Living on the "Edge"


Let’s talk about “edgy fiction.”

First, by “edgy” I’m assuming most people mean pushing the envelope on what’s politically correct within the CBA. That is, the standard m.o. of the CBA has been no sex, no swearing (even euphamisms are frowned upon), and watch the violence and gore very closely. It has also been taboo to have unmarried folk jumping in bed with each other, homosexual characters portrayed in a positive light, and other no-no subjects in the spotlight. Therefore, “edgy” fiction is fiction that pushes that envelope, that stretches what is acceptable in the CBA and sees how much it can get away with.

Now, because of the horror aspect of my novels, many would consider my writing to be “edgy.”

I don’t. And here’s why.

One, because I loathe that whole edgy thing. This notion of seeing how much we can get away with in the CBA and not get our hands slapped is juvenile and silly . . . in my opinion. How low have we stooped in Christian fiction when we purposefully feel we have to prove something to . . . who? . . . by seeing how far we can inch our toe over that line of what is acceptable.

Two, because I’m not into being “cool.” And that’s what this edgy thing feels like. How cool are we that we can slip in a swear word or get some extra gore in there without an editor cutting it. Man, when we can do that, we’ve arrived as writers . . . Cool! Of course, I’m being facetious.

Three, because I think good writing is more than making your bad guy call some woman a bad word and more than describing in detail how the villain dismembers some guy with a surgical saw.

And four, because this whole edgy thing smacks of those shock jocks on the radio whose whole persona is seeing how much they can get away with and not get fined. I want to be more than that as a writer.

Some say they have to push the envelope in order to write what is real. People do swear, violence does happen, unmarried folk do hop in the sack with each other. Of course all that is true. But writing is not merely describing activity. It’s so much more than that. It’s establishing a mood, setting a scene, creating a world, and taking the reader on a journey. And (surprise, surprise) all that can be accomplished through good writing, not just “real” writing. Good writing can take the reader into the mind of the villain and show her his anger or hatred or whatever so much better than a clumsily placed swear word.

Okay, I need to wrap this post up. Look, call me whatever kind of writer you want–a good one, a lousy one, a thoughtful one, a wannabe one–but please oh please don’t call me an edgy one. I’m not into pushing any envelopes. I just want to write the story in my head and on my heart to the best of my ability.

What do you think of all this “edgy” stuff. Is it good for Christian fiction?

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About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on October 25, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I am not at all in favor of this "edgy" Christian fiction. Christian authors shouldn't be trying to see how much they can be like secular authors, but instead, how they can best please God with what they write, and not offend their readers.As Christians, we shouldn't see how close to the world we can live, and still be a Christian, and the same holds with an author writing a book.The defense given, is that the Bible didn't sugarcoat life, so it is ok to have a Christian novel that has some inappropriate content and some swearing/cursing. That doesn't fly with me.You have some great thoughts here. I appreciate an author who isn't afraid to write a true Christian story with no swearing and unsuitable content. Keep up the good work – looking forward to reading more from you.

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  2. I thought of you as a suspense writer, a really good suspense writer. I don't think the idea of "edgy" crossed my mind while I read both The Hunted and Scream. Suspense, yes. Horror, yes. But not edgy. Did I miss something?

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  3. LOL…you rock dude! But the white writing on the black background reeks havoc with my eyes 🙂

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  4. I am slightly taken aback by your judgmental attitude toward Christians who write so-called edgy fiction. I write a suspense series set in New Orleans. I allow my characters to swear on occasion, though I don't feel comfortable having them use the F bomb or using the Lord's name in vain.The way I see it, I've drawn my lines in different places than you do. My books are not carried by Christian bookstores. But I guarantee they are read by non-Christians who are exposed to themes of true grace and redemption. Christian characters are treated with great respect and the idea of absolute truth is revered in my books. I've made the choice in my writing to have characters curse. Frankly, your remarks smack of legalism. I hope you include my comments so that your readers can be exposed to an opposing opinion respectfully submitted.

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  5. Glen, thank you for your comment. It was respectfully submitted and deserves to be posted. I'm sorry you thought my comments smacked of legalism, that was not my intent. My intent was merely to express my opinion on a trend taking place in the CBA. I'm more than open to other people's opinions and thank you for sharing yours. Some obviously think pushing the envelope is good for Christian fiction. I happen to disagree.I know this is a touchy issue and authors will fall on both sides . . . and that's okay. These discussions need to take place and both sides need to express their opinions. Thank you for representing an opposing view.

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  6. I find it interesting how people see legalism in someone's personal decision as to what they will or will not do. That said, Glen has made the right choice to sell his stories as general market novels. I read a number of those myself (including Koontz and King). The question here is this, "Why is it so important to some writers to push the envelope in Christian fiction?" If you believe God has called you to write what you write then go out and find a publisher who will promote what you write. If you are doing it to prove some kind of point that is a different issue. Thanks Mike for your honest thoughts.

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  7. I agree with you, Mike. I have no desire to write edgy fiction in the CBA or to be identified with that group for several reasons. You've already described several reasons quite well, so I feel no need to rehash them here. I'd only add that I see strong biblical support for those reasons too. Without preaching a long sermon, I'll just say that God tells us not to be offensive to others, including other believers. He also says He'll hold us accountable for every word we communicate. So if I'm writing for the CBA (or anybody really), why would I intentionally seek to dance on the edge and possibly offend or turn off some? It also shows bad business sense. Intentionally going over the line in the CBA to be provocative or "cool" honestly shows a misunderstanding of a good segment of this audience. Most CBA readers I know just want a wholesome, engaging story that leaves some spiritual truth to make them think. They don't want to be reading scenes that make them squirm or feel uneasy. They certainly don't want to find profanity or crude language. And they don't want to read some gritty, secular-feeling novel that just has God thrown in for good measure. They want to read something uplifting and strongly redemptive. Now I will also admit that a good segment of the CBA readership is becoming more open to provocative content, and I think that's why we see some of the tension we're finding today. Many are cheering this trend on, and sales figures are starting to show more support too. Others of us still aren't willing to go there. Bottom line? What does God want? What is driving us?Drawing your line where you feel God wants you to draw is critical (whether it's writing or your TV viewing choices). Ultimately God is your number-one audience, and you are writing first for Him. What pleases Him is the bottom line, so saying no to something because you feel it would displease Him (and possibly others) isn't legalistic. It's just using godly wisdom and choosing not to violate your own conscience. I say, "Bravo!" Others may not necessarily draw the line at the same place, and that's okay. They have the Christian liberty to do that, and God will also hold them accountable. I believe your discussion has always been about writing for the CBA. Writing for the secular market is another animal altogether. Authors who choose to write for that audience will need to decide how far they are willing to go.

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  8. Interesting discussion. Personally, I think 'edgy' is different for everyone. What I might think is going overboard, another person will believe is perfectly acceptable. I've given books to my sister from female authors mentioned on your blog and she hates them, too 'out there' for her. The first thing she said was, 'Are Christians supposed to write like that?' I don't really care if the main character is male or female, just give me a well written story.Romance is popular because women want their HEA. (happily ever after) Let's face it, for a lot of women they're only going to find it in a book, not real life.Does that make sense?

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  9. AMEN, MIKE!! AMEN, ADAM!! This has got to be the clearest statement of the "edgy" debate I've read yet!The Bible does call Christians to be light and salt in this world. Why on earth folks have got it in their mind that you have to be just like the world to reach others for Christ is beyond me. Sounds rather like you are denying the truth of God's word.If you want to walk, talk, smell, look like, sound like, act like, write like the world…there is another market entirely for that writing. Rather than thinking your writing is good enough to expand the edginess of the CBA market, perhaps this group of writers should be asking themselves why their writing isn't good enough to be published in their desired market.GREAT discussion Mike! For me personally, the Lord convicted me mightily of the garbage I was reading when I was around 25 years of age. I literally boxed up a TON of "NY Times" best sellers and got rid of them. At that time, there were very few Christian authors to choose from, but I stood by my convictions and quit reading the foul-mouthed, gross sex and immorality of secular fiction. For me personally, that conviction included giving up movies and a lot of television. No one told me to do that. No preacher told me I was going to go to hell if I didn't give those things up. GOD convicted my soul of sin, and I obeyed.Today, my heart is thrilled with the tons of choices offered by the CBA market. It makes me sad that folks think it needs to be more worldly to reach others for Christ. I pray often that God would put a hedge about the editors making decisions for this market and keep great fiction coming that proclaims Christ boldly and without all the worldliness.I've had long discussions about this very subject with everyone from authors, to bloggers, even to the fiction aquisitions editor of one of the CBA's largest publishers…and it all comes down to being obedient to what Christ has called them to do. That IS different for everyone, but I pray the Lord will continue to raise up men and women who will not be ashamed to lift Christ up before others boldly, and without apology.

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  10. Thank you for your comment, Kim. Kudos to you for following your convictions and I'm glad you're finding good Christian fiction to satisfy your fiction craving. I can't tell you how many emails I receive from readers saying, "I liked the story but thank you so much for the spiritual message." I think a lot of readers of Christian fiction are wanting that take-away value in a book and it's a shame we're seeing less and less of it. I hope this trend doesn't continue.

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