Monday, May 25, 2015

Then Who Will?



Imagine: Boundless potential

Over the past two decades there seems to have been a shift in the landscape of Christian fiction, a broadening of what’s ‘Christian’ enough for the inspirational industry. Yet, feathers still ruffle over the occasional publication that is seen to contain inappropriate content (not enough or too much of certain elements), or attempts to present more ‘liberalised’ content in a way that really misses the mark.

As writers we have the capacity to invent stories that push all bounds. I suppose as the apostle Paul said (I Cor 10:23), all things are permissible, but not everything is constructive or beneficial. He follows that up by advising us not to seek our own good, but that of others. In relation to our writing, how do we determine what is constructive and beneficial to the good of others (whatsoever things are ...), while still remaining true to a plot and relevant to readers?

In recent months I’ve read a range of best-selling YA novels. Most include the usual modern ‘teen themes’, and overall they’ve been enjoyable reading. But some experiences depicted in a few of those novels would have been very foreign to my teenage self. Not that I always responded wisely as a young adult, but I had a sound personal conviction of actions, choices and consequences. On one hand, I’m extremely grateful for that awareness, yet what niggled in the back of my mind was this isn’t always the case and some of those topics would not be broached in many ‘Christian’ novels, at least, not in a way that enabled a reader to unpack and gain greater insight into those challenges.

In response to why a Christian should write books on particularly gritty topics (specifically rape, abortion and violence, but this could also include intimacy, sexuality, substance abuse, origins etc), author Stephanie P McKean recently tweeted, ‘Then who will?’ And she makes a good point. Like it or not, young people today are being confronted by issues many Christian novelists are reluctant to touch. It’s occurred to me that if young readers aren’t offered a safe, reasonable, honest and respectful alternative, these confusing concepts will take root from whatever angle they're presented and develop unchallenged into their adulthood, potentially forming unhealthy behaviours, thinking and relationships, which can become a life-default.

The fact is, bad things–and I mean really bad things happen to really great people, which can shake what a person ‘knows’ and values. Sometimes even internal forces, like a series of poor choices, can over time cause a life-destroying fallout that impacts generations. I’ve watched it happen to people dear to me, but I’ve not written many comparable situations in a novel. For one, some wouldn’t be viewed very favourably in the current climate of political correctness. Further, I feel one would have to pen such stories in a very sensitive, positive and purposeful way. And maybe that’s a key.

Perhaps the soul of our stories, the unique voice each author brings to their work, should be found in our ashes of brokenness, that wrestling with life’s real nightmares and prevailing in spite of our wounds. Being intimately acquainted with suffering brings an honest vulnerability, but it takes bravery to write truth in its gritty, confusing, imperfect reality. Perhaps what is ‘constructive’ and ‘beneficial’, is the willingness to take what was intended for harm and use it for good, writing stories that shed the light of truth on the grey corners of our world, with the knowing of a soul that has walked a healing journey with the One.

I know some of you are already brave. I’ll try to be braver, too.


Adele Jones lives in Queensland, Australia. She writes young adult and historical fiction, poetry and short inspirational works. Her first YA novel Integrate was released in September 2014. Her writing is inspired by a passion for family, faith, friends, music and science – and her broad ranging imagination. To find out more visit www.adelejonesauthor.com or email contact@adelejonesauthor.com
http://www.amazon.com/Integrate-Adele-Jones/dp/1925139093
http://www.adelejonesauthor.com/writing/novel-things-historical-fiction/

16 comments:

  1. Wow, what a thought-provoking post Adele I've read a few really interesting mainstream novels that have grappled with issues of sin and forgiveness, but the protagonists have come to the point of believing they are unforgivable (e.g., The Reader, Caleb's Crossing, Atonement). I agree that Christian writers are in a unique position to be able to grapple with those issues but show there is light and hope at the end of the tunnel. The challenge is to do that in a real way that doesn't provide pat answers or minimise the genuine struggles people face.

    I really like your point that "Perhaps what is ‘constructive’ and ‘beneficial’, is the willingness to take what was intended for harm and use it for good, writing stories that shed the light of truth on the grey corners of our world, with the knowing of a soul that has walked a healing journey with the One." Lots to ponder. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Appreciate your thoughts, Nola. I really wasn't sure if I could pull my ideas together on this one, but wanted to try and convey the thoughts I've been wrestling with lately in regard to writing on more sensitive, even confronting life challenges.

      One of the things that stuck in my mind was the awareness we all walk our own road and face our own battles, but in that diversity is the capacity to write uniquely from those experiences. Definitely need brave hearts to write out of such vulnerability. Interestingly, I actually feel it can be easier to write really close-to-home topics in fiction, as there's a degree of separation but the story can still draw upon those raw emotions and experiences. I've read enough stories that attempted to broach some big life challenges, but ended up with a quick 'pat & prayer' instead of the ofttimes lengthy struggle to prevail. But when these stories are done well, they can inspire and change lives.

      Delete
  2. Great post Adele and I love the way you look at this. You make a good point that teens will be exposed to dark situations - whether in their own lives, that of their friends or in the saturation of such topics in the today's media. It's a great question - do we leave a vacuum by not addressing such topics in a positive and hopeful way - showing God's love and redemption? Certainly God's own Word does not shy away at addressing such issues.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jeanette. Yes, our young people do have a lot coming at them constantly. I think being a parent really increases our awareness of the messages that are being hurled about in the public forum and how this might be received by our children. A vacuum. What a great way of expressing that 'don't go there' attitude. I think we must, in whatever capacity 'we' (i.e. each individual) have. Such stories don't have to be heavy handed or dark (some truly moving stories are hilarious!), but they do need to connect with readers in a honest, believable way. Unique stories with unique purpose. :)

      Delete
  3. Yes, great post! I agree. My own first book was a biographical novel, Jodie's Story, the true story of a girl who became a drug addict and then a prostitute as a result of hard situations and poor choices. Both my actual novels show main characters who grapple with the results of bad choices. In all my books, the characters find forgiveness and happiness through Christianity. Yes, we must speak up! Thanks, Adele.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely some gritty topics there, Jeanette. Thank you for writing bravely for those who will read and gain hope from your work.

      Delete
  4. Christians writing and dealing honestly about difficult, gritty issues without fear or favour? What would Jesus do? Oh wait, he did exactly that - dealt honestly with difficult, gritty issues not by avoiding them, but by lavishing God's truth and grace upon victims and perpetrators alike, giving them a choice of freedom or consequence. His sounds like a good example to me. Excellent post Adele.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :) Yes, there does seem to be a pattern there. We could definitely learn from HIS lead. Thanks, Mazzy.

      Delete
  5. Great post Adele with lots of food for thought. Thanks for putting it all out there and thanks for the challenge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A challenge to myself as much as anyone, Anusha. I so appreciate the encouragement of my fellow pen-bearers when tentatively broaching yet untouched realms where our writing can lead us. Thanks for sharing that journey. :)

      Delete
  6. Thanks for that Adele. Sometimes when we begin (my POV is that of a pantser,) we don't even plan to cover these sort of subjects. But when we write about the human experience, such things are bound to come up no matter what era and genre in which we cover. It is good to be honest and not spew a constant barrage of 'sugar and spice and all things nice'. And as long as we temper the bad with God's forgiveness and the struggle for a person to forgive themselves, it leaves a clarion call of hope for the reader.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, you pansters! LOL! Rita, don't tell anyone, but the plan for my current project has just plopped into a huge pantsing pile! (I'm blaming the characters for rebelling.) Part of that has come from allowing my characters a looser rein, which has been scary as I'm not sure how messy they might end up if I don't pull them in soon. I'm trying to let them be more honest to themselves, but they've grown up a bit since I've last seen them, which changes the landscape somewhat. Mostly, as you say, I want them to be able to work things through with all the real-to-life struggles they would face, not brushing them off with nice 'it'll all be fine now' lines.

      Such a valuable point you make - that struggle to forgive ourselves. It's such a huge factor in many personal battles. Understanding God's forgiveness is such a key to unlocking that chain. Those core issues definitely cross all genres and eras. When it comes to humanity's way of doing life, there is nothing new under the sun, it just gets packaged in different wrapping (and maybe circulated far more widely through social media!). Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  7. So true, Adele. Sometimes the greatest challenges come out of the worst adversities, although we must always be sensitive to the Spirit's leading.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely, Lynne, though it's nearly always impossible to see in the midst of the battle. Sensitivity and leading are so, so important when unpacking complex, wounded-heart issues. I've learned that sometimes we are prevented from really seeing these failings in ourselves until we are able to deal with the healing process, which takes time.

      Delete
  8. Hi Adele,
    This is an encouraging and challenging post. 'Then who will?' is a good question. I've nothing against the type of novels whose purpose seems to be simply to lift spirits and entertain. It's a good goal and some of those are among my favourites. However, when it comes to writing, I often seem to have been challenged to consider those 'who will?' type of questions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you do, Paula! And thank you for your bravery. :) I think you also raise a good point. We aren't all called to write the same types of stories. I think it's important to celebrate and value the variety of stories people write, for I think each have their purpose and place - even the 'fluffy' ones. An example, recently a friend came around and showed me a short story they'd written. It was so funny. We laughed and laughed, but given that the past few months have been very taxing, that bit of comic relief was just what I needed. Agreed, we writers should not be afraid to ask ourselves 'who will' and write out of what we find in our heart. Thanks again.

      Delete