Monday, March 10, 2014

Then and Now by Linda S. Glaz

I’m almost tired of hearing how much change has happened in the industry in the last few years, but it’s a fact.
Fifteen to twenty years ago in the inspirational market, a romance novel was as organic as untreated lettuce. And about as tasty. Okay, there were a couple good ones, but for the most part, they were like toddlers taking their first steps. Wobbly at best. And no doubt…scandalous for tackling the topic of love in the inspy market.
How about omniscient point of view? Most of us can remember our author heroes and the fact that the reader knew what was going on in every character’s head. In each scene…without the reader’s consent! It was something we were used to. No one complained, it just was. Head hopping like frogs at a jumping match. And writers have asked me how some of the veteran authors get away with continuing this practice. Simple. They have their following who are used to the way they write. Not a problem for them, but for the new author, it tends to be discouraged.
Today, buzz words include deep and pov. Deep—deep—deep pov. Attend conferences and at least one class will include a way to write even deeper. Dig so far into the character’s psyche that we know what brand of tissue they use to blow their noses…and why.
Now I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I have read a couple novels recently where the plot suffered at the hands of the deep pov. I certainly knew all about the character by the end of the book, but had no idea why the story ended as it did. No clue…nada. Still and all, the development of character has been a good thing for the most part. I like that I get a handle on the characters and why they are the way they are. Like anything else, it can be overdone.
And how about the edgy nature of inspirational fiction today? And what does that even mean? I read one novel that I was told I’d love because it was edgier romance. I learned that it simply meant the level of sex was moving out of inspy and into secular. That wasn’t edgy, had nothing to do with edgy in my humble opinion. It was just plain secular romance in comparison. Does that mean really really edgy romance is erotica? Try that edge in the inspirational market and see what happens.
So what do we mean by edgy? I can only tell you what I see as edgy, there isn’t a magic formula in the industry…YET!
For me, edgy pushes the boundaries of any genre or hybrid genre. Part of it is getting deeper into a character, but part is stepping away from what one might expect in a particular and predictable situation. Do you have romances that veer away from merely his and her povs? I, for one, love to hear from other characters. Two people in love can’t always see the red flags that they’re dealing with, but best friends might be in a position to see the flag and wave it. An antagonist can. In fact, an antagonist can be the one to create the tension that sends up the red flag for the hero or heroine. A small child might be a secondary character with a better grasp of the bad guy than an adult ever could. By the time we’re adults, we’ve lost the trusting nature that children so easily function in. We need to experience the human condition from all directions for a story to breathe true life to the reader. So I am inclined to love the secondary character with all my heart, particularly when he or she adds extra dimension to the story—dimension that helps the primary characters on their journeys, as happens in real life.
Now, to new paths! How about those Amish Vampires in Space? Who wouldathunkit just ten years ago? Shucks, just five years ago. But there they are. Their own colony, their own evolution toward the unthinkable. But readers have loved it. Why? Because the author dared step out of the comfort zone to create something that was fun. In complete contrast to the accepted format of the genre.
Throughout history, it has been the man or woman who took chances, who thought, pardon the worn out expression, outside of the box, who dared to be different enough to create true change.
After all, a diet of burgers, fries, and diet Dr. P might be fun for a while, but if it’s all we got for ten years, we’d no doubt long for a juicy steak or piece of chicken.
We’ve come a long way and only the creative mind and discerning reader will decide how much further we will go and how while still maintaining our integrity.


Ron Estrada said...

Good stuff, Linda. It seems that Christian writers have suddenly expanded our horizons to the point where the division between secular and Christian is fading rapidly. When you mention edgy, I think of it as addressing real world issues. For example, a detailed description of the life of a druggie is generally too distasteful for someone who's Christian literature consists of Love Inspired romance. But if we're to be "in the world," we have to go to these places. However, we cross the line when we confuse edgy with writing for the flesh. That's what will set us apart. I think this is the best time to be a writer. We have so many options availible to us that we're free to experiment with different genres and styles normally not seen in the CBA. I expect to see a lot more Amish Vampires on the bookshelves. Who knows, maybe even some evangelizing zombies!

Linda Glaz said...

Amen, couldn't agree more.
And it's time some of these topics are addressed.

Jim Hart said...

Really appreciate the views on deeper, pov and edgy - lots for me to think on!

Linda Glaz said...

Thanks, Jim. The word 'edgy' is what I think trips up a lot of us. We all want to think we're edgy, but are we? Or are we just mimicking what the secular market has done for years?

David B. Smith said...

I am all for edgy, but when it comes to romantic themes, it is a commercial temptation to go for the cheap ooh and slide right over into cynical titillation. We are writing about real flesh-and-blood characters – often young and hormonal – but the Christian writer still needs to submit to Philippians 4:8 and WWJW. I attended a youth conference once where the speaker shocked-and-awed his libidinous audience with a scarlet version of David and Bathsheba that was nearly pornographic. The kids staggered out of the tent, concupiscent pulses pounding, and no doubt looking to couple up behind the nearest convenient bushes. It’s acceptable, in my view, to write frankly about love and sexual temptation; inspirational fiction has its own version of UST (unresolved sexual tension). But we still have to write with care and demonstrate some sanctified class and even whimsical humor. In “The Four Loves,” C. S. Lewis writes that “we must not be totally serious about Venus. Indeed we can’t be totally serious without doing violence to our humanity. It is not for nothing that every language and literature in the world is full of jokes about sex. Many of them are dull or disgusting and nearly all of them are old. But we must insist that they embody an attitude to Venus which in the long run endangers Christian life far less than a reverential gravity. Banish play and laughter from the bed of love and you may let in a false goddess.”

Very stimulating post – thanks as always – and I love the idea of populating our love stories with fascinating secondary characters.