Friday, June 24, 2011

Writing With Boldness

Have you noticed the same thing that Andy Stanley did? Have you noticed that most prayer requests are either for safety (“Bless the Smith's trip”) or healing (“Heal Mrs. Jones' cancer”)? We're in at least one of the safest and healthiest countries on this planet, and our prayers focus on safety and healing!

On a fairly recent In Touch program, Andy Stanley went on to point out the first prayer service mentioned in the New Testament, found in Acts 4. After being arrested and threatened, did Peter and John pray for safety? No, they prayed for boldness.

Getting to this blog's focus on writing, do you think we should pray for boldness in our writing? I do. I'd like to look at three ways boldness applies to Christian fiction writing, one of which will have little argument while the other two are open for debate.


It takes boldness to create characters that grab the reader and captivate them for the hours it takes to read the book. It takes boldness to create twists that rob the reader of sleep because they need to keep turning. That boldness cannot be satisfied by the finished product – it needs to accompany you as you deal with agents and editors as you seek publication.

If you disagree with me that writers need the above boldness, please raise your hand right now.

I don't see any hands raised, so I'll assume you agree with me. Let's move to the next point.


When I write an Amazon review, I rate the item from one star for terrible to five stars for excellent. I notice most novels and movies tend to have a lot of five star reviews and then a declining number of lower rankings. But when it comes to a controversial topic book or movie (e.g. Anne Coulter, Ben Stein's documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, etc.), one finds a nearly equal number of one star and five star reviews, with three stars being a rare rating. People who agree with the topic of choice love it and those who disagree loathe it (often without reading or viewing that item).

Sometimes, being in the Christian market makes a topic more controversial. Thirty years ago, I heard a musician point out that the music that's popular in England will be the craze in the U.S. in three years and in the Christian market in twelve. In his book The Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing Christian Fiction, Ron Benrey states that a character can face an awful death and can't say anything stronger than “Oh my.”

What I find interesting is that many of my favorite Christian authors are envelope pushers. A three part series I read have villains who are child murderers, including chapters from the villain's POV. Another recent novel had a main character raised in church who not only had an affair with a married man but have an abortion to cover it up. Still another focuses on a pastor who left his first wife for “the right . The ironic thing is that I enjoy these authors in spite of the envelope pushing.

To be honest, I'm not an envelope pusher. Others are bolder in that area. Still others are more in the middle. This form of boldness is one that can be debated on whether it's a good thing or a bad thing.


This third boldness is no less controversial than the other, though my hunch is that many who advocate the second boldness don't advocate the third and vice versa. I noticed one book I reviewed only had a pair of one star reviews and an equal number of two stars (by the way, the novel mentioned above where a main character had an affair). All four negative reviewers didn't like the book because it comes from a Christian perspective.

This is the boldness that Andy Stanley spoke of. I believe it is a boldness we need in all areas of our lives, and this includes our writing. We are living in a society that wants us to keep quiet about our faith while we are serving a God who commands us to speak up.

We will offend some people just because we love Christ, but can one have a message presented clearly without being obnoxious? Yes. One novel I read contained a clear example of a changed life, yet nobody complained about it in their Amazon reviews.

Does your writing have enough boldness?


  1. Challenging blog! Thanks, Jeff/Becky! Like Joy above, I too pray that my writing (and speaking) will be bold -- as bold as God leads. . . :-)

  2. What an intriguing idea. I never thought about pushing the envelope as boldness. Thanks for the insight! This is going to help me as I create my new characters for the next project.

  3. I agree with Millie. Challenging post :)

  4. This is a great post! I pray that I will be bold in my writing. I think if we take a stand in our writing, there will be opposition. Yet, we must be shrewd as well so that we may reach a wider audience. In the end, we must write what God is calling us to write and the niche He's leading us to.

    I tend to like envelope pushing novels as well. :)