rising up, straight to the top
had the guts, got the glory
went the distance, now I'm not gonna stop
just a man and his will to survive
- survivor, eye of the tiger
Maybe it's just me, but when I look back over the five novels I've written, I can trace a mental progression without a whole lot of effort. Every writer takes a certain amount of time to get his literary feet under him, to grasp his style, to begin to understand the huge responsibility inherent in creating something with the intention of sharing it with the world. This is particularly true of Christians who write, and who struggle with incorporating - or not incorporating - the gritty realities of life into their books without compromising their own beliefs. No matter what you write, at some point in time questions - I suppose you could call them questions of ethics - will arise. Do you write that sexually tense scene? Do you show that that guy is in love, not just with the girl's "wonderful soul," but with her looks as well? Do you write the word that comes into your mind in the middle of your characters' heated argument? Are you (here's the clincher) making people stumble if you do any of the above? And if you don't...are you just lame?
If you have been around Scribbles & Ink Stains for any length of time you already know how I feel about Christian fiction and the baggage that goes along with the label - but that is not at all to dismiss the struggles faced by individual Christians who also happen to be writers as they attempt to create a story that accurately addresses the world in all its fallen mayhem. I see the above-mentioned questions frequently around Facebook and the blogosphere and I generally feel less than competent to respond to them, but I'm going to take a stab at a huge issue.
First off, I'll be honest: I am not an adventurous person. There are certain things that I do not like reading; there are certain things that did not and still do not come easily to me in my writing. But as I continue to write, and as my stories expand from the relative simplicity of The Soldier's Cross to the time-traveling tangle that is Tempus Regina, I grow more comfortable with incorporating elements that, frankly, some people may find offensive. I've wrestled with it extensively, especially with the question of swearing. When a word comes to mind as admirably suited to a piece of dialogue, do you go ahead and write it, or do you hurriedly shoo it out and substitute something that, let's be honest, is always rather stale by comparison? I used to do that. I have since come to the conclusion that that is not the best tack to take, that it in fact weakens the impact and believability of both character and story.
it is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.
We all know four-letter words. Really. We do. When you write, "Go to...!" no one is going to wonder what the person was about to say before they were so fortunately interrupted. We all insert the missing word, and we're not sinning by so doing. God is not going to condemn us because we know a word, nor even, I do not believe, because we (or our characters) use a word. Attitude is far more important, and when it comes to it, slamming a door can be far more sinful than saying "damn." We can - should! - incorporate into our stories things of which we do not approve; we should not pretend that the world and its language do not exist.
your story will thank you.
There is a constant debate about whether characters control the author or the author controls the characters. I don't think "control" is the right word. We know our characters, and as we continue to write them we get to know them better. We write them as they are, and the story flows from that. So it seems to me that when you think a character would say this or do that, he should probably say this and do that. Hastily diverting the stream of his or her personality will only create awkwardness. The story works better when you allow them to be true to their characters. Seriously. It does.
honey, sometimes "fiddlesticks" just doesn't cut it.
There is a very ludicrous idea that a sanctified man is cut of monkish cloth: celibate, with a halo, speaking in King James English. I challenge you to find a godly man in the Bible who fits that description. David? Imprecatory psalms, people! Paul? He was not very fond of the Judaizers. Jesus? He washed the feet of the disciples and called the Pharisees a lot of whitewashed tombs.
Bad words are for bad things. When your wife is murdered, when you come up against a blackmailer, when your rival's about to win the man you love, when you've just been played for a fool, "oh bother" is not the first thing that springs to your mind. Maybe we as the authors don't condone it, but we don't have to sermonize about it (that's even worse than not using the word in the first place). We ought to write with understanding and compassion for the nature of man in all his God-made glory - fallen glory, yes, but glory all the same. That includes the imperfections and the red-blooded passion of the real world. It includes those cutting words, that total love, the acts they regret when all's said and done. If we don't write like this, who will?