Realism is important in fiction, especially when we talk about plausibility. For example, a plot should always be plausible and realistic. In our everyday lives there are laws and rules that prevent us from presenting a Pollyanna existence for our characters. Always, a writer should include those rules and conditions and not circumvent them. This gives credibility to our work.
However, there is another type of realism that some authors claim adds credence to a novel. Cursing and worldly situations are added to Christian fiction by authors in an attempt to add “realism” to a story. In actuality, that realism is a compromise with the world’s standards.
When this type of realism is touted, the first two questions should be, “Whose realism are you trying to recreate, and who are you trying to reach?” The honest truth is that few decisions are made for Christ over a beer in a bar. Compromising with the world to reach the lost does not work.
The Christian reality is that we strive to be like Christ. While Jesus reached out to the lost, our sinless Christ never took part in sin. To compromise with the world and put into print words that should not be uttered and sights that should not be seen, an author is telling the world that he or she is not interested in thinking or having others think upon those things that God would have us to put into our minds: “whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are of a good report…”
This does not mean that Christians are perfect, that we don’t curse, or that we don’t find ourselves in situations where we shouldn’t be. No, we all make mistakes, but we should look at the world’s realism as it truly is: a reason for us to sin or to cause others to stumble into sin.
This also does not mean that we need to present a Pollyanna world in which everyone is perfect, and that we never take on the issues that Christians (and non-Christians) face in the world around us.
That’s not realism either.
The Christian author has a daunting task. Christian authors have to be more creative because they need to show anger without the four-letter words. We need to show love and lust without the sex. We need to show that our characters are not perfect without taking our readers where God never intends for them go to.
When editing, evaluate your manuscript with these questions in mind:
v Does my realism reflect the realism of Christ’s love and His ability to transform?
v Does the realism reflected in my work steer clear of anything that the Lord would not have a reader place into his mind?