Thursday, February 28, 2013

Two Paths (A Struggle)

Let me tell you about two authors, who for the sake of anonymity I will call A and B. Both authors are devout Christians. Both had childhoods that some of us might refer to as "dark." Both write terrifying novels that end in some kind of hope for the protagonist. They like to explore the grittier side of humanity, but good always triumphs in the end, even if Jesus and God are never mentioned explicitly in the text.

The biggest difference between these authors is that A writes for the secular market and B writes for the Christian market--which is where things get very interesting.

A's books contain graphic violence. The characters use some of the foulest language imaginable. They drink alcohol. Sometimes they even have sex--and most people have no problem with any of it, because as I said before, A writes for the secular market. The average reader is not going to become angered or disgusted by the contents of A's books.

B's books contain graphic violence. The characters generally don't use foul language. Sometimes they drink alcohol. If they have sex, we never see it. But evidently some people still find problems with B's books because "no Christian should ever write about" certain things that B writes about. If B's books don't mention God directly or if they contain a spectacular amount of gore, B is accused of "catering to the public" and "throwing Christians under the bus." If one of B's characters says a "bad" word, even if the character is a villain, readers will jump all over it saying that Christian authors should never, EVER use language like that, because, well, it isn't "Christian."


Now imagine if A were to write in the Christian market. A would be attacked for the graphic sex scenes and the language that would get a toddler's mouth washed out with a bar of Dial. A might even be accused of not being a Christian at all, even though faith shines through in most of the things A writes.

If B were to write solely for the secular market, a few people might complain about the religious aspects in B's novels, but that would be about it. Piece of cake.

"What does this comparison have to do with anything?" you might ask.

It has to do with EVERYTHING, at least as it pertains to myself as a novelist. I am a Christian. I write fiction. But do I write Christian fiction? I would like to think so--after all, The Land Beyond the Portal and Vapors are both considered to be such. I like to write about realistic characters. In future works of mine you will likely see characters drinking alcohol. They might listen to hard rock, have tattoos, and be jokingly irreverent. Because PEOPLE act like this. If I can't write about "real" people, then why should I be writing at all?

I know that no writer will be able to please everybody. All of us are different and view the world through different lenses. I get that. But I need to make a decision. Do I write for the Christian market like B and get slammed when somebody feels uncomfortable about something that a character says or does, or do I follow A's path and write for the secular market, placing myself at risk for criticism from non-Christians who don't feel comfortable when characters talk about God? What's a girl to do?

[yanks out fistfuls of hair]

Other authors are in the same boat that I have found myself in, so at least I am not alone in this struggle. It is my hope that in the future we will be able to pick up our literary machetes and hack a new path through the jungle of fiction, carving out a brand new market for ourselves so that we may please the readers who want to find hope and redemption in this gritty, twisted world we call our home.

But for the time being, which path will I choose?

"Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on."
--Led Zeppelin


  1. I hear you. I think that as Christians, we feel the need to distance ourselves from certain things, however, not one of us is perfect, and writing about a "perfect" Christian is dishonest. We have been redeemed but we swim in the mud just like everyone else at times.
    Good writing is honest writing (And some things can be suggested rather than exposing every raw detail).

    1. I understand perfectly J.S. I am a Christian and I write Paranormal, Horror novels. That in itself is enough for some church folks to give me the look. I decided early in my writing to show reality in my characters, their dress, their speech and their actions. I do not use graphic language and any sexual content is very brief and non descriptive. But my characters are real to the best of my ability as a writer.

      In most of my stories, I show the age old battle between good and evil and expose the reader to the reality of evil and the power of a Living God.

      Some will dislike my writing because it is too religious and some will dislike it because it is too worldly. The bottom line is, if I feel at peace with the story and feel it shows the daily struggle with good and evil while pointing to the only constant in my life,God,then I've done my best!!