Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We Want Your Opinions

This is bonus giveaway month at NovelMatters! First there’s the extraordinary opportunity to have your own novel in the hands of a top literary agent – that’s the point of our fantabulous big contest. Though it will run for several months, your best chance is to submit early so that you will get a thorough, non-deadline-bleary-eyed look from the six of us who will pre-qualify the finalists. Click here for the rules.

In addition, to celebrate with you wonderful readers the release of my first novel, Latter-day Cipher, I would like to offer five of you (who don’t already have it) a copy of my book. Plus I’ll send those winners some “Fiction Samplers” from Moody Publishers for your friends, as well. The samplers contain the first chapter of my book and also the first chapter of Debbie Fuller Thomas’s Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon.

Here’s what I ask you to do:

1) Send me an email at consult at (You know the drill about where the @ sign goes.) Put “NovelMatters Cipher Contest” in the subject line.
2) Copy five friends who are not NovelMatters readers on that email.
3) In the email, tell me what you think of my book trailer. The first five people who do this will receive an autographed copy of the book.

Now, one reason that I want you to look at the book trailer – and have your friends look at it – is that I’ve taken some substantial risks with it. It’s not your usual Christian-book trailer. I told a friend that the book – and the trailer --are probably PG-13. It’s well-produced but admittedly jarring.

Katy Popa wrote a very insightful post on Monday about ethics in writing. Specifically she referred to the dilemma faced by Christian writers in depicting the way that their characters come to faith.

But there are other ethical decisions to be made as well. One of them is the decision about how much – and how graphically – to depict violence. Of course, Christian publishers have parameters they enforce. Yet many of us want to acknowledge some of the gritty issues that our readers face, from the perspective of a Christian worldview – when contemplating those disturbing issues.

What is your “compass” in determining how far to go in reading or writing Christian fiction depicting disturbing issues?


Latayne C Scott said...

Stacey L. Romager is our first winner! She made some wonderful observations about the trailer. Congrats, Stacey~

Bonnie Grove said...

I admit it, I'm a total scaredy-cat. I don't go for too many thrillers (although I have read a few excellent ones), and I never read horror stuff no matter the author.
Some speculative fiction has recently been pushing some envelopes. I wonder how many of our readers are into this genere?
Meanwhile, I'm too chicken to peek inside the pages!

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I heard a speaker once say at Mount Hermon that if we soft-pedal the 'dark' side of the story, we diminish God's glory to overcome it. But there's a fine line between authenticity and gratuitous violence in stories. Due to our exposure to violence in the media and in movies, there is probably less that is needed to be said these days in order for our minds to fill in the blanks.

Lori Benton said...

My compass would be my own tolerance for graphic violence, which is low. That said, there have been times when I've heard the Spirit telling me to dial back how graphically I was portraying a certain story element. While I might not have wanted to do so (in a purely creative/expressive sense), I've tried to obey that still small voice. I'm thinking of one passage in particular that I SO wanted to keep in my WIP. It was just a paragraph, three or four sentences, but during draft after draft, while I left it there, that niggling voice was telling me I'd crossed a line and it needed to go. It wasn't easy to trim it out, but in this case it was the right thing to do. In another book, at another time, perhaps it could have stayed. We don't always get to know why God leads us in certain ways, but it's exciting to write by faith, even in such a small thing.

I expect for published writers, house rules are a pretty firm compass, too.

Latayne C Scott said...

I have to agree with all of you. I myself am particularly squeamish which has made writing about things like the old Mormon doctrine of blood atonement a difficult thing for me.

On another front, Connie Brzowski is our second book winner. Her comments were very helpful. She has kindly reciprocated with an offer:

"If you need any fluffy ankles for a future projects, just let me know. In fact, I may do a demo this afternoon and send it to a few writer friends just in case :)"

Ha! I love it!

Latayne C Scott

Perry P. Perkins said...

I agree with Lori, I think it's a Holy Spirit issue.

I've found when I'm REALLY listening, and not just letting myself be impressed with my own imagination, that I know when I'm going over the top.

The Bible is pretty graphic itself, which is sometimes needed to put the reader in a specific "time and place" that will lead to understanding or empathy.

I don't do much graphic violence, but I don't shun it either, if it's what has to be written to make a scene or plot-line right.

But I do pray alot before and after it's on paper.

Twitter: PerksBooks

Patti Hill said...

I have too strong a sense of empathy to read or watch violence. I feel every pain. I can't watch those funny video shows either. I feel like I've been beaten with a baseball bat.

But I'm with Debbie, we can't be afraid to look at the darkness to appreciate the light, but it also helps us appreciate our sin through God's eyes. I just completed my Bible study lesson for small group that compares Baal & Asherah worship to our present-day preoccupation with personal gain at all costs. I was sickened and remorseful. If God doesn't hide darkness from me to demonstrate his holiness, maybe I need to be less afraid of the dark. If the Bible is to be our example, notice that the writers don't give tons of details. Most is left to our imaginations. And I have a vivid imagination. Flannery O'Connor was masterful at depicting evil without giving all the details. My palms sweated as I read A Good Man is Hard to Find.

Sorry for yammering on. I'm thinking through my typing fingers. I think Lori's point is well taken...listen to the niggling voice!

Latayne C Scott said...

Perry and Patti, I hear you saying that the depiction of violence is biblical... but since we're not God, we have to determine if it's appropriate, right?

Latayne C Scott

Latayne C Scott said...

I meant -- appropriate for a writer to use, of course. I think we can safely say God is always appropriate. :)

More winners! Deena Petersen and Virginia Buck are getting a copy of Latter-day Cipher and samplers for their friends!

Love what Virginia said...

"Knowing it is a historical novel only makes it more interesting. Knowing it concerns a "religion" that is still in existence today makes it scary."

Latayne C Scott

Bonnie Grove said...

I agree with Lori and Perry - a Christian writer is always in concert with the Holy Spirit. (Which is not to say that every word from a Christian writer is perfect or scripture- but that is a whole other kettle of fish)

It is a dance of art, a give and take, a groping for meaning and the best way to convey meaning. Personally, when a writer can give a reader chills without ever being graphic, is when I believe the writer succeeds at his craft. However, I agree that there will be times when there is an unavoidable need to depict unmasked evil with an unblinking eye. And when this is done well, it leads us to redemptive power.

Patti: Those home video shows? My kids love them and we watch them together as a family, but half the time I have my hand over my eyes and am hollering, "I can't look! I can't look!"

I love hanging out here.

Kathleen Popa said...

I don't like graphic violence either, but I love stories that scare me. There are a lot of films I've watched through fingers spread like Venetian blinds, ready to close at a moment's notice. Strangely enough though, to my mind, the most violent tales are often not as scary as they try to be, and the ones that communicate darkness through mood and innuendo are often wonderfully, deliciously terrifying.

I agree with Debbie, and with the MH speaker (was it Ted Dekker?), that God's glory shines best when contrasted with true darkness. But don't you find that the worst part of darkness is not the physical violence, but the psychological? Sophie's Choice comes to mind.

Stacey, Connie, Deena and Virginia, congratulations! You will love Latayne's book. She's going to seriously creep you out.

Latayne C Scott said...

Our final winner is Kimber Cross!

Congratulations to all who entered. I'll be attending a relative's funeral out of state (and out of Internet, apparently)..... so you all carry on with this discussion without me!

Latayne C Scott

Kathleen Popa said...

Kimber, congratulations!

Steve G said...

As a reader, I am not interested in graphic stuff. I don't need reality for reality's sake (that's what papers and the news is for). That's not why I read fiction. I read for the Hero - the character; the victory, the overcomer.

Violence is also relative. What would creep out an urbanite would likely be mild to a farmer (who deals not with just raising animals, but processing and /or the realities of life and death). Also, compare an American culture to a third world country (or a place like Iraq). Compare suburbanite to inner city.

Much of the Old Testament especially was written in very barbaric times, so Ehud's and Jael's tales are more par for the course then that today. It was also historical, rather than fiction.

One internal controller is what does it add to your focus, the message you are saying? I imagine that most of today's thrillers are about graphic violence with a thin plot to pull them together. The violence is the plot. That is not why you write, so the violence will always be low key so as not to detract from the bigger picture.

Word verification - maridgin: A Salt Lake City resident's answer to, "I thought you were married to a blonde???"