How far is too far?

And no, this time I’m not talking about boundaries for expressing physical affection or promoting saving sex for marriage. Plenty of discussion about that on my “Waiting Matters… Because YOU Matter” blog.christian-fiction-2

What I’ve been wondering is this: Are there places that Christian fiction shouldn’t go? Are there subjects too taboo to make an appearance in a work of fiction considered “Christian”? What is absolutely, positively, without question off-limits? And I’m mostly questioning subject matter rather than the inclusion or exclusion of profanity.

Now I want to be perfectly upfront. The tagline I’ve adopted for my fiction writing career is:

Realistic Contemporary YA Fiction — The Unflinching Realities

And I already mentioned my blog that very candidly addresses abstinence and renewed abstinence so it’s safe to say I don’t shy away from tough subjects or touchy issues. My philosophy about such things can be summed up like this –

The world never misses an opportunity to discuss issues of a “mature subject matter” and neither should Christians. Sin and its consequences are a reality. So are difficult decisions. Jesus’ power and presence are the answer to both.

So you may be wondering what’s up with the “how far is too far?” question. Actually, I’m wondering the same thing myself. You see I normally engage in conversations promoting more grit, more edge, more reality in Christian fiction. But I suddenly find myself asking “When is enough enough?”

file000739253401I’m reviewing a manuscript for an acquaintance who’s wondering if his story “goes too far”, whether the premise will be offensive to Christians. While the premise is interesting, the question “But why write a story about THIS?” keeps spinning through my brain, like a coyote circling a cluster of Conestoga wagons bedded down for the night. Does this go too far?

It’s gritty and edgy to be sure. But maybe it’s the “reality” part I’m struggling with as the story is clearly speculative fiction, taking place in a “what if?” world that sprouts from a ghastly, if interesting, premise. Do we really need a story about this? Even as I ponder my own reaction to the story, a chill creeps over me as the real-life events of the past several months play through my mind.

A year ago did we have any real clue the dark path our country and our world would be headed down? Did we have any grasp of the hatred and persecution that would be directed toward Christians and traditional values? Maybe what concerns me about this story is that its other-worldly reality isn’t as far of a stretch as I’d like to think, especially considering recent events.

I’ll admit “But why?” is a question I find myself asking a lot—and not just about fiction storylines. I have a curious naturfare in general. But I really want to know the “But why?” behind this story. I’m trying to decide if I need/want to know the answer WHILE I’m reading or wait until I finish.

Now, back to my original questions: “How far is too far?” and “When is enough enough?”

I’d love to hear your thoughts!


9 thoughts on “How far is too far?

  1. If its addressing a real world problem and it’s not done gratuitously, I’m not sure you can go too far. Fiction helps us to learn to empathize. I’d prefer for people to experiment with the horror of life through the pages of a book instead of in person.

    That being said, there are some genres that I don’t think would ever be useful, such as slasher horror or erotica. Being entertained by sin instead of learning why or how to avoid it is the key.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Tough questions, especially since gratuitous is so subjective and different for every individual. For my individual preference, I like fiction that makes me think, but I don’t want to be horrified or subjected to mind pictures that glorify sin. As a writer, I find this can be done successfully with a few words, like a sparse artist’s sketch which gets a message across without graphic detail.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Those are good parameters I think, Linda. The issue is that gratuitous is so subjective, as you mentioned.


  4. I agree with the others. But, while gratuitous is subjective, it also evolves. Desensitization is very real and not always a good thing. As a writer, I wouldn’t want to be a contributing factor. As a reader, I often find a hint or reference to disturbing things more than enough – no description necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think desensitization is HUGE in fiction, TV, movies, basically everywhere. What used to be taboo is now common place. MOST of the time that is a bad thing.

      However, Christian Fiction has evolved to be much more realistic and relevant than it was years ago. And I feel strongly that is a GOOD thing. Still trying to wrap my head around whether some subject matter might push the line.


  5. Forgot to say, I’m also a “but why?” person. It’s why I literally read the encyclopedia growing up. And chose Pimsleur over Rosetta Stone for language learning. And why my daughter gets a lot more “becauses” than a lot of kids. (Though she definitely still gets the “because I said so” often enough. 😉 lol)

    Liked by 2 people

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