Writerly Wednesdays

The Novelist Entertainer

Jerry Jenkins once told me the number one rule of the novelist is never to bore the reader. As a novelist, you have one job—to entertain.

“Yet,” someone may point out, “I’m a Christian novelist.”

Indeed, you are. And to bring forward a good Christian moral is vital, to offer a moral of hope and redemption. However, you can’t bring forward a moral if no one will read your book.

“I’m American,” some might add. “My Puritan background means seriousness is a Fruit of the Spirit. How does that jive with entertainment?”

Ah, a dilemma. How do we make a morality tale entertaining?

Look to the Bible. Literally. You can’t go wrong there.

The Bible is a tale. Sure, the text could have read, “Do not murder,” and left it at that. Excellent command from God, one that I’ve been able to uphold. However, the Bible offers more than simply the command. Rather, the Bible gives frameworks and layers of story.

Okay, get this. Moses is handed the command, Thou shalt not murder, on stone tablets. On a mountain. FACE TO FACE with GOD. He’s on the mountain because his people ran from the Egyptians and the people need moral direction. They ran because they were slaves, and it took ten plagues to change Pharaoh’s mind. But first, a leader had to rise, a leader who had broken that very command near the beginning of his journey. Whoa. And if you like that story, you’ll really like the prequels and sequels.

God even includes in several other passages, And Moses said, to put a picture in our mind of a sermon or moment in time, which makes the text slightly more entertaining through a story.

So yes, we can be entertaining as Christians. How do we accomplish the goal of entertaining?

Very simply put—create a character who wants something and show the reader why the character can’t get it. Moses wanted to free his people from bondage but didn’t want to be a public speaker, which caused drama. Israel wanted to follow God, but fear or some other element came between them.

Look at Paul’s Epistles. Paul wanted the church to behave, and the letter details EXACTLY what the church was doing wrong, which is important for our churches today. The context is a story, and the message is interwoven inside.

As a novelist, your primary goal is to never bore your reader. As a Christian novelist, your primary goal is to show Christ. Using the Bible as an example, you can do both.

About this post: Beliefs represented by individual authors are not necessarily shared by all members of ICW.


  • Peter Leavell

    Peter Leavell, a graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and a MA in English Literature, was the 2011 winner of the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author, along with multiple other awards. An author, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband, and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

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