Sunday, September 28, 2008

Defining, Discussing, and Setting a Personal Standard - Part I

Every now and then, I see blog posts and discussions about "edgy" Christian fiction, speculative Christian fiction, and fantasy. I'd like to explore some of these terms, share my opinions, and open a discussion.

What is "edgy" Christian fiction? I've deduced it's being able to show this dark world in a realistic way. Villains are multi-faceted. Characters have substance abuse, sexual, and criminal issues. The "edgy" Christian fiction I've read expressed these behaviors without spelling out every detail. People are smart enough to figure out what's happening without seeing everything in technicolor.

Back when they allowed the first mild epithet to pass the lips of an actor, some hailed it as a step toward better movies. This small crack in the dam opened the general public to a flood of profanity, obscenity, and gratuitous violence, which is virtually impossible to stop. Why would we, as Christians, want to lower the standards God has set in His Word by following the world's example?

This week, I read an article about actor, Kirk Cameron. He's determined he will not kiss any woman other than his wife. When a scene called for a kiss with his leading lady, they brought in his wife as her double. I admire him for sticking to his convictions.

As a Christian writer, my first allegiance is to the Lord. I want my writing to impact readers in a way that will draw them to Him and not appeal to the base elements of human nature. When I was growing up, there was a saying: "If you have to use bad language, you do not have a good vocabulary." With an abundance of acceptable words at our disposal, let's use them and not resort to gutter talk in any form.

What are your opinions on this subject? How do you handle characters with rough edges?


Jessica Nelson said...

Ooh, I love the thingy about Kirk Cameron. That's so cool.
How do I handle it? Hmmmm. Well, I'm totally against spelling out cusswords in Christian books.
As for violence. . . doesn't bother me so much.
The Bible is amazing because it can show the depths of depravity in holy ways.
I think that this is a subjective thing. We've all been raised differently. For example, I cringe and HATE it when my husband uses the T-word for breast. I was raised that that word is crass and demeaning. He was raised that it's an innocent way to say breast.
What can I do? It appears ugly to me, but to him it's not.
I think the bottom line is that we stick to God's word, understanding that we shouldn't draw a line where God doesn't.
And where he does, so should we.
What do you think about that rant?

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jessica -

Notice in my post I said, "gratuitous violence." War is violent; certainly murder is violent. However, like with cuss words, there are ways to communicate effectively without going for the blood and gore factor.

As far as the T-word, I know if I had expressed my discomfort to my late husband about something like that, he'd respect my feelings and stop. We're supposed to submit one to another. Why would you deliberately make someone you love upset?

Hey, one good rant deserves another. LOL!

Susan :)

Sarah said...

I read your blog after I got through publishing mine today, and it's funny, but it totally goes along with what I wrote. Except I was talking about movies; not books. I even opened up a "discussion." I promise I'm not trying to copy you! :)

As for gratuitous violence, profanity, and the like...I don't think any of it is necessary to craft a thought-provoking, entertaining read. I do think that we, as Christians, need to adhere to a higher standard then the world in everything we say, do, and write.

That said, I'm guilty of reading books that some might call "filth," but I can't name one of those books that I actually enjoyed. I much prefer the books that leave certain things to the imagination.

The world is a scary place, and there are times when it is necessary to convey that in our writing, but there are ways to do that without being crass or vile.

Whew! That was the longest comment I've ever typed! Have a great day!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sarah -

Isn't that a hoot? I wrote 6 blog posts the other day. I haven't been on your blog since Sunday due to a time crunch. I guess this is a subject whose time has come.

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. As a Christian writer, the emphasis for me is "Christian."

Susan :)

quietspirit said...

In my Prayer Fellowship group tonight and in midweek Worship, the language thing came up. Rhett Butler was mentioned by the pastor. Then in PF one of the new ladies said her dad said "People say 'those words' when they don't have good vocabulries." She and her sister then had to look in the dictionary at the word they used to get the meaning and learn meanings to ten other words.

Cindy Swanson said...

Susan, I couldn't agree with you more! I've blogged about this very thing a time or two. You can portray realistic characters and scenarios without lowering your standards...many fine Christian writers do it all the time, and do it very well. We're bombarded with ugliness and bad language in the world...I personally don't want to have to deal with it in the fiction that I count on to be uplifting.

I'm not sure if I've read anything of yours or not...if not, I will have to remedy that! :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Cindy -

Thanks for your comment. I've only had small stuff published - devotionals, ezine, a story in an anthology.

I've written a mystery/suspense book, but it's still in the editing phase. Currently, it's 96,000 words. An inspirational romance is also in the works, but I'm struggling with that one. It seems every genre is a new learning curve.

Susan :)