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I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

26 October 2010

A Potential Christian Novelist?

When last we met, dear readers, I was lamenting the state of Christian literature and how most of it that I have run across is complete rubbish. Alas.

So today I shall discuss: What I do about it.

Nothing, mostly. That was easy, wasn't it? I don't want to contribute to the purchasing of the rubbish (thus encouraging more rubbish, to my way of thinking), so I don't buy it. Sometimes I pick up one in the library or the bookstore, read a chapter to confirm that crappiness is still ruling the day, and put it back again.

You know the Christian books I do like? The ones that aren't immediately obvious as Christian literature. If an author can show me someone living her life, doing normal life things, then surprise me with a pre-dinner prayer, it's all good. It's the writers that beat me over the head with their characters' never-ending Bible studies and their horror at their non-Christian neighbours saying "dang" that make me want to vomit four-letter euphemisms all over the place. (If I'm just reading the wrong books, let me know; I'd be happy to be pleasantly surprised.)

So. My response. I've kind of thought for most of my life that I would write Christian books one day; after all, I tend to get exasperated at the likes of Christian singers who produce a few non-offensive songs then decide the only way to hit the big time is to fill their songs with sex and swearing. (Unfortunately, they may be right.) I don't want to be that person. But I also don't want to be all sweetness and light, because that's not real life, either. (Even worse than the never-ending Bible study plots are the ones wherein the main character has a perfect life until she stops going to church. Her life suddenly gets terrible, but then gets better again after she sits and cries one Saturday night about how terrible she's been and then goes to church the next morning, swearing to never miss a Sunday again. Blech.)

In the run-up to NaNoWriMo, as I've considered characters and plot, I've had a real struggle with whether or not my characters should have a lifestyle that I don't agree with. Right now, my main character (a woman) lives with an assortment of housemates, some of whom are men. I've gone back-and-forth on whether one of these men will end up being a love interest, and haven't reached a conclusion yet. A love interest could be interesting, but can I write about a live-in boyfriend?

The writer part of me says, "No dilemma. She's fictional. Just write it." But the whole of me, who loves Jesus, says, "No dilemma. The world has enough questionable behaviour in it without me helping." And I don't know which line of logic will reach my fingers first a week from now.

I would love to be that rare breed, a Christian writer who produces interesting novels. (I don't even know yet whether I can produce interesting novels at all, of course, so this may all be a moot point.) But there is a big part of me that has a serious aversion to the Christian market, because it is flooded with poor-to-mediocre books. So, the answer to the question, What will I do? is this: I don't know.

I kind of expect responses to this post, if any, will be varied and interesting and probably helpful. And it's possible that someone is doubting my Christianity if I would even consider writing for any other market. So, let's hear it!


Richard White said...

You are right about inspiration coming from indirect/non obvious sources. One of mine is a book "I knew Dietrich Bonnhoeffer", a collection of rememberances on the man and his life by those around him, and as it does so you get a picture of the man and it impressed on me, What is my legacy? What will I leave behind?, How will I be remembered? In keeping that thought of the future in mind, it moulds how you approach the present. :)

Su said...

"Begin with the end in mind" kind of thing, yeah. 'Cause you can't get to your intended destination if you don't know which road to take! Very good point!

Unknown said...

I haven't read a huge amount of Christian literature but what I have read I've often found to be quite weak or "wishy washy". The only Christian author I really have enjoyed is Francine Rivers. (And there's C. S. Lewis, of course, but perhaps that doesn't count, since it's all symbolism and not IN YOUR FACE Christianity).

What I've decided for my own writing (or for my current WIP, at least) is that I will incorporate the values and morals I believe are right into the fantasy world that I create. Sure, I can have flawed characters (because that's real) and even terrible, horrible, evil characters and happenings, but at the end of the story it should be clear what I, the author, am promoting as the "right" values and the "wrong" values.

So I think my short answer is: I'm planning to go the C. S. Lewis type route rather than the contemp Christian writer route (I didn't want to name any specific authors there!)

Anonymous said...

My mom reads a lot of Christian fiction, mostly the historical romance kind, which, I think makes the romance part easier on the writers since the values were less murky than they are today.

I like writing about the questionable behavior, myself. I don't want to contribute to anyone's deviancy (especially since I seem to write YA), but I like exploring what happens when people mess up and how they get back on their feet. I feel like that's missing in Christian lit, at least in the big, realistic ways that people mess up.

This has been a really interesting series of posts! Thanks for making me think about this stuff.

Megan K. Bickel said...

I would love to find (or maybe one day write) a book that deals with faith and religion in a realistic way. I know that my "realistic" is not the same as someone else's "realistic" but I refuse to believe that there are only the overly overt Christians and the non-Christians. There is a happy medium out there somewhere, right? It would be nice to find faith integrated into a character without it being the dominant theme of the character.

Very interesting subject! Tricky line to walk as both a reader and a writer!

Su said...

Wow, you guys (gals, even), those are all such good thoughts! Now I have even more to think about! I'm so glad that I'm not all alone in thinking this, though... the Christian market is in need of a strong dose of real people with real values dealing with actual-life problems (and with their own screwups!).

Unknown said...

I think Harry Potter has tons Christian motifs. Redemption, love, forgiveness. Selflessness. Harry doesn't always do the right thing, but he tries--just like the rest of us. And he's a good person, with all the qualities--and more--that good people adhere to.

Write the story that speaks to you. There's nothing more sincere than an author who's passionate about what they're creating. Don't worry about the market; just be sincere in what you do.

Unknown said...


I wish I could edit posts. I just wanted to add that, while Harry Potter isn't considered "Christian Fiction", its morals and methodologies are completely in tune.

SO, like I said--sincerity is more important than something as transient as "market". Don't be afraid to think outside the box! :)

Aaron said...

As Terry Pratchett has said:
"Sometimes glass glitters more than diamonds because it has more to prove."

Radical Christian living doesn't necessarily line up with what you were pro-porting these characters in Christian novels behave, as you know. I hope Christianity isn't summed up in just going to church and not swearing. It's probably what you get when you don't know what a mature Christian would look like.

It is an interesting concept, writing 'realistic' characters. I was just thinking about that with my own storyline and how that will pan out. Thanks for your thoughts.

Arthur said...

Nice series of posts. Be true to yourself and your novel will be good. I am not a huge reader of fiction (okay, I'm big and I do read fiction but you know what I really meant) and I agree that many of the Christian fiction books are poorly written. In everything, I try to find that nugget worth remembering. Even in a bad book, there is usually one quote or word picture worth remembering. Develop your characters well (I could give two or three paragraphs on that - well does not mean lengthy) and write to the end and your result will be worth reading. It's the writing to meet somebody else's expectation that messes up the story. Write it with only limited concerns, your editor (after seeing completed thought) can point out inconsistencies, cliches, and inaccuracies.Your job is to create - to write - to produce the tangible form of the thought.

Su said...

@Shayda: I got what you meant! That's a very good point. And I also wish we could edit comments in Blogger.
@sparquay: Yes, very true.
@Arthur: LOL! You're right; I need to worry less & just write it. Stephen King says that if someone wants to write, their days as a member of polite society are numbered anyway. :)