Do you like unwelcome surprises in a book?

Not me! I don’t like “bait and switch” stories.

I want to know what I’m buying, and how I’ll invest many hours spent reading. Writers need to remember a reader’s time is valuable too.

So when I begin to read a book of fiction, and about midway through, the author peppers it with quotes from a religious or political affiliation meant to proselytize me, I feel mislead.

When we choose a book to read, it is because of the promises made and tone is set by the writer.

A twist in a thriller or a who-done-it is fun but not really unexpected. 

So what got my panties in a knot? I began reading a book that hooked me from the git go but about a quarter in, the teenager protagonist and his new girlfriend began quoting scriptures on their first date.

Now I knew this author had some religious based books listed on his Author Page, but this book was not referred to as “Christian Fiction or Christian Theme.” No, it was described as a “YA Thriller.” Now I’m debating whether I want to finish reading the book. Yes, the story and the writing are really good, but with each passing page, I brace myself for another sermon.

Now don’t go grabbing the pitchforks just yet. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for a character’s faith or beliefs to show up in a book. For a character to be well-rounded, he has to believe in something, and showing those beliefs in the story is important. But how many teenagers do you know quote scriptures to each other on a date? Give me a break.

I feel the same way about “Political Thrillers.” I want to know which way the author leans before I select his book. After all, the book is supposed to be fiction, not fact. What I don’t want is to feel beat up because my political beliefs do not line up with the authors. If I want to learn, grow or even challenge my beliefs, whatever they may be, I’ll turn to the non-fiction section.

Good grief, we’re being lambasted every day on TV, radio and social media attempting to sway us to one side or the other. I read fiction to escape.

I understand there are dozens of religions and several political parties and Amazon would find it a daunting process to provide a category for each. However, an author can and should, in my opinion, use the book description area to inform the reader how they will be investing their time and money. (Oh, by the way, there is a sub-genre listing for Christian Genre under Literary.)

Writing fiction is an art. As artistic a process as painting. The artist should feel free to express their feelings and beliefs into that art. And yes, most fiction has a moral hidden somewhere within the plot. But I believe fiction should be written for the reader’s enjoyment, not their conversion. 

So for the love of all, please don’t try to sneak one over on the reader. If you are proud of your beliefs, state them up front in the book description and trust the reader to choose to read your book. 

A couple of good articles await your click. Keep reading…

Should We Label Christian Fiction? By Rachelle Gardner


Do Religion and Faith Belong in Fiction? By Beth Hill

Okay. Has a book turned you off because of a “surprise” in the middle?

What do you think about letting readers know what to expect?

I’d love to hear from you! Click the “write me” tab or contact me on Twitter @jeancogdell,Facebook at jean.cogdell and, stop by and say hey! The lights are on, and I’m waiting.

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7 thoughts on “Do you like unwelcome surprises in a book?

  1. I’ve never actually encountered hidden religion inside a novel. But I’ve put down some books because they were based entirely around a political agenda. Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ is a good example; the trilogy was more or less a long essay criticising Christianity. I’m not Christian, but it was distasteful.

    I think that characters used to drive an agenda are like ‘perfect’ protagonists. They’re more about the author’s fantasies than they are about good storytelling. I’ll never stoop to making characters like that!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Authors who use their books for “hidden” agendas aren’t the ones I look for. I’ve read books where the agenda is lurking in the background, but it’s been there from the first to see really. I like that kind; that is as long as I agree with the theme.

    Liked by 1 person

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