If there was one misconception about writing that I took a while to overcome, it would be the idea that any fantasy written by a Christian had to contain an allegory of some sort.
Like every other child, I grew up reading C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. To me, their work was the pinnacle of fantasy, and if I wanted to be a writer worthy of the Inklings, I had to do things just like them. And somehow, my brain translated that into meaning I had to write an allegory.
(Never mind that Tolkien frequently claimed his work was not meant to be taken as an allegory.)
I’m not exactly sure where or how this notion became lodged in my head. But lodged it was. And it took a good amount of shoving, pulling, and hammering to break free of it.
The struggle between writing so called “Christian fiction” and being a “Christian writer of fiction” is something that I believe a lot of writers struggle with. Especially new writers like myself. We wonder if wanting to honor God with the abilities He has given us means that we must always include a Gospel message or a conversion scene. We wonder if every fantasy must be an allegory replaying the fall and redemption of mankind if we are to sanction writing about magical powers and battles between good and evil.
We wonder where to draw the line.
If I knew the answer I would gladly tell it. But I think a lot of times it comes down to the individual stories we feel the need to share and the audience we desire to share them with. Not all writers are trying to reach the same readers and not all allegories are the same.
But not all readers realize this.
Not all readers understand that some books are meant to contain only Christian themes or allegorical elements, while others are written as outright allegories. On the one hand, you will have Christian readers call you out for not including allegorical themes on every page, while on the other, you will have Christian readers call you out for a book that they consider preachy and heavy-handed.
At the end of the day, I think it is important to realize that you cannot please everyone, and your goal instead should be to determine who you are writing each book for.
And you should know that the appeal of an outright allegory is often limited to fellow believers. I’m not saying it’s impossible to attract other readers—after all, the Chronicles of Narnia has drawn readers from all over the world, from all walks, and from all faiths—but unless you’re C.S. Lewis, it is unlikely your allegory will please or even intrigue non-believing readers, whereas a book with more understated themes might.
So what is the power of an allegory if not to reach unbelievers with the Gospel?
I would claim that the true power of an allegory lies in its ability to stir the hearts of those who are already acquainted with its themes. To renew the passion that once burned bright and perhaps now only flickers within. To remind them of sacrifice, of beauty, and of love unending.
It is preaching to the choir perhaps, but it is preaching that is no less potent for its audience.
Growing up, some of my favorite books were allegories. Nowadays, I still love pulling a good one from the shelf. Ever heard of the Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy or Tales of the Forgotten God? Both are excellent. More recently, I read and adored Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Heartless and Ashlee Willis’s The Word Changers.
Writers of allegories should stand unashamed in their work and not feel the need to hide the fact. There is nothing wrong with writing an allegory.
I wrote one and loved it.
But it is also important to remember that it is not the only story one can tell.
GILLIAN BRONTE ADAMS is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas. During the day, she manages the equestrian program at a youth camp. But at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist. She is the author of Orphan’s Song, book one of the Songkeeper Chronicles, and Out of Darkness Rising. Visit Gillian online at her blog, Twitter, or Facebook page.
Take a peek at Gillian’s latest release…
Darkness reigns unchallenged.
For the villagers on the accursed Island, life has only one meaning – death. Bound to the Island by the curse, the villagers suffer beneath the iron claw of the Serpent, daily breathing the poison of his breath and dying to appease his insatiable appetite.
When Marya’s parents are slain by the serpent for their belief in a legendary king, she becomes an outcast. Struggling to survive and avoid the vengeance of the Tribunal, Marya is torn between legend and the harsh reality of the Island. Yet when a forgotten promise springs to life, she cannot help wondering if the old stories might in fact be true. And if they are, will the promise prove stronger than the curse?
Special Note: Many thanks to Gillian for her patience. I was supposed to post this several weeks ago as part of a blog tour, but got behind on all my “labors of love” while sick. But now I’m almost caught up – whoohoo! And tomorrow I have another new release to share with you, so slide to the edge of your seat while you wait in anticipation. ~Angie