Saturday, July 7, 2018

How to Write (Good) Clean Fiction: Guest Post by Josie Beth

Our local library had a book sale — all the books you could fit into a Walmart bag for two dollars. 

Being a bookworm, I rushed to check the tables for any good books. My mom went with me to help. As she was looking, she asked why they were getting rid of so much teen Christian fiction that seemed perfectly fine. 

I told her the sad truth: “Christian teen fiction for girls is more times than not terribly written, and readers know that.” 

Often, when we think about books that are intended to be clean — like Christian fiction — we pass over them, because we know they’re going to be cheesy and boring. Or, when we try to argue that clean fiction is the better route, we get the reply “It’s unrealistic.” 

This puts Rebellious Writers in a tough spot. How do we write without language, abuse, and lust without being called cheesy or unrealistic? 

It’s actually quite possible if you know how to do it. Here are a few ways to write (good) clean novel:

 1. How to write without language 

We live in a world where people curse a lot and cursing in novels “shows who the character is”. Readers probably will get quickly annoyed with your creative replacements. There are two solutions to this.

One, don’t. You can simply *not* curse. Seriously. If your character gets caught in an avalanche, have him run away, not shout swears. I doubt readers will even notice. 

Two, pass over it. The critics are right. Swearing can show character and is realistic. If you’re okay with it, write “she cursed” or something similar instead. It shows realism and character without forcing the reader to see your language. 

2. How to write without abuse 

Alcohol, drug, domestic, child, and animal abuse exist. There’s obviously the route of not including this in your novel. But if you want to include it, you have to learn how to portray it in a negative light. 

Abuse is wrong. Yes, some people in your novel may think otherwise. However, we can use this tool I like to call “authorial truth”. While your characters think acting sinfully is okay, there’s a way to show their actions as wrong even without saying it.

To show this authorial truth, characters suffer when they make mistakes and are rewarded when they do right. For example, if your character abuses alcohol, he ends up getting drunk and making choices he regrets. If your character abuses her children, she gets in trouble with the law. 

Don’t take this to mean you can’t have characters that disagree. Having a wiser character advise others against sinful actions or simply knowing that it’s wrong is a good step. 

3. How to write without lust 

Close the door, will you? Readers know people do in bed, and even readers who don’t care about clean fiction complain about explicit sex scenes. Cut any of these scenes out of your novel; everyone will agree it’s better. 

You can also use that authorial truth I talked about earlier to show any wrongful desire in a negative light. Realistically, most of my teenage friends don’t even kiss their boyfriends or girlfriends, so don’t worry about that. If you’re trying to find drama to complicate the plot, there are other, more masterful ways. 

In short, it’s possible to write a good book that’s also clean if you just put a little bit of effort into it. Show all of these in a negative light and cut out explicit parts we don’t want to read. 

What do you think? How do you write good, clean fiction? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

About the Orator: 

 Josie has loved stories, places, and people for as long as she can remember, so it wasn't a surprise when she took an interest in writing. You can find her noveling, dreaming, making music, acting out characters, or posting on her blog,, where she shares writing along with many other aspects of her life.


  1. Nice post! We do need more clean teen fiction!

  2. Love this, Josie! Thank you for guest posting <3

  3. This is an awesome post, Josie! Thanks for guest posting for us!

  4. Excellent post, Josie! These were all such great tips. Thanks for guest-posting!

  5. Great post! So important and true. So much of this is unnecessary, but many are under the impression that it must be included for the sake of public opinion. That's often not even really true, but even though it can be, we're labeled "rebellious" writers for a reason ;)

  6. Wow, this is a great post! It can seem hard to write clean fiction if you buy into the idea that everything corrupt has to be detailed within your pages. It simply doesn't. I loved your advice about simply not including swearing. I'm amazed at some of the books out there that end up quite popular and are consider well written, yet they don't include a lot of the nasty stuff. The funny part is, no one misses it... yet when it comes to your own book, there can be pressure to write all that stuff in. It's not necessary and, in my opinion, your book is better for it. :) Great post!

  7. Didn't think I'd be reading about clean fiction tips today but these are really interesting and helpful!

  8. All really good points. I liked your one about authorial truth, which I used in my novel about a teen mom. Although she did feel like she was doing wrong at the time, she did it anyway and everything ended up going bad for her.

  9. Such a useful post. Absolutely amazing! Thank you.