There are four genres of fiction that I have always hated…
Read Part 1 about my reluctance to write Historical Fiction and Fantasy here.
This month for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop, we were asked the following question:
What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?
Last week I talked about tackling Historical Fiction. This week I have another confession to make. There was a time when I absolutely HATED Christian and Romance Fiction. And when I say hated, I mean loathed, abhorred, couldn’t stand it! I would stand in the bookstore reading the backs of book covers and rolling my eyes until they got stuck!
Ugh! Another “woe is me” Christian melodrama.
Ack! Another overly described sex scene.
Would you look at that! Nary a plot to be found! We’re just walking around, falling in love, and not knowing why.
But here’s the thing… If you follow my blog, then you’ve seen that the majority of what I write falls within the categories of Christian and Romance.
How did this happen?
Who cursed me?
God, tell me why!
Well, as the saying goes, we write what we know, and what I know is that I’m Christian. God gave me this gift of writing, of storytelling. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. And I was taught in church that we should use our gifts to bring glory and honor to the Father above who gave them to us.
Now, do my “Christian” stories necessarily do that? Eh, debatable. I tend to write about flawed characters, because, well, I’m flawed. We all are. Nobody but Jesus is perfect, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still pursue God, which we should, and that is what my characters ultimately do. They may do it right after committing a sin, but come as you are, right? And leave better?
The biggest issue I’ve always had with books I’ve read in this genre is that they can come off as very negative. A lot of Christian novels I’ve read include some form of persecution—trials and tribulations. Everything bad that can happen to our protagonist usually does happen to our protagonist, but, like Job, in the end, they still find God and remain firm in their faith. And yeah, sure, that’s uplifting, but I don’t want to read something that’s 75% depressing. I’m already depressed. Please don’t exacerbate my depression!
In contrast, my stories tend to follow the redemptive arc. Backsliders who come back to Christ. Sinners who seek salvation. And I focus more on their character, rather than what’s happening to them. I find this more uplifting that the persecution arc, which generally strips your protagonist down until they have nothing left but to go to God, and I don’t like presenting God as a last resort. I want Him to be my first choice.
Another thing that has always bothered me about Christian Fiction and Christian doctrine overall is how we present Christianity to the non-Christian world—this requirement that in order to be truly Christian, one must willingly make the choice to suffer for Christ. And I get it. There are plenty of scriptures to back up suffering. Pick up your cross. Paul and that infamous thorn in his side being everyone’s favorite. But Jesus also said, “I’ve come that you may have life, and life more abundantly.” And I was taught that that abundant life can come before you die and go to Heaven.
It’s the way some people go about describing what Christian suffering looks like that doesn’t sit well with me. I think modern evangelical definitions and the apostles’ definitions of suffering for Christ are two divergent concepts. Imagine someone telling you, “Christ died on the cross, so you should be able to handle long COVID.” Uh, no. Christ died so I wouldn’t have to. I’m not about to go out and intentionally catch COVID for God.
Okay, that might be an over exaggeration, but you get my point, right? That type of mentality is why so many people have stories of “church hurt.” Yes, in this life we will have hardships, but I’m sure God never intended for you to be with a husband who beats you, Sis. Get out of that marriage!
I prefer to focus on the hope of God.
Though, I will admit, most Christians will probably consider my writing to be smut. I mean, we all read it; let’s not pretend that we don’t, but I doubt my intended audience would be those pretentious, “holier than thou” type Christians. You know, the ones who would rather suffer in a feeble attempt to prove themselves worthy to God than choose the other, and still holy, option.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)
But I’m no preacher, and I’m getting a bit preachy, so let’s move on.
My home church owns a bookstore that sells and promotes books written by members who are also authors. I don’t have anything to sell yet, but if I did, I know for a fact I could never sell my books there. I don’t want to see the look on my pastor’s face. Or hear all the gossip from the church mothers. Can you imagine? Key Ingredients to Good Christian Living next to a book with this chapter in it?
With Romance, my problem has always been that there is no plot. There’ve been way too many romance novels that I’ve had to put down because they took too long to get to the freaking point. If the love interest isn’t in the scene with our main character, it’s boring, and if the novel takes too long to bring them back into the story, I lose interest. Then, of course, there’s those toxic romance tropes that come again and again that will never fly in real life—or, at least, you hope they won’t—and, to top it off, the poorly written sex scenes.
Speaking of plot, I’m reminded of a fiction writing course I took in college. Our professor gave us the five basic plots to a story (or was it six? I may not have been paying attention to that last one). Surprisingly, I still have my notes all these years later. Here’s what I wrote down for “The Love Story”:
- Boy meets girl
- Boy falls for girl
- Girl don’t like him “like that”
- Girl starts to like him but…
- Boy doesn’t care
- Boy cares now
- Happily ever after
I have one word for this…
If there’s nothing happening in those spaces between Boy and Girl being together, don’t write it! I need a Romance novel that’s going to give me a plot where, even if our two lovers are not on the same page together, I’m still eager to continue reading.
Now, before you chop off my head, I am NOT saying that all Romance Fiction is like this, just like NOT all Christian Fiction is how I described.
Obviously, there are exceptions to my vast generalizations—I’d like to think that I’m one of them. These are just reoccurring frustrations I’ve always had with the genres and why I find it ironic that I now write in them. But maybe that’s why I choose to write in them.
I choose to write what I want to read.
This is Part 2 of my answer to this month’s IWSG question. I figured I should give a two-parter since I’ve been away for so long. As I said in Part 1, I am aware that because of my frequent impromptu and extended blogging hiatuses, I’m always missing the IWSG blog hops when they come around, and so my blog is repeatedly removed from the sign-up list. For this reason, I’m not going to add it back until I can participate in at least two more blog hops.