To Be or Not To Be — Conformed

This blog is part of a Twitter #faithartlife link-up with the Writers Unite  Facebook group answering the question: How does faith influence your art?

 I’ve been reading the posts of others in the group all week and not writing my own because every post I read was deep and profound and moving … and as I thought about what I might possibly say I kept coming up with just one idea that seemed to me so shallow and mundane by comparison that I was embarrassed to say it.

But the thought wouldn’t go away.

And when I woke up today it was the first thing on my mind, along with another: Wait a minute. Why am I comparing myself to anyone?

I’m a new writer. That is, I’m just now getting serious about pursuing my art. So I don’t really know exactly how my faith is going to influence me yet, at least not in the all-pervasive way I read about in many of the other blog posts.

But the one thing that kept coming to my mind (and having been a born-again believer for over 40 years now, I’ve come to recognize that as the prompting of God) is a specific example, so I will share that and hope maybe it speaks to someone’s heart.

I’m writing my first novel. It’s a whodunit for mainstream audiences. In crafting it, there were two areas with which I initially really struggled: language and sex.

You can’t write realistic dialogue – especially when your story is peppered with cops (no offense to you officers out there who don’t cuss) – without bad language.  Not if you’re writing for mainstream publication, anyway.  So, at the appropriate times, my characters use foul language.  But my struggle was with the worst of the bad language.  Every time it seemed appropriate to use the “F” word and I put it in, it bothered me like a scratchy tag on the back of my shirt, until I would eventually go back and replace it with something else.

And the same was true for graphic sex. When it came time for my protagonist and his love interest to sleep together, I had a decision to make. Do I take the readers into the bedroom, or leave them at the door? I know graphic sex attracts a lot of people; I know it’s practically de rigueur these days. But in my novel, these characters aren’t married, and even though I still have them sleeping together, I really struggled with how much emphasis I should place on their sexual relationship.

As my mind engaged in a debate over what to do – “If you want to be a mainstream writer, you’re going to have to suck it up, put your big-girl pants on, and write some stuff that makes you a little uncomfortable,” … “But surely there are others besides me who like to read mainstream fiction that’s not peppered with foul language and graphic sex? Surely there’s a market out there for this?” … “Oh, grow up,” … “Oh, shut up!”  (Sometimes my inner debates get a little childish) – I heard that still, soft voice (although how I heard it over all that ruckus in my head is beyond me):

“Don’t be conformed to this world.”

So that’s it.  That’s my big contribution to the faith/art/life link up.  I’m following the prompting of the Lord in this and writing my book for the mainstream market but with my own brand of censorship. And if it turns out that there’s no market for it, or no agent or no publisher interested in a book that isn’t littered with F-bombs and detailed descriptions of people having sex, then so be it.

Because I don’t want to start my writing career by choosing to please the world over choosing to please God.


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3 Responses to To Be or Not To Be — Conformed

  1. chrismorriswrites says:

    I somehow missed your post on the this link up. I really enjoyed your perspective. As a fiction author, it must be so difficult to know where to draw the line. I have read (or tried to read) books by Christian authors that are just unrealistic. It drives me nuts, because every once in a while a curse word slips out of my mouth. And I still call myself a Christian. I wish you well in your endeavor.

    • Susan says:

      Thanks, Chris. It’s a real world out there, and it’s hard to know how to write for the real world and not dishonor God. I would like to write a novel someday that puts forth the gospel message, but is still realistic enough to attract nonChristian readers. Now, that would be a challenge. Thanks for your encouragement.

      • chrismorriswrites says:

        I totally hear you. Personally, I do not read any Christian fiction because it’s so very cheesy. Maybe I just hang out with the wrong crowd, but nobody I know is as perfectly composed under pressure as the characters I have read. I think you can present the love of God with an appealing set of characters who are gritty and, well, real

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