The mission of Catholic includes being devoted to gifted writers of Catholic fiction.  It also has another mission: To help these writers grow and use their literary gifts.

Many writers have asked, what they can do or read to help them become better at writing Catholic fiction.  We have considered ways to help.  The writer of Catholic fiction is unique.  For many, their faith serves to  enlarge their understanding of the world and those around them.  They often ask how God and Grace fit into a writer’s imagination; or how they can make them come alive in a meaningful way in the fiction they are writing.

These are important questions.  Here are some answers.

Writers of Catholic Fiction - Recommended Reading

1.) Letter to Artists by Pope John Paul II

We recommend to authors who wish to write great Catholic fiction begin by reading John Paul II’s Letter to Artists.  John Paul’s mission to evangelize the world for Christ Jesus included artists and writers.  He understood the artist and the writer because he himself was a playwright: The Jeweler’s Shop.

To quote the letter "None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you."  John Paul II.

2.) The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner

Authors of Catholic fiction should make John Gardner’s writing about the craft of fiction must reading.

The first half of The Art of Fiction,  he explains what makes great fiction and the second half he discusses common errors, technique, plotting and exercises.  Gardner explains the "fictional dream" and Interest and Truth.

3.) On Moral Fiction by John Gardner

On Moral Fiction was a controversial book at the time of publication.  He criticized many contemporary writers including John Updike.    Gardner's central thesis: that fiction should be moral. Gardner meant "moral" not in the sense of narrow religious or cultural "morality," but rather that fiction should aspire to discover those human values that are universally sustaining. WARNING: HE QUOTES SOME OFFENSIVE MATERIAL THAT YOUNG ADULTS SHOULD NOT READ.  However, the book is a must read to know what it means to write "moral fiction."

4.) On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner

Gardner talks of the life of the writer and the teacher.  He takes his hard earned lessons and shares with those who aspire to be a writer.  Writer and teacher are one in this simply and yet edifying work. "Finally, the true novelist is the one who never quits." John Gardner

5.) Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O'Connor is the Catholic fiction writer.  She puts the Catholic substance and skin in and on what it means to be a Catholic writer and write great Catholic Fiction.  Mystery and Manners is a collection of articles and essays about writing and what it means to be a Catholic writer. Her essays include: The Fiction Writer & His Country, The Nature and Aim of Fiction, Writing Short Stories, The Church and the Fiction Writer, Novelist and Believer, Catholic Novelists and Their Readers and more. Again, she defines what it means to be a Catholic fiction writer. It is a must read for any Catholic Writer.

6.) Aiming at Heaven, Getting the Earth: The English Catholic Novel by Marian E. Crowe

Professor Crowe is retired from the University of Notre Dame and one of the few who have studied the Catholic novel and wrote about it. Ms. Crowe’s work defines the Catholic novel (pg 24-25), examines the history of the Catholic novel and will allow authors to understand where they fit into the literary world and tradition all around them. If you want to know about the Catholic novel's potential in the future - this is the book.

7.) On Fairy Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien

The essay is significant because it contains Tolkien’s explanation of his philosophy on fantasy and thoughts on mythopoiesis (where authors integrate traditional mythological themes and archetypes into fiction). Moreover, the essay is an early analysis of speculative fiction by one of the most important authors in the genre.

“The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveller who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost….”  Does this remind you of anything?  Read it here –  On Fairy Stories

8.) Nobel Lecture in Literature 1970 by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn delivered a speech to the Swedish Academy which is considered by some as the moral basis for literature.  Below are a few quotes and thoughts from the great writer.

“One day Dostoevsky threw out the enigmatic remark: “Beauty will save the world”. What sort of a statement is that? For a long time I considered it mere words. How could that be possible? When in bloodthirsty history did beauty ever save anyone from anything? Ennobled, uplifted, yes – but whom has it saved?

There is, however, a certain peculiarity in the essence of beauty, a peculiarity in the status of art: namely, the convincingness of a true work of art is completely irrefutable and it forces even an opposing heart to surrender….”

“So perhaps that ancient trinity of Truth, Goodness and Beauty is not simply an empty, faded formula as we thought in the days of our self-confident, materialistic youth? If the tops of these three trees converge, as the scholars maintained, but the too blatant, too direct stems of Truth and Goodness are crushed, cut down, not allowed through – then perhaps the fantastic, unpredictable, unexpected stems of Beauty will push through and soar TO THAT VERY SAME PLACE, and in so doing will fulfil the work of all three?

In that case Dostoevsky’s remark, “Beauty will save the world”, was not a careless phrase but a prophecy? After all HE was granted to see much, a man of fantastic illumination.

And in that case art, literature might really be able to help the world today?”

It is the small insight which, over the years, I have succeeded in gaining into this matter that I shall attempt to lay before you here today.  Read the Nobel Lecture in Literature here.

All the books above are available as used books on Amazon.  Every Catholic writer should read these books at least twice, underline and highlight, comment in the margins, know them and have them on his or her shelf for reference.

Finally, but most importantly, prayer. God wants all his writers to know Him. To know Grace through prayer, is to be able to write about Grace and the world of people, God and their interaction.



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Catholic, Ink.

Be part of the Catholic Literary Revival

Sign-up for this free weekly e-newsletter and receive the free article - "What is Catholic Fiction?" Read the weekly column The Catholic Imagination and You and more.