Christian Historical Fiction: 8 Essential Tips

Posted on Mar 15, 2024

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Written by Sarah Rexford

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Christian historical fiction stands as a formidable genre among fiction today. Data shows that the market for this sub-genre is in the range of $75 million–$85 million. In recent years, religious book sales reached a total revenue of well over $700 million USD.

A market of this magnitude warrants some discussion. In this article, I break down a list of Christian, historical fiction novelists. Then I dive into how to write this sub-genre.

Christian Historical Fiction: What’s Covered 

Who Are The Christian Historical Fiction Novelists?

There are many Christian historical fiction novelists, but a few stand out among them: Francine Rivers, Lynn Austin, Janette Oke, Julie Klassen, and Catherine Marshall. Let’s take a quick dive into the stories of these Christian fiction books and authors.

Francine Rivers

If you’re interested in reading Christian fiction for women, look no further than Francine Rivers. Best known for her #1 National Bestseller, Redeeming Love, Rivers dominates the Christian historical fiction category. 

Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin holds the record for most Christy Awards won: eight. Austin went on to be added to the Christy Award Hall of Fame in 2013. Her historical fiction keeps readers engaged and her Christian themes weave hope through the pages.

Janette Oke

Janette Oke is known for her Love Comes Softly series (adapted for film) as well as her novels set in biblical times. Her book, The Centurion’s Wife, is a literal novel answer to the question, What is biblical fiction?

Julie Klassen

Termed a pioneer in Christian fiction, Julie Klassen is the author of many beloved historical fiction novels. She sets her writing in the Regency era and draws out the Christian worldviews that were common in that age.

Catherine Marshall

If you’ve read the book Christy, or watched the TV show based on it, you know Catherine Marshall’s work. However, Christy is just one of many of Marshall’s compelling works. She made a name for herself among historical fiction authors.

What Are The 8 Elements Of Christian Historical Fiction?

There are eight main elements to writing Christian historical fiction: setting, world-building, plot, conflict, characters, dialogue, theme, and worldview. Learning how to write a book about your faith starts with familiarizing yourself with these elements.

1. Setting 

When writing Christian historical fiction, the setting is one of the most crucial aspects to settle on. Take care to choose a setting you will enjoy researching because historical fiction heavily relies on factual details. 

2. World-building 

World-building is crucial, particularly for Christian historical fiction set in the more distant past. Writing a novel set in the 1940s is an era many readers’ grandparents likely grew up in. Setting your novel in 1700s England will feel more foreign to most modern readers. Writing a novel based in biblical history is even further removed.

You’ll need to layer in world-building to help your readers imagine life in that timeframe and make your story come alive.

3. Plot

Struggle and triumph is a theme that crosses all boundaries. However, the particular details associated with a character’s development, struggle, and triumph vary greatly. 

When settling on a plot, consider the following:

  • What social norms could present struggles for my character? 
  • What activities might be viewed as a triumph in that particular time period?
  • How might access or lack of access to education impact my character? 

4. Conflict

Without conflict a story will quickly fall flat. Conflict takes many forms, so choose the one that will add the most value to your plot, character, and setting. 

Common conflicts are ranked in three ways: man against man, man against self, and man against nature.

Successful books may have come to mind as you read the above. For instance, Robinson Crusoe is a classic example of man against nature. The Book Thief reveals many conflicts, one of which is man against man. Finally, Pride and Prejudice incorporates elements of man against self.

5. Characters

Choosing a protagonist, or a main point-of-view character, is a key step to a successful Christian historical fiction, or any fiction for that matter. Who you choose to reveal the plot through greatly impacts the tone of your story. 

For example, imagine if Divergent was written from Four’s point-of-view only. While he can make a great POV character (see “Free Four”), Divergent would have had an entirely different tone.     

6. Dialogue 

Just as bad dialogue can make a beautifully shot movie cheesy, dialogue can make or break characters in novels. Consider this brief dialogue between Angel and Micheal Hosea in Redeeming Love for an example of strong dialogue:

“I’m leaving,” she said.
“If I have to.”
“Let’s talk it over.”

This quick, back and forth dialogue reflects the style a real-life conversation could have in a similar situation.

7. Theme

The themes you choose to draw out in your fiction will likely come from the time period you set your characters in. For example, Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly series focuses on themes of survival, a prevalent one in the mid 1800s. 

8. Worldview 

The worldview your characters embody can speak volumes in Christian historical fiction. Remember that good fiction entertains readers, possibly teaching a lesson through the characters, but never preaching to readers.

A helpful way to establish the worldview of your protagonist is to write characters with various worldviews, just as is true in real life. Then reveal how your protagonist engages those with different, or opposing, worldviews. How they treat others will further reveal their own worldview. 

How Do You Write Good Christian Historical Fiction?

The historical, bestselling Christian books did not rise in the ranks at random, but as a result of great plot and characters. 

The art of great, historical fiction with Christian themes is twofold: 

  • What is the setting you choose to place your characters in?
  • How do they choose to respond to this setting? 

In this way, writing Christian historical fiction, or any type of fiction, comes down to one aspect: humanity. 

Great characters feel human, and characters feel human when they are placed in settings that feel real. What better way to accomplish this than to put characters with a Christian worldview into a difficult historical setting? 

Readers get to follow their journey working to overcome their flaws, learn from bad choices, and hopefully by the end, emerge a stronger character, literally and figuratively. 

Writing Christian historical fiction can be difficult. It requires quite a bit of research into the time period you choose as your setting. It also requires extremely human, and therefore, flawed characters

But readers fall in love with flawed characters. We’re all human, after all. So then, finally, how do you become a Christian fiction writer? 

How Do You Become A Christian Fiction Writer?

Becoming an author is all about slow and steady steps in the right direction. But what if you’re unsure what path to take? We have you covered! It’s time to identify your unique needs so you can choose the best path forward.

Simply take this 2-minute assessment so you can make an educated choice on your next steps. You could be the next bestselling author, but it all starts with step one. Take your first step today!

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