Caveat: I have a slight fever and am medicated at the moment, so I hope the following will make sense.
A bit of a brouhaha lately about “edgy” versus “safe” Christian fiction out in the blogosphere, so here I go, chucking in my two cents. Twenty-five cents, actually, because after seventeen years in this biz I have a whole pocketful of change.
Let’s not narrow our focus to one or two areas–why, with an entire world to explore, has the debate about writing “safe” versus “edgy” centered on profanity and/or sexual explicitness? Writing “safe” means creating stories and plots and characters that resemble stories and plots and characters that have previously met with widespread acceptance. “Writing on the edge” means trying new forms, new stories, new plots, new techniques and new character types. The edge is always risky . . . anyone remember New Coke? (VBG)
John Grisham wrote “safe” . . . until he wrote A PAINTED HOUSE. Most authors write “safe,” mirroring themselves or another popular genre, until they discover their unique niche.
What is “safe” for Ted Dekker might feel “edgy” for Lori Wick. What is safe for one publisher might be edgy for another. What is “edgy” for CBA might be “safe” for the general market . . . and vice versa. (An openly evangelical novel about the transforminig power of Jesus Christ might prove quite edgy for some general publishers.)
Tough topics? Christian writers have been addressing them for years–and doing an excellent job. Gritty situations? Been doing that, too. Taking risks? Yep, even that.
My editor recently sent me a letter with a paragraph that fits here: You take a lot of chances–both “The Novelist” and “Uncharted” throw something at CBA readers they’ve never seen before. You’re risking a lot–readers of some of your more upbeat recent novels may be confused by the two new novels, and if they don’t like them, may choose other authors in the future. That’s not “safe.”
I’m not unique–lots of my novelist friends are striving to try unique things, improve their craft, and tell God-filled stories in new and excellent ways. The Christian publishing houses, too, are venturing closer to the bleeding edge. We’re all looking for the best tools available to illustrate the greatest story ever told.
Personally, I simply try to write the stories God gives me in the best possible format–one that allows me to be true to my convictions while respecting my audience, the craft, and the art.
So . . . before we become myopic with the word “edgy” and limit it to one or two areas, let’s remember the entire spectrum. Christian novelists are working hard to tell their stories as best they can to a world that desperately needs to hear Truth.
And now I think I hear my fever calling me back to the sofa . . .
Angie “Expect the Unexpected” Hunt