovingly and hopelessly call it) having a main character who is a Christian and shares her faith with the people of this new world that she's found.

    Really, it all boils down to creating a book/story that God is using you to create. I hope I get the chance that you have had, thrice over! :)


  10. Still loving your input. Thank you.

    Katie, I agree with you--I don't think that the protag of a God-honoring book has to be a Christian. In fact, sometimes I find it's even more powerful when the main character is set on a long journey (like we all are).

    Stacey, I love Francine Rivers too!

    Amy, thanks for the review! I'll link up my blog to it on Monday. :)

    Brandi, blessings to you as you write! I loved fantasty/sci-fi when I was younger, but I haven't read it for a long time. However, I did recently read Jeffery Overstreet's "Aurelia's Colors" (fantasy)and Tom Pawlik's "Valley of the Shadow" (sci-fi). I really enjoyed both of these CBA published books. You might want to check them out... :)

    Lauren, I knew what you meant. ;)

  11. Thank you for sharing this. I guess I hadn't considered the difference. I've been SO frustrated with the CBA "rules" it's made me consider writing secular fiction instead! It will be interesting to see what Debbie Macomber has to say at the ACFW conference, since I'd have to describe her more as a Christian who writes than a Christian writer!

  12. Thanks so much for stopping by, Niki. I've often wondered where I fit, too. I'm starting to think that may be the point... We don't quite "fit" anywhere. But maybe that's okay. Seems to me like we're in good company. ;)

    BTW, you are the first Niki I've met who spells your name the same way I spell mine! I go by both Nicole and Niki (more casually), but until now I was the only girl I knew who spelled it without a second K or a C or a Y. Great minds think alike. :)

    Hope you stop back again!