Friday, June 29, 2012

Deal Breakers

Sharon's post on Wednesday was a God-thing.  I'll be honest - through a snafu on our part (it happens) we did a bit of scrambling and Sharon came in to pinch-hit.  She wasn't on the schedule to post, but God had it planned that she should. What a stirring, honest post and what thought-provoking responses! We would love to keep the conversation going, so please feel free to comment on Sharon's post if you still want to contribute.

If someone asked about the main distinction between books in the CBA and ABA, I would say that at the core, CBA books present a Christian worldview.  Some ABA books meet that qualification also, although not as many, or at least some of their characters respond from a Christian worldview.  Further I might add that books in the CBA don't usually contain swear words or blatant sexuality because publishers are too smart to offend their target audiences.  Big picture words might include redemption, forgiveness, healing, self-sacrifice and love.  The story's closure may be a bit open-ended, but it will have hope. Many readers expect to see their characters' faith in action and this, I think, is where readers can become disappointed in Christian fiction.  It's either too much or not enough.  Interestingly, my books have been accused of both.

As writers, we project bits of our own perceptions and personalities onto our characters.  For me to create a character that is overly demonstrative, flamboyant or outspoken as a Christian would be a caricature, and would simply not ring true.  I come from a long line of very private people with quiet faith.  Quiet faith does not mean ineffective. My character is not going to stop and pray over every minor decision or meal or problem, and she won't speak 'Christianese.' Will my character sense God's leading in her life and ask Him for help? Most assuredly.  Will she understand that Jesus loves her even though she's imperfect? Yes. Will he help her solve all her problems? No, but he will show her she's not going through them alone.

This won't be enough for some readers and it will be too much for others.  I can't please everyone, but  I understand that this can be a deal breaker.  Sometimes a theme is so subtle and understated that it runs through the story like a whisper instead of a marching band. That doesn't make it less effective and may be more appealing to an intuitive reader.

So, please feel free to continue your comments here for Sharon's post or get specific about what is too much or falls short in regard to today's. We'd love to hear!


Susie Finkbeiner said...

Debbie, you are right on.

I much prefer a character who preaches her love of Jesus through her actions. Not through pages and pages of theological "telling". I've written both. The former is far more enjoyable to read and write.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Thanks, Susie. I can think of at least one ABA book that I've read that does the same thing with a humanistic theology so I guess it's a universal itch.
Christian fiction fills a need for those who want a 'clean' story with no unpleasant surprises (situations, language), or seek uplifting stories because of their own circumstances or simply have a personal preference. Others want something to pass along to a friend/acquaintance which could stir questions of a theological nature. No arguments here. But the disconnect happens when a book doesn't meet these expectations. Books fall somewhere along this spectrum and each author is different. Reading is sort of a 'catch and release' process. :)

Heather Marsten said...

You are right - my pastor says how we live our lives may be the only Gospel people see. It can be simple things, like returning excess change when a teller makes a mistake, or smiling at someone and giving a kind word. Those actions say far more than all the preaching. Before I got saved I watched people who professed to be Christian and many did not live the way they spoke. Granted, what others do has nothing to do with my state of salvation, but non-believers tend to focus on what they perceive as hypocrisy. I realize that ultimately it is MY individual choice to accept salvation or not. Now that I'm saved, I hope my life never puts a stumbling block in another person's life.

I too like books that end with hope - people need something to look forward to, not crushing despair. I am glad to see that you don't believe in hitting people over the head with a sledgehammer in writing stories. One author who does a great job of weaving values into her stories is Dee Henderson. Even when I was an unbeliever I would read her stories, even the Gospel parts - although I thought the characters were simpletons to believe that stuff.

Sadly, my memoir will probably have to be published by a non-Chrisitan focused publisher- but it may even be hard for me to break into mainline publishing because my message is Christian. It is delivered using some realistic scenes of abuse, swearing, and the occult. My target audience are those who are not already saved.

Thank you for this wonderful blog site. God bless you.

Cherry Odelberg said...

But, but, Debbie; Life has unpleasant surprises.
When I read a book with an insipidly sweet heroine who does everything right, I can't help but think, "So, what would happen to your perfect responses if this, or this or this happened."
And then, on the other hand; there have been great books that I simply could not finish because they were too real and "because of my own circumstances," as you kindly put it, I needed to be entertained, uplifted and reassured....

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Heather, God can open a channel for your message to get to those who need to hear it, and sometimes it is not the way we expect. I'm sure you're being open to those opportunities and God's unexpectedness. Thank you for your comments.
Cherry, I'm with you. Life is one unpleasant surprise after another and I don't read predictable, uncomplicated stories either. And I have also put down books that were too realistic (translation: gave me bad dreams or haunted my waking moments). It's a good thing there are so many books to choose from.

Nicole said...

Authentic. Please: authentic. Quiet, boisterous. Either or. Just please make them real. And if they are people of faith, let that be their strength in all the grit and grime of story. Not trite, not simpleton-ish, REAL. Preaching, showing, telling, whispering. Any of them can be done well.

Latayne C Scott said...

I identify with so much you are saying, Debbie. Very perceptive post.