Katie, you had me laughing with a mental image of you leaning back and yawning with a bored look on your face!
When the argument of “It’s realistic” comes up, I’m usually the first person to quip that our books aren’t realistic. By definion, they are fiction, and their primary purpose is to entertain.
I realize that some people approach writing with a different end use, in which case their application will be different. But for me, the primary purpose of my books is to provide godly entertainment. I think that is a very valid mission; we all need entertainment to relax and escape, so there’s a great need for entertainment that allows us to “shut down” without being bombarded by unnecessary content.
Therefore, I do not believe “It’s realistic” is a valid excuse for putting in unnecessary content. I think that’s a dangerous mentality. However, I am fully in favor of using content masterfully to tell a God-honoring story.
It’s all in the mentality and application. Are you putting in this content for the shock or evocative factor? Or are you using it intentionally for an end goal? Your heart motive makes all the difference in how the content affects the book - and how it ultimately affects readers.
If anyone’s interested, I wrote a longer ramble about this here: http://www.aubreyhansen.com/2011/12/fear-for-fears-sake.html To summarize, I quit watching Doctor Who in the middle of the season because it was all scare and no meat for me. By contrast, “Angel Fall” is one of my favorite books of all times… BECAUSE of the way it used extreme content (sexuality, horror, gore) to tell a spiritual message that struck me to the core. Angel Fall is the most intense book I’ve ever read. IT’s also the most spiritually impacting. It was quite an eye-opening experience for me as a writer, which is one the reasons I respect Coleman Luck so highly. (So please, don’t take my word for it, but go read his book!)
All of that being said… I am wondering if perhaps one of my struggles with Peter’s Angel is coming to terms with the fact that it isn’t a “just for fun” book. It isn’t innocent entertainment. Perhaps it’s main purpose isn’t to entertain at all. Perhaps the primary reason I’m writing this is to present questions, explore gray areas, and make people think.
It would seem to pair well with the way I’ve gone about this story. Early on in the process, one of my main reasons for restarting it was that I believed my basic premise was a truly good premise with a lot of story potential. But in the process of actually drafting and rewriting, the premise is almost lost underneath the day-to-day focus of getting into my characters’ heads and fleshing out the world, of writing all the exchanges and their mental processes with all the gray areas… I’m not writing it primarily to tell a good story anymore, although I’m taking a lot of effort to make it as good as it can be (partly because I’ve invested so much into it emotionally). I’m not even writing it to publish it and add to my library or earn money anymore. I’m writing it to get it out of my head, and I’m publishing it to put it to rest permanently. So I should probably just forget my readers exist until after-the-fact, but… *grins*
Regardless, I really appreciated your post, Calix, because I think in this instance, “It’s realistic” is a valid explanation for why the book is coming out this way… and why it feels like it works. The stuff that’s irking me is flowing in there very naturally. I’m not forcing it in. It just makes sense. And that scares me a bit, but I think it’s actually a good sign.
Thanks for that, Katie. I hadn’t thought about it that way.
ETA: To add the link I forgot last night…