Friday, July 13, 2007

Eroticism in Wind Follower and Daughters of Men

Well, I'm just waiting for the reviews to start coming in on Wind Follower. In the meantime, I'm trying to finish Daughters of Men.

For some reason, DOM is perched very precariously. A part of it wants to be an erotic novel. Now, what to do?

On the one hand, I want to write a Christian novel...and it definitely is. And I don't want to alienate Christians by having a scene in the book which will upset them. (Although Wind Follower has a couple of sex scenes.)

But I want to write what I want to write. Of course, the question to ask myself is: does this erotic part of my story comes from a part of me that needs sexual healing? (and therefore should be explored) Or does it come from a part of me that is just plain worldly and which has watched way too many movies on Lifetime televion?

But I also don't want to force myself to write in a particular way if that's not who I really am. (Not that we Christians should go around worshiping "who we really are.) I don't want to get all rigid and too brainwashed by the rigid guidelines of the Christian market.

I tend not to get too graphic in my love scenes. But the eroticism is definitely there. I know a few Christian folks might have a problem with the sex scenes in WF. A graphic rape scene where she loses a baby, sex with her slave- owner, and the Loic-Satha pre-marriage dalliance. But the book needed it. So in it went. I felt right having those scenes.

In DOM, there is a real element of sexual need. I might even go so far as to say that sexual need is a main character in the book. So even if there isn't any sex scene (can't imagine this, but even if) there is gonna be an erotic quality about the book.

I don't know if you've ever seen DIVA (French movie) or Rebel without a cause. In Diva the guy woos the woman by taking her for a walk in the Paris rain. Nothing happens and yet there's all this eroticism. Just by them walking. Then there's the ferris wheel ride in Rebel without a cause. Again, nothing happens. But it is absolutely incredibly erotic. That's what I feel is happening with DOM. There might be a sex scene or two -- if the plot calls for it-- but whether there are or not, there's gonna be a heck of erotic tension.

I don't really think that eros and religion are in conflict. God invented sex. And eroticism.

The proverbs say that a true witness delivers souls. Many Christian fiction books just simply aren't true. If we are to be witnesses to a truth, we have to start out with the truth-- about our own issues. Christian books are often more legalistic than gospel. The main characters are good people who often are in conflict with some bad aspect of themselves...but the bad aspects are often not bad enough to make the characters real people. They often are temptations rather than incredibly deep character traits. By making the "evil" a character faces something which is a mere temptation, the Christian writer can simply separate the main character from the "evil" and have a nice legalistic happy ending. Person is good now, so person can go to church and be a good part of society. It just doesn't speak to me of grace, of God loving us even when we are evil. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

In a lot of my stories, characters do bad right and left. But they are loved by God because they love Jesus. That is the gospel. When we get caught up in good and evil and believe that making a character good is telling the story of the gospel, we are making a bad mistake. We're teaching the importance of keeping the law. We're writing about and spreading teaching about the knowledge of good and evil. What does it matter if we know what good is, and what evil is? It's grace -- God's love for us in spite of our behavior, and while we are still sinning-- that is the gospel. And when we start saying that sex is bad or that writing about sex is a stumbling block then we are in a hazy world of saying that God has made something that is evil. We also are in the old Augustinian mind-set that says sex is evil.

In this story, I've made Ellie a Creed believer who is loyal to God above else. But she has done a crime. (I don't know what the crime is.) She's real. In that way she'll speak to real people, unlike the Christian characters in much modern Christian fiction who don't speak to the really really unsaved person. For instance, I think more incredibly bad people could probably be touched by Angels with Dirty Faces or Prayer for the Dying or Festen or The Bad Lieutenant than they would be by Christy or a Jeanette Oke book.

God called me to write to the really really really bad unsaved people, and as such I have to be a true witness. I have to witness to what I see in life, to the goodness I see in bad people, and to the lostness I see in saved people. For instance, in WF I had the two young characters make love on the day before they were married. Satha (although she is virginal) did it because she feared not giving in to him would be disastrous and might make him not go ahead with the planned marriage. And her folks needed the dowry money. He did it because he was a spoiled kid who always got his way and he was using her fear for her mother to get into bed (the grass) with her. That was truth, as far as I saw it. It would've been good for me to write a story where Satha held out for one more day, and where Loic didn't have that selfish ability to manipulate a woman, but although it would have been "good" it wouldn't have been true. In the long run, that little bit of dalliance caused some trouble for them but they are human...not Christian cardboard cookie-cutter tereotyped "good"
main characters.

For me to write something that doesn't feel right to me is to go against the idea that "a true witness delivers souls."

In DOM, Ellie is facing death. She is also badly-scarred. A human male loves her dearly. But so does a demon prince. She doesn't want to marry the prince but at the same time the prince has power to kill
her and to force her. And there is a lot in the mix about her conflict. Women like strength. Ugly scarred women like attention, especially if they haven't been getting any. Women like powerful men (at least in romances.) A powerful man with telepathic powers is going to use it to seduce a woman who thinks he's demonic. And the human male is going to have much sorrow and conflict about what to do with a woman he loves who has seemingly given up her faith to save her life.

It's been said that a novel is a conversation about the conflict between the soul and the spirit. In Wind Follower, the conversation was: "would you give up your religion for the religion of your oppressors?" That echoed conflict in my life. Sometimes one's religion puts one in the company of people one doesn't really like. And giving up one's religion means giving up certain things you are attached to. So there is always conflict in novels.

In Christian novels the conflicts are pretty narrowly-defined within home, faith, marriage. Very narrowly-defined. So I don't write for Christians because they don't want to read about Christian racist character working against his racism. They can't handle that kind conflicted characters or plots that don't have easy answers. They really can't. But God has called me to write Christian novels for a secular audience who can deal with such conflicting stuff.

I mean...what a different world it would be if Christian writers dealt with the racism of Sarah (Abraham's wife) or even with the fact that Abraham probably slept with Hagar quite a bit. Or even the fact that according to the ancient Jewish rabbis, Keturah Abraham's third wife was really in fact Hagar. I love that kind of stuff. The man wasn't perfect. He was a conflicted human. And Christian writing has no edge and has lost its ability to be very complicated. I have no doubt that if the books of the Bible was being gathered together today, Christian people would leave out a lot of David's misdemeanors, all of Song of Solomon, most of Judges.

The Christians who have read portions of Wind Follower didn't stumble. So far as I know. But the book isn't for them. And considering how rigid the christian guidelines are...the CBA's attitude is that most everything can make their readers stumble. I mean...they don't want to talk about race because they say Christian
readers need something safe to read. By avoiding certain supposed stumbling blocks, they have enabled close-minded folks to stay close-minded.

That's just my opinion. Christian writers write about sex in non-fiction books. Why not write about the weird inner conflicts of sex in fiction books? What's the difference?

Yes, the truth is about letting our light shine: healing the sick, raising the dead, binding up the broken-hearted. We shine the word in dark places. But then we have to show the dark places also so people can recognize the darkness of it. Sex is also a wonderful thing. Why not spotlight it in a story? Christians won't be reading it, probably. But I suspect the non-christian who reads it will see much of the spiritual glory of sexuality. Just me. -C

-C
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