Is There a Difference Between Inspirational and Christian Fiction?

Ahh, so many terms; so much confusion. It almost makes you want to throw up your hands and announce finally that they are all the same. But hold up. Wait, less you offend some peers unnecessarily. Some writers are adamant about their work not being labeled inspirational fiction because within their pages they wave their faith flag high and proud and you’d better not mistaken it. Others prefer the term inspirational because they believe it appeals to a broader audience and to those who may not necessarily pick up a book labeled Christian. They think these readers may at least give their work a read if they leave the Jesus and God stuff as inferences. I am not here to argue the right or wrong of any of it. It is art. It is your creative work. Do what you feel. But at least understand the differences. As a Christian, I personally don’t believe that you can write a story from the heart that does not in some way reflect your faith.  It becomes an undeniably strand weaved through everything you write. Whether it is overt is one of the keys which separate inspirational fiction from Christian fiction.

Inspirational fiction is meant to move, unveil a spiritual element to the plot and draw upon the protagonist’s belief in something greater than their situation to help him or her resolve the conflict. It can be a number of things; belief in one’s self, a higher power or the advice or counsel of a spiritual sage of sorts.  Stories of inspirational nature often pull the protagonist into introspect; the resources to get through whatever the dilemma are often internal, but always spiritual. Inspirational fiction may never mention the words God, Jesus, or Holy Spirit, understanding that each individual will decide upon that entity from which to gain the strength or the wisdom they need to solve their problem. Perhaps the writer’s personal amazing_silhouette_photograph_14belief is in an almighty God, but he only implies it in the work leaning more on the story at hand and how the conflict is resolved.

Not so with Christian-based fiction. Christian based fiction is more specific in introspection and its source of higher power. God is the higher power. The conflict at hand can only be resolved by the extent to which the protagonist either turns to that which the spirit of God has already enabled them with or turn to God for strength and direction. This often comes through as an internal unction or another person with whom that individual places trust.

When I was marketing my novel, In Three Days I was told by one editor in particular that it wasn’t Christian enough for a CBA publisher and a little too Christian-like to fare well with a general fiction publishing house. The dilemma was the guidelines to which Christian fiction must adhere in order to be considered. Now, mind you Christians often suffer through the same life struggles as others. But to air them so publicly and unabashedly just wasn’t in line with what the genre calls for. I eventually marketed it as mainstream and then it sold. I was fine with it, as my message was not lost.

Christian fiction typically includes:

  • A conservative Christian theology
  • A Christian world-view — God is ultimately in control of the universe. Our purpose can only be fulfilled to the extent of our personal, intimate relationship with Him.
  • Christian Characters – They can be flawed but must be working toward redemption. The protagonist is not typically a lost soul, but simply one who has veered from the intended path

Additionally, the fundamentals of Christianity vary from group to group. But the one premise that all have in common is that God is the way to a peaceable and whole life. Whatever label you put on your work make sure it is a true reflection of your beliefs.  Your heart will show in whatever you do.