Author Tamela Hancock Murray

Realistic Language in Fiction

The “Your Questions Answered” Series


I’m a former crime reporter and trauma survivor with lots of counseling writing a suspense novel. I’m trying to balance Christian fiction guidelines with the speech and behavior I’ve seen in police stations and at crime scenes. I’ve come up with some of my own ways to show through action that a cop is angry or frustrated, but can you guide us to some books where cops sound like cops without the swear words? I’m not a big fan of “he swore softly under his breath,” which I see a good bit. Also, is there such a thing as a character being too angry with God, as long as she turns back to him well before the story ends? 

I admire and understand that you want to be realistic. But since Christian readers are looking for uplifting fiction, I think you are safe focusing on the victory of God’s glory over the day-to-day grit of how some police officers and criminals might speak and act. At the same time, I agree that using the same dialogue as you would for small children would take the reader out of the story. Many an author before you has tackled this problem and succeeded. I recommend reading popular Christian authors writing in the suspense genre for guidelines. Here is an excellent link that will take you to 35 recommendations from Family Fiction online magazine. They often publish similar lists in various genres.

Steve Laube has also written about the broader topic in his post “Edgy Fiction.”

As for being too angry with God, as long as you write a convincing portrayal of the character’s journey and don’t make the conversion too fast or pat, you should be fine.

Your turn:

Do you think police officers and detectives are portrayed accurately in Christian suspense novels? Why or why not?

What is your favorite conversion story in fiction? Why?

For the entire series, click here: “Your Questions Answered.”


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