Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How Dark Should Christian Fiction Go?

How dark is too dark in Christian fiction? Before we can answer that question, we need some idea of what dark fiction is.

What is Dark Fiction?

Dark is devoid of light. It also refers to evil, or something that is dismal or gloomy. All of these are somewhat related, so when we talk about dark fiction we are talking about stories that deal primarily with evil and/or are without hope. Suppose our story is about a drug dealer who eventually kills a pastor who has been standing against the drug dealer while sleeping with the drug dealer’s wife. With two evil men as our protagonist and antagonist, there is a strong possibility that the story will turn out dark. To insure that the story is dark, we could focus our attention on the shadier parts of the story, showing the drug dealer carrying out his business with the children in the area, showing the pastor sneaking around with the drug dealer’s wife. The more emphasis we place on the evil, the darker the story becomes.

Some people describe dark fiction as being disturbing in nature. Instead of leaving the reader with a warm fuzzy feeling because all is right with the world, dark fiction leaves the reader with the notion that something is still wrong. In our example above, if the drug dealer is killed in a shootout with the police when they go to arrest him for the pastor’s killing and his wife is left without any means of support, that may be very true to life and it may be the closest we can get to the good guys winning, but it won’t leave us feeling great about the ending.

Dark Christian Fiction

Christian Fiction is supposed to promote biblical principles. This doesn’t mean that Christian Fiction can’t be dark fiction. In fact, much of the Christian Fiction I have seen recently is rather dark in nature. This isn’t to say that it is as dark as it could be, but there are some very dark subjects out there. Novels dealing with the end time are dark, since there isn’t much hope for the world at that point. Stories dealing with demons are dark. Suspense novels are typically dark, as they deal with someone who is about to kill the main character.

From a publishing standpoint, I don’t know how dark Christian publishers will allow Christian Fiction to go, but there are many dark fiction novels mixed in with the light and airy romance, historical and chic-lit novels. I am more concerned with how dark I as a writer am willing to go with a story.

How Dark Should Christian Fiction Go?

Christian Fiction can range from very dark to very light and still promote biblical principles. Every character and every action could be evil or we could have a cast of born again believers. We don’t want every character to be perfect and never do anything wrong, but neither do we want every character to be pure evil and never do anything right. So there must be a limit to how dark we want to go.

If we are going to write dark Christian fiction, we need at least one character who will serve as the moral center of our story. He doesn’t have to be a good guy. In fact, he could be a legalistic hypocrite who is quick to point out the sins of others while committing those sins himself. He could even make fun of Christians for their beliefs, but his primary purpose is to provide a conduit through which we can pass the reader the truth of the situation, showing what the characters are doing and telling them what God thinks about it.

Sex scenes are a problem. If the story is dark, the characters may have sex, but how can we promote biblical principles while describing sexually arousing scenes? On that front, I figure that if a scene doesn’t go into more sexually arousing detail than the Song of Solomon, then it hasn’t gone too far. Although, the Song of Solomon doesn’t go nearly as far as what some people seem to think it does, and the Song of Solomon isn’t dark, which has its own impact on reducing the sexually arousing nature of its content.

More than that, one of the problems I have with dark fiction right now is that I personally don’t want to be so deeply immersed in a dark world. In Philippians 4:8, we are encouraged to meditate on those things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. At best, dark fiction may be true, but it falls short of the other things. Its lack of hope tends to beat us down rather than building us up. We need hope.