Thursday, December 4, 2008

Less Preachy Writing

One of the common complaints about Christian novels is that they tend to be didactic or preachy. The critics are somewhat justified in making this statement, since there are plenty of examples, even among the more popular Christian authors. Someone is bound to say, “they haven’t read Christian fiction recently.” That may be true, but it is a problem that we should try to avoid.

I would say that the solution is to “show, don’t tell”, but that phrase is overused. Didactic writing happens when we try to convince people of a theme without providing the required supporting evidence. Usually, this happens with themes other than the main theme. If we feel obligated to put the plan of salvation in every book, it is likely to come across as preachy unless it is the main theme. No matter how important a theme is, if we don’t have room to handle it properly, it should be left out.

The author of one of my favorite books included some chapters that I wish she had left out and I often skip over them when I read the book. The chapters exist for one purpose and that is to tell about this little unsaved boy. The rest of the characters in the book are already saved, but the main character meets this boy and over about three chapters the main character shares the gospel with the boy and of course he accepts Christ. The problem is that these chapters get away from the main theme, which deals with obedience to God with a humble attitude. If the three chapters had supported the theme, they probably wouldn’t have seemed preachy at all, but they were more along the lines of “here’s how to be saved”, “wow that’s great, sign me up.” This causes them to come across as orphaned chapters from the rest of the book.

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