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What Makes Inspirational Fiction "Inspirational"?

Have you ever read a book that you really enjoyed but that seemed just "clean" rather than "inspirational," only to find that all the characters come to know the Lord at the very end of the book? If so, you know how frustrating and forced feeling such an ending can be for a reader. It is also my opinion that these types of endings make Christianity feel artificial, like a stamp to place on something (book, person, etc.) in an attempt to label it, perhaps even so it will be more acceptable for a CBA market. This artificiality is disheartening to me because it betrays the actual nature of Christianity as faith that challenges us from our inner being to listen and love Christ every day.

Are you struggling with how explicit you ought to be about Christianity in your WIP? If you are writing inspirational fiction, it is vital that you include faith-based elements. However, you also don't want those elements to feel forced or preachy. How do you strike a balance?

What I am learning to do is to let those faith-based elements rise organically from within the plot. I think about my friends who are not Christians when I write my scenes, and I ask myself if they would say the inspirational elements seem forced. Notice that I didn't say I ask myself if these friends would agree with the inspirational elements, because that is another issue entirely. You don't want to shy away from complicated topics just because someone might disagree; someone will always disagree.

While a few scenes where your characters are either in church, at a Bible study, or having a very clear spiritual conversation with good friends can provide an opportunity to put actual Bible verses in your book (which is always a good idea), you have to build the foundation for these scenes to give them more impact. Otherwise, it's like killing off a character I hardly know versus one that I do: readers just don't care very much. On the other hand, I still remember scenes from Robin Jones Gunn novels that I haven't read in years where the characters had God-encounters, and those scenes still stick out to me because I was so invested in the characters. You have probably have similar memories from books you love.

It's really a similar strategy as we take when trying to live out a Christian lifestyle. Passing out tracks at a gas station is probably not going to be as effective as buying someone else's gas.

What are some ways that you have found to incorporate inspirational elements into your plot without those elements feeling artificial? Do you have any examples of books you have read that have done this effectively?

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