As Christians, we are called to glorify God in all that we say and do. As Christian writers, this calling extends into the work that we create, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.
As someone who hasn’t written nonfiction, I will not be discussing that branch of literature—though I’m sure it’s obvious how one could glorify God in their nonfiction writing. What I am going to talk about is the more challenging of the two branches: fiction.
While I might talk about content in a future post, I will be talking mainly about genres rather than story content for this particular post. I will go through the main genres that are published alphabetically, lending my thoughts to each. This is by no way meant to be a list of do’s and don’t’s for writers, rather just a set of guidelines as to what can be used to glorify God in your writing; because while I believe we can honor God in no matter what we write, I would say that there are instances where that becomes impossible to do. But more on that later. This is also meant to be a guide to writers in general as to what genre their book is in or what genre they should market their book as.
Adventure — The adventure genre consists of books where the protagonist goes on an epic journey, either personally or geographically. Often the protagonist has a mission and faces many obstacles in his way. While similar to fantasy, the main difference is that adventure takes place in the real world, not a fantastical one, and the pacing is very action-centered more than anything else.
I would definitely say that adventure is a safe genre. While I have not read these books myself, the novels Fawkes and Romanov by Nadine Brandes are sold in the Adventure section in my Barnes and Noble, though they could also be categorized as historical fantasy.
Fantasy — Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction set in a fictional universe, often inspired by real world myth and folklore. Fantasy is distinguished from the genres of science because the genre typically has no basis in scientific fact or speculation.
This should be obvious that it’s a safe genre. C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings are the most popular examples of fantasy, especially in Christian circles. While not explicitly Christian, they have strong moral themes and clean content, which provides a sharp contrast against other books in the fantasy genre that are full of explicit content, strong language, violence, etc. As always, when writing, make sure it matches up to the standards of the Bible, even if you don’t have religion clearly written into your world-building. Another good example of this would be my personal favorite, The Binding of the Blade series by L.B. Graham. An excellent allegory of the books of Isaiah and Revelation, this series actually helped me understand certain concepts of the Bible that I had not understood before. While the whole “Christianity” emphasis isn’t crystal clear, the inspiration certainly is and the message of the series is very beautiful. Your work doesn’t necessarily have to be this way, as long as your subject matter is not contradictory to your Christian beliefs.
Historical fiction — Historical fiction is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past.
This is my personal favorite, probably because I’ve read and written the most in this genre. While it might be obvious that you could make this Christian by making the religion part of your world-building, it makes it challenging when your novel is set in an era would not have known Christianity. I also believe that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a strong point of your story either. Like I said earlier and will say again, it is the content that matters more often than anything else. You can still tell if a story is influenced by Christianity based on the content even if the faith isn’t a major part of the book.
Horror — Horror is a genre of literature, film, and television that is meant to scare, startle, shock, and even repulse audiences.
I would not consider horror as a safe genre for Christian writers. As Christians, we are to edify and lift up one another, and if your writing is scaring or repulsing readers, I doubt that is accomplishing that goal. Trust me, I can scare myself without needing a book or movie to do it for me. Sure, if you want to write about it, that’s totally up to you. This is not a do or don’ts list. But I personally would not say that Christians should write horror, but rather the opposite.
Mystery — The mystery genre is a genre of fiction that follows a crime (like a murder or a disappearance) from the moment it is committed to the moment it is solved.
I personally have started writing some mystery novellas and have greatly enjoyed doing them, though I am most certainly not aiming to be the next Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyles. I am not that brilliant. However, this is a genre that we should be cautious in as writers. While I enjoy mysteries and finding out who did the crime and seeing them being brought to justice, it can easily become a very dark and gory genre. Some might argue that the darker the crime, the better when it’s resolved, but I would again emphasize that our writing needs to glorify God. If our writing is disgusting and morbid, you might want to double-check and make sure your writing matches up with your beliefs.
Paranormal — Paranormal fiction is the genre of fiction whose story lines revolve around the paranormal. Paranormal stories encompass elements of the paranormal, such as ghosts, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and any sort of magical or otherworldly creatures.
Again, this is a tricky genre. I have written one paranormal story, but it was very light. I only labeled it as that because (hopefully this isn’t too spoilery) there was a curse where everyone who entered this one place suddenly entered the Otherworld (drawing inspiration from Celtic mythology) and never returned to the real world. Yes, the curse gets broken. But yes, besides the fact they became “ghosts” or “shadows” in the real world, appearing only at certain times, I did not dig deeper. So yes, I am torn. I think it is possible to write Christian fiction in this genre, but it’s tricky because we could so easily fall into the darker side of it. As always, make sure your writing matches against God’s Word, and if you’re unsure, talk to someone you trust about it to make sure that you are honoring God in your writing.
Poetry — Poetry is a form of text that follows a meter and rhythm, with each line and syllable. It is further subdivided into different genres, such an epic poem, narrative, romantic, dramatic, and lyric.
David the psalmist was a poet. We can easily write poetry as Christians. And even if we don’t write necessarily Christian poetry, we can still honor God in our words.
Romance — Romance genre fiction places the primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. Usually romance is a cross-over of two different genres.
There are gazillion “Christian” romance books out there. Me, personally, I enjoy a good romantic subplot, whether I’m reading or writing it. While this is a relatively safe genre, the danger with this is veering too much on the side of smut. (See my previous post about smut in literature here.) Remember God’s guidelines for marriage. Please don’t push the boundaries. Remember to honor God and be certain your writing isn’t going to be a stumbling block for someone else. It is possible to write innocent, sweet romances that are wholesome without getting gross and just plain indecent. If you’re writing romance, be sure that it glorifies God and His institutes for marriage.
Science fiction — Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction that typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life.
First off, I’m not a huge sci-fi fan. Okay, I love the TV show Lost in Space (the new one, mind) and I liked Rogue One and the Mandalorian. But I haven’t read much of science fiction myself and would not consider myself as a good spokesperson on this genre at all. I believe that you can easily write science fiction and still glorify God; so yes, I definitely would consider this a safe genre. ^_^
Teen fiction — Teen fiction is a genre of fiction, usually contemporary, dealing with young people and their every day lives.
Teen fiction tends to be a crossover of one or more genres, but from what I’ve seen, it tends to be full of mushy romances, lots of emotional and hormonal teens in their high school and college years. While I believe you could write this with a good Christian perspective, I believe that it would be very challenge to do so and still keep it mainstream teen fiction. But I’m willing to be proven wrong! Honestly, if teen fiction became clean, God-glorifying literature, this world would be a bit of a better place.
Thriller — Thriller is a genre of fiction, having numerous, often overlapping subgenres. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety.
Yeah, I would definitely say that Christians could write thriller stories in the sense that it’s a real thriller, but it’s a clean thriller. In other words, no smut, little to no language, tone down the violence, etc. It’s possible, but not done often enough. Always remember to present to the world literature that reflects your beliefs, even if that just means it’s a clean thriller without having Christianity directly in it.
Werewolf — Werewolf fiction denotes the portrayal of werewolves and other shapeshifting man/woman-beasts.
First off, I had no idea this was an actual genre. Maybe it isn’t, but it’s so big in the area of modern literature that I had to address it. This, surprisingly, lurks everywhere. And not just online writing websites, but also in the published world. If you write this stuff, please do not consider this an offense, but I do not think it is possible for a Christian to write in this genre. Most of the werewolf stories I’ve seen are full of smut, gore, language, among other explicit things. Basically, while I’ve never read any myself, I have heard from others that they are essentially disgusting. While I’m sure there are stories in this genre that are not, I think it would be very difficult—if not impossible—to write in this genre.
Anyway, I hope this was beneficial or interesting and worth the read. Always remember, no matter what you are writing, to glorify God in your words. Whether you’re making Christianity a clear point in your story or not, be sure your content is inline with your beliefs and does not present the wrong view.
“Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
~ 1 Corinthians 10:31
4 thoughts on “GENRE ~ What Christian Writers Should Be Aware Of”
Cheyenne, this is well written and so informative! A worthy exercise and I appreciate your cautionary words for the Christian, both author and reader.
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Great stuff! I think what you said in this post is something a lot of writers are ignoring right now. No one glorifies God in their writing; they have their characters (even the supposedly good ones) lie, cheat, steal, and all sorts of things, like some kind of cosmic “end justifies the means” mentality. I’ve read so many books that have the good characters behave almost exactly like the bad characters, in which case, what’s the point of even calling them “good” and “bad”? They both look bad to me!
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Yes, it’s a current trend to have morally grey characters. And while I enjoy reading about them and trying to understand them, at the end of the day, I still prefer those with strong morals.