Oh my, this is the last Friday of the month! It's time to give something away. Earlier this month, Latayne gifted five of her debut novels, but she's too generous to stop there. At 4 pm MT today, I'll draw a name from today's commenters for yet another copy of Latter-Day Cipher. So, if you've been lurking, now is the time to speak up. This is an amazing book. I would love to be reading it right now, but first my blog...
We'll get ourselves into trouble (What's new about that?) if we forget how wide a spectrum of readers turn to CBA for fiction. I once followed two women into a local Christian bookstore. I don't know what their particular hangups were with fashion, but let's just say they wore sensible shoes and kerchiefs on their heads. I followed behind in shorts and sandals. They walked a bullet-line to the fiction section and filled their arms with six to eight novels each. I remember thinking, I'm in big trouble if that's my target audience. My characters shave their legs and wrestle with God. Would these women be interested? I had my doubts.
Enter the neglected Christian fiction readers, men and women who prefer their fiction to deal with questions that the author is content to leave unanswered--full of beautifully crafted stories and populated with characters straight from life, only a bit larger, in a personality way, than folks we're likely to meet.
The key is knowing your audience or who you are as an audience. I can't remember where I learned this, but I keep this simple truth in mind as I write: According to Aristotle, there are three crucial elements to writing. Audience. Purpose. Voice. I find this to be especially true in the CBA market. Depending on the audience subset of the CBA market, purpose and voice are modified.
For instance, if the audience is looking for validation, a writer would avoid story lines with uncomfortable scenarios, language, or characters. These books are the Louis L'Amour books of CBA. Sure, L'Amour tackles issues of loyalty, hard work, and the value of a quick draw, but nothing any red-blooded, wannabe cowboy would question. We're not making a value judgement here, just identifying audiences. And CBA caters to these readers, no apologies required.
Another audience in the CBA market wants to read--and the genre doesn't matter--fiction that asks questions that aren't necessarily answered. They aren't afraid to look at faith matters in fresh ways, although they're sticklers for theological rectitude. They still want to be entertained, but they're willing to follow the writer's lead through snaky cognitive hoops. This kind of fiction requires the author to trust her audience to participate in the journey. Hopefully, the story and characters stay with the reader long after the last page has been read.
These are just two CBA audiences. There are many more, like those who want fiction they can hand off to their non-believing friends, or character-building reads with strong moral lessons for young readers, or fiction that encapsulates an important faith lesson--think end times or spiritual warfare. Recognizing that we have varying subsets of readers may help us to value what each artist brings to the table, but I'm with Anonymous. Schlock is never appropriate. (I hope we talk someday soon about why schlock, beyond the fact that there's a vast audience for this "genre," is among our biggest sellers. Hear my heart deflating?)
For readers, do you fit in one of these CBA subsets? Which one and why? For writers, who is your audience? How do you write to meet their needs? Care to define a CBA subset I missed? Anyone? Anyone? Is there a subset you consider inappropriate?
Speak amongst yourselves. I'm going to read Latter-Day Cipher. I'll be dropping by.