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Mind Over Matter

killing me softly

Recently something has come up on a couple of Christian websites that needs to be addressed. Namely, violence in fiction. More specifically, gruesome violence. Not surprisingly the subject quickly found adherents in both camps.

In the first are the … well, call them the "traditionalists", for lack of a better term. Without painting those folks with too broad a brush, they are mainly women, mostly older, who prefer romance fiction, with a likeminded readership. Those ladies like writing, and reading, books with a female lead who is either going through a life crisis or having survived the same, a situation which causes them to meet Mister Right. Or something. If that sounds like I don't understand chick lit, you're probably right. But God bless those that do, and God really bless the houses that seem to produce them in freight car lots.

Next are the Others (sounds like a Lost episode, huh?). I find myself in this group. We're the ones trying to push our books a bit further out. Oddly, this group seems (the operative word being "seems") to be growing more rapidly than the first. Is it because our stuff is better-written? Doubtful; I've recently read some CBA stuff going for "edgy" that was simply poorly-penned dreck with Jesus tacked on. No, I think perhaps it has more to do with this group trying to fill a perceived need: to wit, a dearth of hard-edged fiction that delivers a solid story without "crossing the line" … wherever that is. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Which brings us to violence. What's been going hot and heavy on those other boards is the discussion of "how much is too much." In other words, if a story features a showdown between the hero and the villain, what is its logical conclusion? Does the villain suddenly drop his gun, repent his ill deeds, and vow to Walk the Straight and Narrow Evermore? Or does the said bad guy go for his gun (a fraction of a second too slow) and get drilled through the pump for his trouble? Anyone who's ever seen a John Wayne movie can answer that.

I'll confess, my own stuff tends to the latter resolution. Why? Because the story demands it. Simply put, some villains are no damn good, and will never be (Adolph Hitler, anyone?).

I'll admit the whole thing is as sticky as new paint, and I'll also be the first to admit that having a Christian hero who not only packs a gun, but is willing to use it to defend the powerless, is less than an ideal situation. But we live in a less than ideal world, and sometimes all that's left is to kill a rabid dog rather than trying to reason with it.

At any rate, it's an ongoing conundrum, a debate which has now gotten so heated over so even the secular press is taking note. Where will it end? God knows. He really does, though, and about the best I as a writer can do is write the most honest story I can. Read More 
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