Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Writing Truth in Fiction: 3 Questions to Ask By Marie Wells Coutu

As a writer of Christian fiction, I’m trying not to write a sermon, but I do sprinkle “truthlets” throughout my stories, usually through the dialogue of a mentor-type character.
Marie Wells Coutu

But I’m not a theologian, I’ve never taken an academic Bible class, and I don’t want to mislead readers into believing a false gospel. If my heroine learns to understand God’s love for her, how can I be clear that she has to accept the free gift of salvation without sermonizing? Or is it enough that she realizes the great love that God has for her?

Answers to this dilemma are not easy and will vary from book to book and author to author. The story will dictate the depth of doctrine included. We know that most Christian novels today need not include a salvation scene, but finding faith may be the turning point that causes the character to change.

Of course, one way to be certain the truthlets we’re providing in our stories do, in fact, reflect Truth accurately is to ask a pastor or biblical scholar to review the manuscript. I have done that in the past.

But something mentioned by my pastor recently also seems applicable. If my story, or the Truth my character learns, is based on a specific passage of scripture, there are three aspects I can examine. They’re useful for any Bible study, so I thought I would share them:

  • Context: Where is the passage found, and what else is going on in the scriptures around it?
  • Content: What do the verses actually say?
  • Concern: What does the Holy Spirit want this scripture to say to me (or to my character)?

Answering these questions may require studying other resources to find out what commentators have said about the passage. That will help me to stay true to the Word.

More important, however, is praying for answers to the third question, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the lesson He wants me—and my character—to learn.

With His guidance, I’ll be able to write the story in a way that readers will also learn the Truth my character learns, without feeling they are getting a sermon.

As long as I keep these principles in mind, and seek to write with God’s guidance, I can be assured that my story is consistent with His Truth.

About the Author
The Secret Heart
by Marie Wells Coutu
Marie Wells Coutu retired in 2013 from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. She now spends her time writing fiction—when she’s not busy having fun with her husband or with their four grandchildren. She has written three novels for Write Integrity Press, including the award-winning For Such a Moment and Thirsting for More. Her most recent book, The Secret Heart, released in February. She is working on a historical novel set in western Kentucky, near where she grew up.

Marie is a regular contributor to Seriously Write. For more posts by Marie, click herehttps://seriouslywrite.blogspot.com/search?q=coutu&max-results=20&by-date=true.


  1. Thanks for the reminder, Marie. There's a fine line between truth and preaching, at least for me. These are great tools!

  2. It's a tough call sometimes as to how much or how little to include of the Bible. Sometimes, the story dictates it. I started out intending to write my first book in my historical romance series with a "subtle" message - but that's not how it came out. Book 2 is a little more subtle - and now Book 3 is softer than the previous one.

    With all three, I've worked hard to bring the message into the story not through sermons but through life lessons, but I also frequently use mentors who share a bit of wisdom with the main characters. It's my hope that the messages in all three stories come through naturally and not preachy.


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