Every once in a while a discussion erupts among Christian fiction writers that proves to be incendiary. The use of the F-bomb, naturally, is one of them. That I’m continuing with this discussion here proves I’m terminally stupid.
First, I’ve never used the F-word in any of the books I’ve written (three to be exact, all unpublished as of yet). That said, if the F-word were to be uniquely organic to a scene I’m writing and there was no better word in the entire dictionary, I’d use it. However, and this is a HUGE however, I don’t think that will ever happen. Aside from turning a manuscript into an R-rated work, which isn’t the best route to go in Christian publishing – the F-word is inarticulate and played out.
I’m a crime fiction fanatic. Read mostly mysteries and thrillers – Christian and secular. To be honest, most of the secular authors I read use the F-word, albeit sparingly. I just read a new secular author, who need not be mentioned. He’s a good writer and I wanted to see how he plotted along until his villain was exposed. However, I almost put the book down due to his over use of the F-word. Not only did he over use it, he didn’t use it creatively. That might be an oxymoron. The F-word isn’t a creative word by it’s very nature. That said, this author put it in the mouths of his gangbangers, police detectives, local and state politicians, and his widow in the very same way. If an upper class widow uses profanity (as his did) within hours of the death of the husband she loves, I don’t think she would be using the exact same verbiage his gangbangers used a few pages earlier. What a pity. He had the talent to write better than that.
As to Christian crime fiction…I’ve never read a Christian novel containing the F-word. J. Mark Bertrand’s Back on Murder is fairly gritty, portraying cop culture authentically. I loved that book, but he didn’t have the need to put the F-word on paper. He got the mood across without it.
So what’s all this about edgy Christian fiction, a camp I’m pretty sure I’m in as a writer. Well, if you’re gonna write crime fiction, I don’t think you can be that sanitized. After awhile I’ll lose interest in a police procedural that doesn’t have an autopsy. Call me ghoulish, but I like a little blood spatter at the crime scene. It doesn’t feel real without it.
As to sex, I’ve never written a sex scene (not sure I’d know how) though I’ve read more than a few of them. If they’re extremely detailed, I’ll either skim it, skip it, or put the book down. It all depends on the quality of the writing and how much the book has grabbed me up to then. I will go for a suggestion of sex, a hint of sensuality. Hey, I live in the real world and I like my reading material to reflect that world accurately.
I think Christian women’s fiction writers, or those writing chic lit, can make a stronger case than the crime fiction writer for the need of sexuality in their works. After all, it is the female gender itself that is the central component of those works and females are very involved in all aspects of femininity, sensuality, womanliness.
Lastly, I have to say Christian writers and readers seem to be split into two camps. Those Christians who want their reading material to be safe and comfortable populate the traditional camp. They want white picket fence towns as a setting, noble Christian characters with a few flaws, but not many. The second camp is populated by those who want to read and write edgy Christian fiction. They do not want scenes in the book to be sanitized. They want it straight.
I don’t think as Christians we’re called to be either safe or comfortable. Perhaps Jesus came for the opposite reason. I also don’t think one reading/writing camp is more Christian or holy than the other. Iit’s a shame that some in both camps think they are better Christ followers than their brothers and sisters in the other camp. Perhaps the best thing members in either camp can do is pray for the other side. Not pray, as one woman is doing for me, to change me into something more acceptable. No, rather pray to understand those in the other camp. Pray to see that those others are indeed just as Christian as anyone sitting in the pews.