View Full Version : What Isn't Allowed In A Christian Novel?

12-20-2004, 10:44 AM
I'm just wondering if there are any subjects a Christian publisher will generally refuse to accept (besides unbiblical values, of course). I'm working on a story in which the main character is raped, but I don't plan on writing a detailed description of the occurance, and without this occurance the whole structure of the story will collapse. So would it be okay to include the rape scene if it is downplayed for the young adult audience I'm targeting? There are also various fighting scenes, with use of guns and knives, and a character with TS who accidentally swears once in the story. If I omit the swear word and only imply that he cussed, would that be acceptable? I have a feeling I'm dancing on a very thin line here and I'd like to know exactly where it is before I get down to the actual writing. :lol

Stephenie Hovland
12-20-2004, 06:27 PM
I'm not familiar with a lot of Christian fiction, but if I were you, I would look on the bookshelves for the more "real life" books and see who the publishers are. I think most Christian publishers stay very conservative. They would rather appear to be safe and dry than offend anyone. There must be some, however, who are willing to address these subjects.

12-20-2004, 09:44 PM
It really depends on the publisher and the target audience. If it's for the YA audience. Get the writer's guidelines and study the publisher's books like Stephanie suggested. If an editor likes a your novel, he/she may have to tone down those parts or rewrite them. The swear word in a YA novel for a Christian publisher probably wouldn't fly. I would carefully craft the rape scene. Otherwise, go for it and see what happens.

12-22-2004, 11:15 AM
Thanks for the advice. :D I haven't seen many YA Christian books in stores, but maybe I'm not looking hard enough. I found a site with thousands of Christian books so I'll do a search there and see what I come up with. Thanks again!

03-23-2005, 03:05 PM
I'm pinging this for the search engine.

What isn't allowed in a Christian novel?


Non-biblical issues?

Anything "unsuitable" for Christian youths?

03-23-2005, 03:30 PM
Howdy Joy. Nope, all of those have been covered in CBA books, and even more. In my own Joe Box series for instance, the publishing house and I agreed to to see just how much stretching the envelope could take. The result was that in my latest, Until the Last Dog Dies, we have gritty combat scenes, a righteously gory death for the villian, fistfights, shootouts, and tension a-plenty. It ain't your granny's "nice Christian novel featuring a nice Christian boy" by any means. Oddly enough, though, no profanity. Why? I wanted to see if I could get away with it. Fifty years ago Jimmy Cagney did it in White Heat, and I defy anyone to come up with an edgier flick. Oh well. I probably haven't answered the question, have I?


Betty W01
03-24-2005, 08:19 PM
No, but you did make me even more eager to read your next book. I really liked the last one!

03-25-2005, 03:34 AM
Thanks, Betty! (rubbing foot in dust) Yer awful sweet. It's called When Skylarks Fall, and will be out Oct 1. They've also contracted me for another, Skin the Cat, which is being written even as we speak (well, that's a lie...I need to get off this board and write it!). Thanks again. John

03-29-2005, 08:21 AM
CBA agent Steve Laube answers this very question in an interview (find the complete interview at www.swcp.com/christian-fandom/oli-sl.html) :

(Interviewer): There has been a good deal of discussion on this list in the past over CBA fiction, and how much constraint that particular market places on authors. At the same time, there have been signs that CBA fiction is starting to mature and get more realistic and less formulaic. From your understanding of the CBA market as it stands now, what kinds of plot elements are (still) going to make a book "unpublishable" by any CBA house?

Steve Laube: Impossible to answer definitively. Gratuitous sex, violence and language will never be acceptable, and for good reason. Beyond that I don't really see any restrictions per se. Heresy like the type found in The Da Vinci Code wouldn't work either. I saw one manuscript that basically rewrote the events in the Garden of Eden to create a plot device. That is a no-no. In other words, this author rewrote the Biblical story.

You've all heard that some publishers don't want divorce or incest or pornography or prostitution as plot devices. Every publisher is different, and some writers can write about very ugly issues in an amazing way (see Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.) Most beginning writers don't have the talent or developed the ability to tackle this type of thing and then blame the publisher for being too narrow.

03-29-2005, 10:31 PM
"Every publisher is different, and some writers can write about very ugly issues in an amazing way (see Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.) Most beginning writers don't have the talent or developed the ability to tackle this type of thing and then blame the publisher for being too narrow. "

Ouch, that hurts but it's true. One thing i've learned about writing is just because someone can type on a computer doesn't make them a writer.

04-05-2005, 11:37 PM
Ok, I'm speaking here as a Christian but not one who has ever tried to get a "Christian book" published. If I were in your shoes, I might start by comparing how you are planning to write these with how such things are depicted in the Bible. Such as the rape scene where one of David's sons rapes his half-sister. A general who (in the KJV translation) tells people if they do not surrender, "You shall drink your own piss." And some pretty graphic descriptions of battle injuries - Ehud's use of an extra long dagger comes to mind.

I would say the central issue would be to handle them with the same tone. Talking about sin to show the consequences of sin, rather than to glorify a lifestyle of sin. My guess is that some Christian publishers may listen to this arguement and some may not, but it may be worth trying.

04-12-2005, 11:55 AM
Christian publishers range from conservative to liberal. Therefore, the best thing to do is get the guidelines before submitting your MS.
In my novel, I don't use profanity or the actual words. However, it worked well when I wrote things in context like: Spewing profanity such as she had never heard, he slammed her head against the wall.

The content doesn't call for a lot of profanity or cussing. Where it did, I was able to improvise nicely, such as the sample above.

Most readers can get the idea. After all, the target market for Christian writers, as a rule, is for Christian readers. In that sense, we do have to consider the readers.

My wip is a little more challenging, even though Christian based. So we will see how it plays out using guidelines for the various publishers.

Another thing to remember is to try and stay as "denominational" free as possible. Dogmatic content does not go over well with the average reader.

04-12-2005, 12:06 PM
Thanks for that interview link, TL. Great resource help.

04-14-2005, 07:07 AM
Is it necessary that your character with TS swear? Is that needed for the story line? Most TS sufferers do not have that particular vocal tic--it is played up in the media, though. (My son has TS.) Maybe you could present a more realistic picture of the illness by leaving the swearing out.

04-14-2005, 08:50 PM
I saw in someone's post where they mentioned the dryness of some Christian books (excuse me please if I wrote that wrong, I don't have the post in front of me to refer back to)...anyway...

I've often wondered about that. Why is that? My life-and the lives of my Christian friends- is nothing like the boring existence I've read about in some Christian books. I enjoy reading a variety of books..everything from westerns, romance, chick lit, mysteries, thrillers etc. but it is difficult to find books in the Christian field that aren't dull.

I enjoy chick lit but hate all the birthday suit scenes or reference to dressing in the birthday suit. : 0 )

I read one recently called 'Bookends' by the humor writer...I can't remember her name..Liz Curtis Higgs...maybe...

Who are the writers of Christian romance that are not dull? I would love to find some authors that I haven't discovered yet. If anyone can give me a few names, I'd appreciate it.


Puddle Jumper
04-16-2005, 03:21 AM
I don't see anything wrong with writing a Christian novel about someone who is raped. It's a hard topic because it's such a violent and hideous crime, but such a topic offers great prospects of giving hope to readers if written well.

Amy Grant years ago wrote and recorded a song titled "Ask Me" which hit the issue of sexual abuse. I think really in the Christian forum it's important to leave graphic details out.

Here's how Amy Grant wrote her song:

I see her as a little girl hiding in her room
She takes another bath and she sprays her momma's perfume
To try to wipe away the scent he left behind
But it haunts her mind

You see she's his little rag, nothing more than just a waif
And he's mopping up his need, she is tired and afraid
Maybe she'll find a way through these awful years to disappear

Now she's looking in the mirror at a lovely woman face
No more frightened little girl, like she's gone without a trace
Still she leaves the light burning in the hall
It's hard to sleep at all

Till she crawls up in her bed acting quiet as a mouse
Deep inside she's listening for a creeking in the house
But no one's left to harm her, she's finally safe and sound
There's a peace she's found
-Amy Grant and Tom Hemby

It's just a song, not a novel, but I think it shows well how you can write about a topic that can be very graphically disgusting and write it in a non-graphic way.