Friday, November 2, 2007

The Talented Shall Overcome . . .

Writing a Christian novel is hard. In fact, it is the most difficult thing I've ever done. Writing a Christian worldview (or secular) novel is a lot easier, but still hard.

We are imaginative beings. Just because I'm Christian does not mean that my thoughts are infallible. I could easily write a novel full of curse words, graphic sex, and gratuitous violence all from a neutral or even anti-Christian worldview. I have an Imagination and the human mind is capable of great deprivation. I have several novels in me, but I'm not sure how many Christian novels I have in me. They are extremely difficult and require a greater talent. Time will tell if I have that greater talent.

Purposefully writing a novel that entertains or touches while carrying a Christian message while not crossing certain lines of indecency is extremely difficult. But if you intend to write Christian novels for the CBA, you are accepting the role of a ministry by default. The Bible says those who choose this path are held to a higher standard. The CBA publishers are not just publishers. They have mission statements. They view themselves as a instrument of the Gospel. As a result, they have standards. A pastor has to live and conduct himself in a manner becoming of his chosen path. He is held to a higher standard than his flock. If he fails he will be held accountable to that higher standard.

There are Christian writers who spend most of their time lamenting this fact. "The CBA are too stringent. They're not REAL enough."

I take offense to the idea that my novel isn't REAL, because I don't have the characters cursing or taking their clothes off in every scene. My novel contains implied child molestation, abuse, and murder. But I don't have to go into explicit detail to make these situations REAL. The reader will get it.

In comparison: Ellen DeGeneres is, in my opinion, the most talented comedian ever. Why? Because she is the funniest and she does it clean. No cheap jokes. But, clean does not detract from her realness. Bill Cosby is another example. He holds himself to a higher moral standard. Yes, it's harder to write clean material. Most comics probably wouldn't be as funny if they used his standards. That's because they are not as talented as he is.

And the Talented Shall Overcome . . .

12 comments:

Nicole said...

I can testify you did a good job of transmitting the horrible in your novel without offending the ears. The subject matter offended the soul but not the "hearing" of the story.

As a Christian, it stings the ears and eyes to hear the graphic profanity and sexual encounters bringing the focus of the story to a concentrated stop-point. I lived in the world for 30 years--I know what it looks like, thinks like, and sounds like. Portraying it can be done skillfully and exactly without using its (the world's) tools. You can't do it lazily, but you can do it accurately without the "sound" effects.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Thanks, Nicole. That's exactly the effect I was going for.

Good point on stinging the ears.

I'm reminded of a Bill Cosby joke. He's in the delivery room with his wife who starts blaming him for her pain. "Don't touch me! You did this to me!." My wife then stood up in the stirrups and told everyone in the delivery room that my parents were never married.

I didn't get that joke for a while, but when I did, I thought it was one of the funniest things I'd ever heard. By hinting at the word instead of using it, the joke was much funnier and proved how talented he is.

Jerry Pat Bolton said...

I don't believe, although I can't be certain since I don't write Christian novels, but I feel there are many, many areas you can go in Christian novels which will appeal to the good in everyone. I write gritty novels because, what can I say, that is who I am. I am a Believer, and I think my faith is as strong as most. I don't write my gritty stories for sensationalism, although I suppose some of it is, I simply write the way I do because I am who I am. Again, I believe that a Christian writer can, and should, find his or her own way, but it does not have to be dull. I have seen some of your writing; you don't come off as dull. You come off as a human being dealing with spiritual matters in a very professional way, and what I have read is very well written.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Well put, Jerry. That's kind of my point. There's a broad spectrum of readers out there with very subjective tastes.

You're a believer but you haven't been called to write as a ministry. You're being true to yourself.

I know you're probably not familiar with this argument between the two camps of Christian writers, but you've hit the point. Write what you want to write. The publishers will publish what they want to publish.

If CBA is too stringent for you, the ABA publishers far outnumber the CBA. You have a market. Be true to yourself, but don't attack others for being true to themselves. And, certainly do not insult them.

And thanks for the compliments, Jerry. Means a lot coming from a writer of your caliber.

Jerry Pat Bolton said...

"Be true to yourself, but don't attack others for being true to themselves. And, certainly do not insult them."

I don't think you meant that I was doing any of that . . . Did you? Naw, I know you didn't.

Dayle, is the meeting still on for tomorrow? Nobody goes on the BRAAG site . . .

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Not at all, Jerry. I was hopefully correctly paraphrasing and expanding on your point of "I write the way I do because I am who I am."

In other words be true to yourself and allow others to be true to themselves.

I beginning to wonder if everyone gets the automatic e-mails from the BRAAG site like I get them. As soon as someone post a note, I get a e-mail with that note. That way I don't have to visit the site, it visits me.

I'm sure the meeting is still on. It's on the library calendar. I'll be there.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

I see where I went wrong, Jerry.

I was speaking to you and then switched to the generic "you" meaning the Christian writers who deem most CBA novels not "real" enough. And I didn't make that clear.

I need to stop writing these comments at work where I have to rush through them.

Jerry Pat Bolton said...

Hahaha!! No biggie, Dayle . . .

Janet Rubin said...

Yes, the whole debate gets tiresome in my opinion. If everyone would spend as much time pouring their hearts and imaginations out on paper, while improving their craft, as they do debating about how "real" Christian fiction is or isn't... we've have some really good novels on their way to publication...


And I love Ellen.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Right on, Janet.

The only time I even think about it is when I see the issue brought up on other blogs. I just don't feel the need to spend my day attacking the writing style of others. But, I do feel the need to defend myself when I'm attacked.

Maybe I shouldn't. Life's too short and I've got a lot of writing, not to mention, living to do.

Then again, I love a good debate.

Julie said...

Hi Dale,
I read your comment over at Chip's, which cracked me up. My husband occasionally reminds me to back up my work on the stick. If he didn't remind me, I'd never do it! He is a new Mac convert and loves it.

Oh, and I agree with your post. Less talented writers are forced to rely on vulgarity. I LOVE Bill Cosby. But I look at it this way: God is the author of ALL creativity. Surely He is able to inspire us.

Blessings.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Thanks for stopping by, Julie. I had to go back to a windows system for financial reasons. It's a shame that Mac isn't the norm. It is far superior.