Sunday, March 2, 2014

Not Just For Fairy Tales

Kindred spirits. defines kindred spirits thus
             a person who shares beliefs, attitudes, feelings, or features with another

As Anne Shirley said in Anne of Green Gables, "Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think.  It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world."

I'm never sure how exactly I stumble upon others whose blog posts reflect a shard of my own heart.  Sometimes I find them through friend's shares on Facebook, or through tweets.  I have found a few in the past simply by hitting the "Next Blog" button, which is why I always try to keep that little button on top of my own blog; it's served me so well in the past.

The one particular person I want to share with you today is @micahjmurray of the blog Redemption Pictures.  I'm going to be honest, I haven't read enough of his stuff yet to know whether he is a true kindred spirit or not, but this Blog post of his is about a subject I struggle with.  The type of writer I want to be.

It can be hard, writing the scenes and characters I have dancing in my head.  Because like real life, the imaginary world I live in is far from picture perfect.  People swear, they do things they shouldn't, they're mean and cruel to each other, they lie, they cheat, they steal, they kill.  Even the most devout and sincere Christian falls short of their ideal faith.  Just like in real life.

For many years, I read nothing but "Christian" fiction.  That was 'safe' for a good Christian girl to read.  No swearing, no sex scenes, the characters rarely made mistakes that would cause a good girl to blush.  I still read these from time to time, when all I'm looking for is a nice fluff read.  There are some authors that I like that write with a bit of an edge, but even their characters never crossed 'that' line.  If they did cross any lines, it was bad language left to our imagination by phrases I myself use.

Lines get crossed in real life.  Sometimes without meaning to, other times very purposely.  In my novel, my two main characters pressed up against the line of what was proper more than once.  I kept them from crossing it because - I was afraid.  I mean, it was bad enough that I was including a very light sexual scene when they marry.  What would my family say if I had them engaging in sex before then?  I knew how harshly I was judged for doing that in real life - what would they say of my story?  That and certain elements of the story (and the ones to follow) wouldn't have worked the same, and to be honest I wasn't sure I'd be able to salvage that much of a change in the storyline.

In some ways, I got off the hook when it comes to family reading my novel.  Two brothers claim it's 'not their thing' which I totally understand (although I kind of expected the one sister-in-law to read it but I've heard nothing there) and the one sister says she's no longer reading fiction at all.  Which if that's what feeds her mind best, then that's okay.  I have one brother waiting for it to be made into an audio book so that he can 'read' it.  My mother didn't say too much, beyond that there were times when she wanted to reach into the book and smack some sense into the characters (high praise indeed).

In the sequel that I am presently working on, not fast enough for certain fans (you know who you are), I am struggling with that same fear.  There are two female characters whom are not the nicest.  And I struggle with the brutality the one demands, and the sensuality the other commands.

To be true to their personalities, I have to write things that some of my family members, and maybe even my friends, are going to find objectionable.  I'll be honest, I fear that kind of criticism.  Especially since some characters are never going to embrace grace, some characters are going to spurn God even after their death.  That goes against everything a 'Christian' stands for, right?

I don't want to be the kind of writer Micah describes.  One who writes and then erases it all because someone somewhere isn't going to approve.  My characters are real to me, and that means I have to be true to who they are and tell their story without overly censoring it.  Some censoring is necessary.  I want to entertain my readers, and pull them into another world, not make them want to run in the other direction because a scene was too harsh or it triggered a bad memory.

One of the reasons we read fiction is to escape harsh reality, not visit it.  Like that thought? Tweet it!

I can still paint a picture of harsh reality and still leave enough blurred lines that they reader can imagine as far as they want to.  If I'm brave enough.  And I become braver the more I come to know these 'despicable' characters.  Life tests our faith, in our God of choice, in ourselves, in our talents, in our friends and loved ones.  And my characters are no different.

2014 - Moving Beyond Fear One Day at a Time


  1. I think you are so right about leaving some blanks. In my experience (as an avid reader only, not a writer), those blanks are often the ones that make a character come alive, because the reader's imagination fills in the rest based on their own experiences and character. Obviously they have to have good bones first for the reader to use his/her imagination. Interesting post!

    1. Thanks so much Carin! I'm glad you commented :)