By Sarah Addison Fox
I wanted to write this post, not to divide, not to argue that one opinion is the correct one, but because it has been on my heart for some time that there is a need to openly, honestly and respectfully debate what constitutes ‘clean’ writing. Over the next few weeks six published fantasy authors from varying Christian backgrounds will share their thoughts on these six questions:
If you write romance into your stories, how much intimacy are you comfortable writing, and why?
If you write scenes with violence, what do you rely on as a guide/gauge?
If you write magic into your work, could you please explain why you choose to do so?
In your opinion is Christian Fantasy becoming too worldly?
In your own words how would you define ‘clean’ fiction?
Do you believe Christian Fantasy should be written to appeal to general or selective readership? Could you explain why?
Christians, like any group of people, have different opinions on many subjects. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to be selective and make decisions on what we deem acceptable to read. It’s a privilege and an incredible freedom that we should celebrate. As a parent, it is my job to provide safe books for my daughter to read. And I am so grateful to have a pool of talented Christian writers to dip into, but as she grows, I am starting to see that while there is a time for safety, there is also a time to deal with the real-life, unsafe problems that will soon confront her.
Yes, we are called to meditate on the lovely things, the good things, the noble things, but we are also called to bring light into a hurting world. Not to run from it, not to avoid, or be fearful it might pollute us. But to be real, visible and available. As a mother (an overprotective one at that) I am beginning to see there is danger in not balancing realism in writing with what amounts to escapism.
I’m not saying there isn’t a place for squeaky clean writing, as I mother I need those books, and for victims of abuse, there is a huge need for ‘trigger free’ fiction, but what I would argue is that as children grow into young adults, the time for sheltering needs to be prayerfully examined.
As a Christian author, I am blessed to be able to write my truth. To put into words what is close to my heart, to share my own pain, my doubt and my struggles. I believe that God’s Grace shines through when we are in most desperate need of it. When all our strength is gone, and we can no longer find the courage to stand, when we are weeping in the darkness. That is when we find Him waiting. That is when His illuminating love is most evident.
We talk about ‘clean’ writing. But what exactly does that mean? How squeaky clean should we be writing for young adults? What should we as Christians be using as our benchmark? It seems by definition the very foundation of our collective faith, the Bible, is unclean. If we were to filter the Bible of all content and make it ‘clean’, it would be reduced to a collection of life-affirming verses merely meant to make us feel good about ourselves.
Doesn’t the very Word of God demonstrate that flawed, sinful, damaged humans can still be used by our Creator? Isn’t that the promise that fills us with hope? That despite our brokenness, we are counted worthy? Be it physical or emotional, I believe character and faith are built by the testing of our beliefs through pain. I purposely and mindfully weave realism through my character’s lives as they struggle, find love, laughter and through faith, overcome darkness. This is a choice lead firstly by my conscience and secondly by my amazing Alpha reader Karis. If one fails me, the other is sure to gently nudge me before I make a lasting error.
As a writer, as a mother, a wife and a follower and seeker of truth, the Bible in its entirety is my yard stick for everything I write. Sometimes I fail miserably and make terrible errors in judgement, (cue Karis) but I consider writing my mission field, my appointment and it is my deepest desire is to reach young non-believers as well as young Christians so I may share my own experience of God’s unending Grace within my writing.
Just to be very clear, these are my own thoughts and do not represent the following posts. None of the authors have endorsed my comments, nor I theirs. If there are any similarities, and if we agree or disagree it is purely coincidental.
Disclaimer over, I’d like to introduce you to all the wonderful authors who have agreed so generously to give their time. To keep everything as unbiased as possible, the following fantasy authors will be appearing in alphabetical order: Firstly, Hope Ann, Claire Banschbach, Serena Chase Lauricia Matuska, Tricia Mingerink, and finally, Kate Willis.
Their comments will be posted as answered, with no alterations or amendments. If a field is blank, it is because the author chose not to answer.
Feel free to comment as you feel led, but please keep your tone respectful and please temper your words with kindness. Thank you.
*Originally posted at www.sarahaddisonfox.com