I wasn’t going to address this topic, but I saw a video on You Tube this morning on the problem with Christian music, and it made it think of romances, specifically Christian ones. Back in 2007, I got back into reading romances after spending considerable time in fantasy and thriller.
My journey on finding out what I want to write:
Since I don’t like reading romances that have sex outside of marriage, I went to the Christian romance category first, thinking it would be a safe bet since so many non-Christian romances have sex outside of marriage in them. I hate to say it, but I quickly got bored with those Christian romances. The storylines were often simplistic. Most of the time, there was one thin plot line, and it was filled in with a lot of “God spoke to me…” and “The Bible says…” comments that it came off more like a sermon than a story.
Now, those of you who’ve read my books know that I have mentioned God in some of them. So I’m not opposed to bringing God or the Bible into a romance. When done right, it can be effective. The problem is the way those Christian romances used God didn’t add to the story. It only jarred a reader right out of the story so that the reader felt like they were getting info dumped with religion.
And quite frankly, when the characters did get married and when every single author closed the door on the bedroom scene (esp. in a book where a character had a sexual hangup of some kind like the hero losing his first wife to childbirth and being scared of having sex), I found it to be very disappointing. Over the years, people have told me that sex should never be included in a book by a Christian author. But God created sex, and since He did, I see no reason not to include it. I have prayed about this issue, and I’ve studied the Bible on it. I’ve received confirmation several times over the year from God saying what I’m doing is in His will.
Thinking over the purpose of writing fiction:
The purpose of fiction in any genre is to tell a story. What is the purpose of a story? It’s primarily to entertain. It’s not to give a lecture on something. Nonfiction is for lectures. Now, I do believe we can teach things through fiction, but this is something that has to be done will skill. Info dumping pulls a reader out of the book. As a reader, I want to be swept up in the story, and the best way I do that is by immersing myself in the character I’m reading about. I want to join the character on his/her journey. I want to feel what they feel in every way. If I read horror, I want to be scared. If I read fantasy, I want to be awed by magic. If I’m reading romance, I want to fall in love. Story is all about emotion.
So, story is not about facts. Fiction taps into our emotions. And if there is something we learn from it, that learning takes place from within us (as a reader). It doesn’t come from the author. I think that’s what a lot of these Christian romances are missing when they harp on “God this” and “God that” to the point where the author is beating readers over the head with a sermon. I know why Christian romances do this. They’re trying to make sure they get across something about God in the story. But readers don’t need to be beat over the head with something. Readers are smart enough to figure out the subtle nuances in the story. Besides, if you layer in those nuances, then the reader will discover something new the second time they read the book. Layers are fun to write, and they should be fun for readers to discover if they want to search for them. The best books I’ve read are those that make me think about it well after I have finished them.
I do believe romances can be written through a Christian world view and be done in a way that sweeps the reader through an exciting storyline where they keep turning the page to find out what happens next. BUT… these romances have to take risks. They can’t be watered down stories with a slim plot line connecting scenes together. In other words, they can’t be written to market.
Writing to market is playing it safe. Writing to market is watering things down. Writing to market is about appeasing as many people as possible. After studying this whole “writing to market” thing for almost a year, I have come to the conclusion that writing to market makes books boring because writing to market eliminates the risk in telling the story.
The best books are those written from passion. Those authors take risks. They venture into territory that other writers don’t dare to go into. I have been slimming down my messages about God for the past couple of years because I knew that most Christian women reading my books would get upset with the sex scenes in them. So I was tailoring my books more for the non-Christian market. But I just got through writing four books from a place of passion where I have taken a lot of risks (and yes, mentioning God was one of them), and I am in love with those books. I haven’t been in love with my own books for a long time. These are books I’m 100% excited about. I will never write to market again.
Here is what I’m writing:
I’m writing books that are meant for a small niche of romance readers who like reading about imperfect people, storylines you wouldn’t expect in a typical Christian romance, a mention of God when it fits the plot, and sexual situations within marriage.
If that is what you want to read, stick around because that’s what I’m going to write from now on. If, however, those aren’t the kinds of books you want to read, then I’m giving you a warning because you might want to go somewhere else.
I know it’s not often an author will advise people to stay clear of their books, but I don’t want people to be disappointed because they expected my books to be something they’re not. Your time and money are best used on things you want to spend them on.