Theme 101: The #1 Reason Themes Can Become Super Preachy (And How to Avoid This)

What makes a novel unbearably preachy?

We’ve all read that Christian novel or seen that Christian movie that’s just trying to hit the reader or viewer over the head with the Gospel. You know–the one where all the atheists convert, all the Christian characters are perfect, Scripture verses are everywhere, and the author is very clearly trying to force the unbelieving reader to convert. It’s the type of stories that make some of us cringe when we hear the words ‘Christian fiction.’

Christian stories can fail for a variety of reasons, but often, I think they boil down to one basic problem: namely, the story’s theme isn’t bigger than the story’s message. This is the #1 reason that themes can become unbearably preachy, and it’s essential before writing a story that you make sure your theme is big enough to hold up an entire story.

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Josiah DeGraaf started reading when he was four, started writing fiction when he was six and hasn’t stopped doing either ever since. After growing up with seven younger siblings, he eventually found himself graduated and attending Patrick Henry College, where he plans on majoring in literature with a minor in pedagogy (it’s a fancy Greek word for education).
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels that have worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as fun as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. Plans for obtaining those impossible goals include listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer, ignoring college work so that he can find time to write, and avoiding coffee at all costs.