ChristianFic – How Edgy is *TOO* Edgy

Disclaimer! This post contains potentially controversial—possibly offensive—ideas. Continue reading only if you’re prepared to take a risk!

Last week I read a current, best-selling ChristianFic book in which the narrator told us the main character was urinating. I rolled my eyes—did I really need to know that? After a double-take, I kept on reading.

Another ChristianFic best-seller I read in 2005 included a female character who had intimate relations with a male temple prostitute and drank to excess (among other things). I found it disturbing, but wanted to know how the character’s redemption would unfold. I kept on reading. Would you have kept on reading?

Deep down, I hunger to see depictions of God’s raw power, the things He’s famous for—actions that defy physics—and showdowns between angels and demons. Things the mainstream would label as Paranormal or Sci-Fi. I would read about that. Would you?

No names, please, but we’ve encountered ChristianFic publishers and agents who won’t accept manuscripts that contain topics like teen pregnancy, addictions, child abuse, or pre-marital sex—even though the purpose is to reveal God’s heart for lost sheep. And… one person’s idea of edgy may be tame by another’s standards. Would I read about things like this? Would you?

Some of us at The Scriblerians have been told we write edgy. Is there a market for us or should we sanitize reality to fit in? Tell us what you think.

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20 thoughts on “ChristianFic – How Edgy is *TOO* Edgy

  1. It’s funny that US Christians would squawk about sexual content, but never seem to bat an eye about violence.

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    • TJ, Agreed. Sex is rampant in the Bible. It has its place in the natural order, as does violence. One element of “edgy” in my opinion is how it is depicted and what is the motivation?

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  2. I would read any and all of the scenarios you mention above. God’s power and Jesus’ sacrifice exist to confront the harsh realities of sin and life in this fallen world. Fiction is a great avenue for depicting God’s grace, love and forgiveness. While sci-fi and fantasy aren’t my preferred genres, I find nothing wrong with stories of this type that also include elements of faith and spiritual truths. “Sanitized” fiction, while appealing to some, will never reach those who most need to experience God’s live transforming power.

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    • That’s the key, Beth. In my new book, Rafi is a visionary in the tribes of Isra’el. He says, “How can we be saved if we are not peril?”

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  3. Well, I haven’t actually submitting anything to a publisher yet, but I have heard complaints from my friends on this topic. I think that’s one reason so many authors end up self-publishing. Not the only reason, but certainly a factor for some otherwise great books. For that reason, I’m glad self-publication is an option now. I think all people struggle and can empathize better with fiction that resonates with the human condition. Christ came to save the lost. It’s an important audience to target.

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    • The ability to self-publish has greatly enlarged the marketplace of ideas. It’s more important than ever to know exactly what you want to say and how to say it because the competition is fierce!

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  4. Great blog! There is little that is too edgy for me, provided the goal is to bring others to Christ. I spent the majority of my life as a nonbeliever and can attest to the fact that an edgy approach appeals to many who’ve not yet come to know the Lord. So bring it on, writers! Though I’d prefer the bathroom activities remain private [smile].

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    • LOL Angie. It’s a running joke in our house about how many PG movies will depict a man urinating–from the waist or shoulders up–as if we don’t know what’s going on down there. 🙂 Why do they write that in when it doesn’t further the plot?
      The only book I’ve read where urinating was a plot device was Stephen King’s “The Green Mile.” The prison warden had a urinary tract infection that was cured by a character on death row… sigh.

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  5. From what I see, Christian Fiction has become far more “real world” in the past several years. Meaning authors are writing characters who must deal with the serious problems facing us in today’s culture–including and beyond the topics you’ve mentioned in the post. In my opinion, it’s the reason we see some crossover between CF and mainstream readership. If “edgy” means real-world, then I see that as a plus–as authors, we are trying to reach and encourage folks who are livng that reality. However, there is absolutely a turn-off point. When edgy meets gritty, then blusters its way toward graphic for pure shock value. We see that all the time in TV and movies, along with the trend toward dark anti-heroes. It doesn’t mean that CF needs to offer “milk and sugar cookie” storylines, but there is a middle ground. I’m fortunate to have a publishing team that understands that. And its readership. Bottom line, we’re offering hope–it has to be there.

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    • Yes, Candace, I agree. I think any edginess is best served by the proper motivation, not for the thrill factor alone, but for redemption (without being preachy). For example, your “Trauma Plan” novel addressed homelessness within a organic framework that was natural to the story and provided hope. I like reading about that.

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      • Spot on, Vanessa. “Organic” was exactly the word my editors used regarding the faith elements in contemporary fiction as well, that they should arise naturally with the progression of the story. Be an intergral part (yay or nay) of a character’s individual make up. With a believable motivation, of course. “Preachy” can turn readers off even faster than curse words or violence. There is often most to learn from characters who seem to have valid reasons to keep God at arm’s length, because we all struggle with that at various times in our lives. I have been involved in editorial brainstorming (and good compromise) regarding the somewhat dark characters in my stories. Hospital janitor “Sarge” in Disaster Status was one of those. And readers had varied reactions to him. He turned out to be a powerful story catalyst.

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  6. hmmm, I have come across this issue before. What it comes down to for me, is if it has a redeeming story line that shows us Gods grace, then I am fine with it. Can you imagine how the life of David would lose all of its meaning if it were to be censored so that we only knew the “good” parts of his life?? There are several biblical patriarchs that had sordid pasts, but they are in the bible so that we can learn and grow from them. Just my 2 cents worth.
    Happy reading! 🙂

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  7. I don’t mind it so long as I know it is coming and it isn’t too graphic/detailed. And so long as it fits the plot/characters, etc. I don’t care for actual cursing/swearing in books just because “he swore” usually works just as well without filling my mind with the actual words. But when it comes to other topics, Christian fiction can be much too clean at times. There has been more than one occasion where I’d be reading and a character became pregnant and I hadn’t even realized they’d had sex. To me, there’s two kinds of edgy. 1) Extreme content just for the sake of extreme content, and 2) Real-world content which leads to meaty theme/discussion. I much prefer #2 over sanitized, Hebrews 5:12 baby-food fiction.

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  8. I haven’t done a sex scene yet. Can’t say I’ve even done heavy petting. I’m of the school that a murder mystery is about solving the murder. Now I do get into romance and my characters do have desires and I try to capture those longings and desires. I also try to capture sexual attraction when it happens in the story. The funny thing is ABA writers think we’re crazy. When they read something we think might be over the line in Christian fiction, they think it’s mild. I think the proviso is “Christian fiction.” But does clean make it Christian? Not necessarily. Could it contain sexuality and be redemptive? Certainly.

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  9. Well said, Nike. I enjoy reading about the characters’ emotions; that’s key to vibrant fiction. Which one of your books would you say is the edgiest?

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