A couple weeks ago I received a review that made me scratch my head and ask if this person had really read the same book I wrote? The review seemed far out there. But as I had time to process what this person said, along with what other people had to say, it made me realize something: I choose to write dangerously.
I will never glorify evil, but I will write about it because there is real evil in this world. In a tactful way, I will write about abuse because there is abuse in this world. I will write about the dark places of the soul, gut-wrenching pain, and betrayals by loved ones because all of those are real.
I will also share hope, because without hope the soul withers and dies. I will write about the hope I have experienced, that is, the hope I have found in Jesus. I will do this in a non-preachy, realistic way because Jesus isn’t a sermon or a moral, He is God, and He has touched my heart and changed me. He is the only light and hope at the end of all things.
To write about both the darkness and the light puts me in a place of tension. I told my husband the other day that sometimes I feel like I have a horse tied to each arm and the horses are running in opposite directions. On the one hand, I write about uncomfortable things. Why? Because life isn’t squeaky clean, and neither are the lives of my characters.
- Rowen from Daughter of Light has the power to see inside people and see all of their sin. This has caused her to be exiled from her home, used for financial gain, and abused by her own people.
- Caleb from Son of Truth was a previous murderer and womanizer and still struggles with lust.
- Nierne from Heir of Hope struggles with faith. She grew up in a monastery, but comes to realize she really has no faith in God.
- Stephen from Tainted is betrayed by his fiancée and allows his bitterness to cloud his judgement and place a friend in danger.
- Kat from Tainted is abused by her father, and yet longs for a relationship with him as well. Because of her father’s experiments, she has uncontrollable power that has caused her to hurt others, and so she sees herself as a monster beyond redemption and love.
Even though I write about fictitious characters in worlds far from our own, their struggles, pain, and hurt are familiar to us all.
On the other hand, I write about God, and that just makes people uncomfortable or downright grouchy. Like I said, I do it in a non-preachy way ( I leave the preaching to my husband!). But I do mention a monotheistic deity and have gotten in trouble for it. But to not mention God in one form or another in my books is to bring my readers through a very dark story then offer no hope.
True love does not bring hope in the end. A happy ever after does not bring hope (and seriously, how many real-life happy-ever-afters actually happen?). There is only one who can heal the soul and that is God. And after what my characters go through, they need more than a true-love bandage to heal what has shattered inside of them. I know there are readers who have also been shattered, and I want to help bring healing to them as well by showing them what God can do.
However, to write this way is to write dangerously. It means I’m not going to make everyone happy. I’m not going to make the person who wants the clean, light-hearted Christian novel happy. And I’m not going to make the person who hates any mention of God happy. It means I will always write with tension on either side of me.
There are readers out there who want—even need—the books I write. They know the darkness, and they want the light. And so I will continue to write dangerously because that is what God has called me to write and because of those readers.
How about you? Have you felt tension in what you write? Do you feel pulled in both directions? What is God calling you to write?
Good post Morgan. I wish there were more books like yours in the Christian market. It doesn’t need to be just one genre, but any genre can have that. I like the ‘not’ happily ever after books because the characters are much more ‘real.’ I know people that try to live that life, the happy all the time people. They work very hard to make sure nothing bad happens and when it does they are completely shattered.
Keep writing your dangerous books as no author is ever going to make every reader happy no matter who they are.
Morgan L. Busse
Thanks Chris! Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to write a fluffy novel, but that is not what God has called me to write.
This was actually a very encouraging (and a bit healing) blog post to read. I write “dangerously” as well, and have been beat up for it by those who want stories that leave them feeling only happy and encouraged. I actually had someone say my writing was “unbiblical” because it contained violence. That left me scratching my head. There’s tons of violence in the scriptures. The whole Christian faith is based on the shedding of innocent blood. The Bible is real. It’s gritty. It talks about the full breadth of sin and shows us the terrible consequences. But it also gives us hope, as you said. Why should we try to suppress reality to comfort those disturbed by it?
I’m thankful for how you write. It’s definitely tough to weather criticism from those you expected would support you. Especially when it seems they totally missed the point of what you were trying to do. But I suppose that’s what happens when we put ourselves out there. Writers turn their imaginations into exhibitions for the public. That’s an extremely vulnerable place to be in, because when they criticize your work, it’s pretty difficult to separate your work from your personhood.
Blessings on your writing. Thanks for your labor.
Morgan L. Busse
Thanks Brennan! Sometimes I think people who have never experienced true darkness in their lives cannot imagine what it is like, and when confronted with it in Christian fiction believe it is unbiblical (like your violence reference). But it does exist, and so I write about it, and the hope and light God brings. Don’t be afraid to share the truth in your own writing, both the truth of real life and the truth of God. Continue on, my friend!
Thanks for this. It was hugely encouraging to think about this tension in this way – writing dangerously. It’s always so difficult because we’re not called to run after popularity, yet all the marketing etc. tells us that if you want to do this, play it safe, and say what people want to hear, not what they need to hear… what will bring true healing and peace.
Really appreciate this post!
Morgan L. Busse
Thanks Ryan! I’m so glad I could encourage you 🙂
Tonja Condray Klein
Hey Morgan! I have read all of “The Word” series as I call it, and have LOVED EVERY ONE! I will get “Tainted” soon. I just released my Novel BREAKING THE SHACKLES, Book 1 of Rebirth of Eirinth Series that I’ve been working on for the past 7 years. I apparently also Write Dangerously because I’ve had a situation with both the Christian believer side and the secular world side too. I was feeling very depressed and questioning who I was writing for and had those never-ending moments of “why did I write that this way”? Your post honestly renewed my faith in what I have written. THANK YOU! You were already mentioned in my ‘Special Thanks’ section in my Novel because I have enjoyed your work so much, but this makes me even happier to have read your work! I pray that the readers that need mine will find their way to it with the Lord’s help also. You can read the Prologue through Chapter 2 on my website: http://www.eirinth.com and the E-Book and Paperback are both available at Amazon under Tonja Condray Klein. I gave 5-star reviews for each of your books so far. I look forward to giving you another one for TAINTED! “May Tenrai Daystar shine down on you with blessings beyond sublime dreams!” Eirinthian Blessing by Tonja Condray Klein(c)2016. Check out the links to the songs I wrote, recorded, and have lyrics used in my book too and listen for FREE. THANKS! TCK 🙂
I think many people want the happy Christian ending where evil is killed or comes to Christ because their own lives are either hard or waaay too soft. I like feeling good after I read a novel or watch a movie. The thing is, nothing stays the same, right? I mean, crappy things happen to us. It changes us. Gives us scars. I’ve read the end of The Book and there IS a happy ending! But how some of us get there … whew!
That being said, there are appropriate times for a tragic ending. Because sometimes people we love die. Animals we love die. Dreams we have die. As long as I’m left with hope and feel a tragic ending was justified, I’m okay with it. It’s the senseless tragic ending that drives me nuts and makes me feel I’ve wasted my time.
I learned this at a one day conference yesterday: You write what you’re called to write. Your audience will find you.
Sure, that flies in the face of everything we’ve learned about marketing, right? But when you think about it, it’s true. And it makes us free to simply write – dangerously, if we want. How cool is that?
Morgan L. Busse
Congrats, Tonja, on your release! And thanks for the mention in your book 🙂 I’m glad I could encourage you in your own writing journey.
Morgan L. Busse
Yep, write what you’re called to write. Excellent advice, Pam 🙂
Tonja Condray Klein
Thank You, Morgan 🙂 For me it’s a matter of reading the best writing to help me grow and try to create my own fiction world for others to visit. Your amazing series certainly helped me to at least know that I’m not alone in wanting to write the stories more complex than what some want to even get published. I still want EPIC! “May Tenrai Daystar shine down on you with blessings beyond sublime dreams!” Eirinthian Blessing by Tonja Condray Klein(c)2016 ~TCK~