dorothystewartblog

about writing and life and God

Do you tell lies?

on January 8, 2013

Do you tell lies? I’m not probing into your face-to-face everyday life but in your writing.

There’s ‘a manual for fiction writers’ by Laurence Block titled ‘Telling Lies for Fun and Profit’. Is that what we are doing when we write fiction?

I’m exercised by this today after watching a film about writing a Mills & Boon romantic novel and engaging in a Facebook discussion on it. I tried my hand at writing one years ago. I was tutoring for one of the writers’ correspondence colleges and for some reason (?money) a number of my students expressed a desire to write an M&B novel. Never even having read one, I felt at a disadvantage. I decided I’d better read some – fast! – and then try to work out how they were put together by attempting to write one or two.

These novels are short (c.55,000 words; the historical line is longer) and easy to read. They are easy to get hold of in charity shops as well as brand new by subscription or in a local newsagent. Among the contemporary novels, there is a surprising number of imprints classified by the explicitness or amount of sexual activity in the book. There are also imprints with a medical background, a ‘mystery’ in the plot, and nowadays both a vampire/supernatural line and one for the Christian reader.

But the hero with whom the heroine will fall in love is always a macho alpha male. A modern-day prince charming (e.g. a sheiks or oil man, property developer or investment banker). And the heroine is usually glamorous, slim, smart, toned. The backgrounds are glam too.

I reckon these are fairy tales for grown women – though teenagers and young women read them too. But fairy tales are what they are – tales of enchantment, love at first sight (or that exciting spark that masquerades as antagonism). And there is always a happy ever after – whether marriage, promise or simply bed.

Because this is the inherent value system: a man in your bed or a ring on your finger is what every woman dreams of. End of.

But some of us simply do not buy into this dream or this value system where good looks and glamorous decor and wealth tick the boxes, and marriage or sex is the dominant goal. For us, neither reading nor writing this type of book sits comfortably with our sense of integrity.

Because it’s simply not true. Life just is not like that – or so seldom to be vanishingly rare.

But then neither is Star Trek or fantasy novels about unicorns or dragons. And Midsomer Murders’ weekly body count stretches belief!

Does it matter? When you put your feet up with a good book, does it matter that you’re about to be spun a load of lies?

I think it does, especially for Christian writers. We have a role model – Jesus Christ – who told stories (known nowadays as parables). They were fiction. But rooted in real life, in truth. And that gave the stories their appeal and their edge.

That is our challenge: to tell our stories, whatever genre they may be, with truth as our measuring rod. To shine an honest light on people and situations. Not to pander to the unhealthy addictions or jaded palates of our day, but to be salt and light in everything we write.

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Christian writer or writing Christian? Doesn’t matter. Being salt and light does.

 

 

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2 responses to “Do you tell lies?

  1. Helen Murray says:

    Amen, Dorothy!
    I am loving your M&B teatowel. Nice touch. 🙂

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