Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Killing me softly?

Recently I've seen something come up on a couple of Christian websites that probably needs to be addressed, because sooner or later some us may find ourselves caught squarely in the crosshairs ... so to speak. Namely, violence in Christian fiction. Not surprisingly the subject quickly found "some agin 'em and some for 'em," as we used to say down South.

In the first group are the … well, call them the "traditionalists", for lack of a better term. Without painting these folks with too broad a brush, they're mainly women, mostly older, and they prefer romance fiction, with a likeminded readership. Violence is anathema to this group, as it should be. These ladies prefer writing--and reading--books with a female lead who is either going through a life crisis or having survived the same, the resolution of which causes them to meet Mister Right. I understand sometimes bonnets are involved. Or something. If that sounds like I don't understand chick lit, you're probably right. But God bless those that do, and God really bless the houses that seem to produce them in freight car lots.

On the other side are the Others (sounds like a Lost episode). For good or ill, I find myself in this group. We're the ones trying to push our books a bit further out. Oddly, this bunch seems (the operative word being "seems") to be growing more rapidly than the first. Is it because our stuff is better-written? Doubtful; over the years I've read some CBA novels going for "edgy" that were simply poorly-penned dreck with Jesus tacked on. Story is still king, folks.

On reflection, I think this group is trying to fill a perceived need: to wit, a dearth of hard-edged fiction that delivers a solid story without "crossing the line" … wherever that is. Sometimes the experiment works, and sometimes it doesn't. When it works, it seems to work splendidly. And when it doesn't ... well.

Which brings us to violence. What's been going hot and heavy on those other boards is the discussion of "how much is too much." In other words, if a story features a showdown between the hero and the villain, what is its logical conclusion? Does the villain suddenly drop his gun, repent his ill deeds, and vow to Walk the Straight and Narrow Evermore? Or does the said bad guy go for his gun (a fraction of a second too slow) and get drilled through the pump for his trouble? Anyone who's ever seen a John Wayne movie can answer that. I'll confess my own stuff tends to the latter resolution. Why? Because as I said upstream, the story demands it. In my world, simply put, some villains are no darn good, and will never be (Adolph Hitler, anyone?).

I'll admit the whole thing is as sticky as new paint, and I'll also be the first to admit that in my own case having a Christian hero who not only packs a gun, but is willing to use it to defend the weak and the powerless, is less than an ideal situation. But we live in a less than ideal world, and sometimes all that's left is to kill a rabid dog rather than trying to reason with it.

At any rate, it's an ongoing conundrum, a debate which has now gotten so heated even the secular press is staring take note. Where will it end? God knows. He really does, though, and about the best we as writers can do is write the most honest story we can.

So with that said, where do you find yourselves on the writing spectrum? Is there a middle ground? Are there some subjects you won't tackle, for whatever reason? Where is your "dividing line?"
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