June 2, 2009

I Swear: Revisiting "Profanity in Fiction"

Writing exercise opened an idea box, and I ran with it. Short-short about 550 words. Not "Christian Fiction," but certainly written in the context of faith. A CF market would never buy it, because of the language.

So, I revisit the question of profanity in fiction. Found some great articles addressing this same issue:
Some of these authors feel profanity has no place in Christian Fiction; there are other ways to express expletives. Some authors refuse to compromise authenticity for publication, even if it means foregoing a "Christian Fiction" categorization.

For me, my "spiritual/inspirational" writings are "spiritual/inspirational" because that's how the story came out; not because I set out to write it that way.

I have not written a categorically "Christian" story, and I suspect I never will aim to write a categorically "Christian" story. Call me a purist, but when there are stories I must write, I write them, and I don't write them for a particular market. (Yes, this may doom these particular stories to self-publication, but at times, my goal is less to have a wide readership than it is to express myself. Even if my kids will be the only audience for these works (a la posthumous), then so be it.) I don't look at these stories and think, "Where will this fit in?" I look at them and ask, "Does this say what I need to say?"

When God puts a story on my heart, He doesn't say, "Okay. This one's going to be Christian Fiction." He puts a character in my head, connects me with his/her pain, shows me The Way, and burdens me with the responsibility to express in words his/her experience, and all the nasty things that entails. So it is with the new short-short.

Not all my stories are God-inspired. (This is a personal issue and irrelevant to the immediate topic.) But for the ones that do contain a spiritual/inspirational theme...I write them as I feel they should be written; some contain profanity, others don't.

So who IS my audience for these stories? Perhaps that's the big question. Perhaps Christians who came to the Lord from a very, very rough, socially unacceptable place. Perhaps readers who are in a very rough, socially unacceptable place. Maybe readers who are neither, but rather, spectators --

-- like the person who pays to watch a movie she really knows nothing about. She sits down to a black screen with little more than a title. She has no idea where the movie's going, what the characters are all about, who's the good guy, who's the bad guy, who will "win." She holds to her seat to watch a pseudo-life unfold and is patient to see where it leads. She draws her conclusion long after the lights come up.

That's my ideal audience. Meeting the reader where she's at. She trusts me enough to allow me to take her on a journey, and I trust her to take it all in without telling me ahead of time how we should get there or where we should end up.

Perhaps this is an ideal audience for most writers, Christian or not.

Honestly, I would never scorn the Christian market. We need the Christian market. I need the Christian market, as a consumer.

But the Christian market isn't my place. If given one choice, I wouldn't choose to go before a congregation to give testimony, and I wouldn't choose to go into a bar to give testimony. I'd walk around in all the usual places I go and tell my testimony to whoever would like to hear it.

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