Can We Learn Anything From Fiction?


I was in the bookstore, standing in the fiction section with a friend, when an acquaintance bumped into me. She was taking back a few things she’d gotten for Christmas.

The subject of the Kindle and ebooks came up when she made this comment, “Um, I don’t read fiction. I like books that I can learn something from.”

My throat closed up; my eyes nearly popped out of my head and my friend grabbed the back of my shirt as she cleared her throat to remind me we were in a Christian bookstore and I needed to remember, Jesus lived in me.  

I’m kidding. I didn’t come unglued. I simply smiled and thought, she’s really missing out. That isn’t the first time I’ve heard a remark about someone not reading fiction because it was a waste of time. It didn’t challenge, grow, or move them. Maybe they aren’t reading the right fiction! Maybe they’re uninformed or dare I say, even closed minded. I can’t say for sure. I’m not talking about people who simply do not like fiction. I’m talking about people who don’t read it because they feel it isn’t worth their time. There’s nothing there.

During the holidays, when approached by a family member, I was given the grand gift of this question, “Are you sure that’s what you want to write?”

“Yah know…I’m not. In fact, I think after a zillion hours of hunching over a computer, crying, kicking, screaming, praying, pleading, and agonizing I’d rather write for the fortune cookie company. I’d really be helping people then! Thanks for guiding me to clarity.”(Why yes, yes that is my sarcasm dripping onto your screen.)

No, I didn’t say that and I have nothing against the fortune cookie writers. Maybe they cry, kick, and agonize over exactly what to predict and which cookie is just right for each declaration of prosperity. Who am I to judge? BUT…

I think, especially when reading Inspirational fiction, that there is much to learn. Some fiction that is not “inspirational” can have great teachings as well, but I’m focusing on Christian fiction. I think it can do things for a group of readers that amazing scholars like Packer, Tozer, Piper, etc… can’t do. A baby Christian just out of a lifestyle of sexual promiscuity isn’t going to read a scholar like them, but she might read a book like Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. She would see a painted picture of who God is and how much He loves her in a way that can be much more effective than a non-fiction book could. 

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I love non-fiction. I read the above authors. And I’m also NOT saying that fiction is only for baby Christians. It’s good for every follower of Christ no matter where they are in their walk. (and even the unsaved!) I think there is deep spiritual meat in many fictional works. God loves to reach people through words! I believe He’s an Author Himself! There is something powerful about words and how they’re used. Power of life and death…hmmm…where did I read that? (I’m joking. I really do know where that’s found and it isn’t a fortune cookie.)

Karen Kingsbury writes Life changing fiction. Michelle Sutton writes Healing Hearts- Fiction making an impact on real lives. Nancy Rue writes healing fiction. I write romantic suspense…overflowing with hope. And there are many more inspirational authors writing to minister and bring out Biblical truths to readers, praying it will speak into their lives and lead them to Jesus or into a closer walk with Him.

How do you feel about fiction? Is there a fictional work that has spoken into your life in a way that nothing else has?

2 thoughts on “Can We Learn Anything From Fiction?

  1. Hi Jessica. Great article about fiction. I got hooked back in 1990. Before that I read exclusively non-fiction as a Christian because I didn't know Christian fiction even existed. My first Christian novel was Vienna Prelude by Brock and Bodie Thoene. The story was incredible and I am a huge WWII buff (or was before when I read fiction.) Anyway, I've read about a thousand novels since that time, about 900 or more of which were Christian. Yeah, the industry is exploding and I think it's because people are seeing the value in Christian fiction. Is some still fluff? Yeah. But not so much anymore. There are real subjects tackled now. Nancy Rue and Francine are good examples of people who address real issues Anyway, just wanted to comment here. Thanks for the mention. I don't think I'll ever understand why many Christians will devour books by James Patterson, Dean Koontz, etc. and spend time reading that, but think Christians should only write non-fiction or read non-fiction when it has to do with faith. Sheesh. It's true, though, but I'm trying to change that attitude by one reader at a time. It can be done by handing the right novel to the right person. Once they are hooked, it's impossible to go back. That's my take anyway. 🙂

  2. Thanks, Michelle! Great reply.


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