Inspirational fiction can be loosely defined as any not factual literature which can inspires a reader. Generally, the protagonist matures and overcomes obstacles in a way that might encourage the reader to do the same. The majority is also religious fiction, typically Christian. Misery literature, visionary fiction, and gentle fiction are often listed as subgenres of inspirational fiction.
Since what is inspirational varies from person to person, this genre is notoriously difficult to define. Inspirational fiction can also come in any form, including romance, mystery, and thriller. Many libraries feature a separate section for these books in both the youth and adult areas. The American Library Association lists it as a subgenre for every category of fiction in The Readers Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction.
Religious fiction from any and all faiths is typically considered inspirational fiction. Although there are many stories based on Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and other faiths, the large majority of religious fiction published worldwide is Christian. This subgenre is predominantly filled with Evangelical Protestant writings, although fiction with Catholic, Mormon, and other Christian worldviews is also present. The terms Christian fiction and inspirational fiction are sometimes used as synonyms for Protestant evangelical writings.
Misery literature is the name used in the United Kingdom for biographies in which the protagonist succeeds in spite of huge obstacles. These obstacles most frequently take the form of child abuse and neglect. Misery literature based on fact does not belong in the genre of inspirational fiction.
In 2003, Michael Gurrian published The Miracle: A Visionary Novel, and began the new subgenre known as visionary fiction. This category features novels which are intended to both inspire the reader and expand his or her mind with a vision of how life could be. Visionary fiction tends to present a plethora of mystical and religious experiences without being explicitly religious itself. In addition, like all inspirational fiction, visionary literature tends to end on a positive note, and even though the story may have many negative events, the final effect is almost always positive.
Gentle fiction is the term used for stories without graphic violence, profanity, or explicit sex. These writings typically concern the everyday struggles and successes of normal people. They are not explicitly religious. Many older stories fit into this category, such as nineteenth century classics Heidi by Lohanna Spyri and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, as well as more recent books, such as Jan Karon’s The Mitford Years Series, published between 1994 and 2005.