How to be a Faith-Inspired Fiction Author

Course Lessons

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Mature content for the right audience?

Mature content for the right audience?

From the moment you start pressing letters or putting pen to paper, you are limiting your audience to the people who want your insights, who share your loves, who are receptive to the places you will take them.

As the author, your story may be as dark and serious as any story in Sacred Scripture. These ancient stories are preserved for mature minds to discern. Many are cautionary tales of savagery, lies, summonings, inbreeding, and more.

All continue to be human realities today.

It probably won’t happen as much today, but the church (your local magisterum) may decide if something is unfit for general audiences, and ask academics to vet and verify.

A ‘sinful topic’ for one reader might be nothing to another.

“It is very possible that what is vision and truth to the writer is temptation and sin to the reader.” Flannery O’Connor, ‘Catholic Novelists and Their Readers’

It’s like the way a surgeon, or an artist regards a nude body. Their reaction to its meaning is completely different to an immature, pubescent child. Or adult.

Doubt, anger, vengeance, envy, seduction, rigidity, gnosticism… these may be important parts of your character’s experiences. What if you’re trying to enter into all the darkness involved in someone’s decisions, as ugly as it can be?

Not everyone can appreciate that. Not everyone is ready for it.

And there are plenty of trashy tales and epic novels that wallow in every kind of evil idea and sin, without any sort of redemptive point. The characters never learn a lesson. The lifestyle is simply the backdrop for more action.

This kind of contribution is a thin, weak solution that simply moves the surface of the water. It doesn’t take the reader into anything deeper.

And some stories are set against backdrops of harsh and bitter sin, because that is the environment in which a different story needs to be told.

Your honest intention for writing the novel is the key. Where do you hope to go?

As the narrator, you can’t condemn and praise the choices or the environment at every turn. You’re telling a story, not the catechism. Your job is to dramatize the consequences, and hunt for the threads of meaning.

If you’re writing it for an audience, then you will tailor it for their interests and sensibilities.

But if you’re writing it because you have a vision, and it may be as challenging for you as for the reader, then you may have a responsibility to that vision.

You can’t assume spiritual responsibility for all your readers.

Otherwise Sacred Scripture would be heavily redacted for ‘lack of clarity’ and scandal.

Imagine your book having a rating, like films. Be honest and true.

After that, let go and let God.

“This is no superficial problem for the conscientious novelist, and those who have felt it have felt it with agony. But I think that to force this kind of total responsibility on the novelist is to burden him with the business that belongs only to God.” Flannery O’Connor, ‘Catholic Novelists and Their Readers’

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I love this: “As the narrator, you can’t condemn and praise the choices or the environment at every turn. You’re telling a story, not the catechism. Your job is to dramatize the consequences, and hunt for the threads of meaning.” I really needed to read this.

    Reply
    • Dominic Vera

      So glad it resonated with you, Suzanna!

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