f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Let’s Be Honest Here—Transcending the Genre Through Sincere Storytelling

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Let’s Be Honest Here—Transcending the Genre Through Sincere Storytelling

After talking about understanding genre and becoming better writers in the last two posts, today’s topic examines the issue of our portrayal of life and circumstances in our books.

Part 3: The World as We Know It
I have started, I feel, in a bad way by including the word honesty in the title of this blog because the implication is that anything written different from what I propose will somehow be dishonest. Sometimes that’s the case, but that’s not my point nor my contention. What I’m talking about, instead, is a pointed break away from Romantic fiction.

To clarify, this isn’t romance as in, “filled with love and kissing” nor is it romance as in “medieval verse about chivalry.” Instead, this is romance, as in “an intentionally extravagant or exaggerated creation that ignores fact and reality.” And it doesn’t mean I want it gone altogether. Hardly. I enjoy the occasional book that dispenses with the hard things of the world and simply entertains me. Ron Hansen’s Isn’t It Romantic: An Entertainment is a wonderful bit of fluff that shows even solemn-browed literary types can enjoy writing humorous piffel on occasion.

My contention is, however, that too much of CBA Fiction isn’t taking this route. This is unscientific and will be one of the more controversial claims I make in this blog, but I feel too many novels coming out in the CBA market are ignoring the world outside for a glossy, sterilized reality where the promise of a happy ending sugarcoats everything. Many readers, friends, and writers with whom I talk gag on this world. One of fiction’s goals is to act as a mirror and a mirror only works when it is true and honest.

So, as the Broadway play says, “bring in da noise, bring in da funk.” Have at it with pain and sorrow and sin and addiction and stress and self-loathing. Have at it with Christians who drink and smoke. (Whether you want them to or not, they do.) Have at it with pregnant teens and broken families. Don’t back down from how very hard these things are, because when you don’t, the upside is even greater. Glory becomes more glorious. Grace, more triumphant. Hope in the face of all reasonable doubt, more heartbreaking.

If ever there is a time to break Paul’s warning not to sin so that grace can about, fiction is the place. Take the time so see the world for what it is—not for the way we want it to be.