Friday, May 28, 2010

Not Living Up

Some time ago, Randy Alcorn posted a video about pornography. He likened giving a seventh grader unrestricted access to the Internet to buying a stack of pornographic magazines and storing them in his closet. In his comments he also talks about how men who have been looking at the airbrushed images they find in magazines will compare how their wives look to those images and their wives will never measure up.

It got me to thinking about the books we write. Granted, a lot of romance books are mildly pornographic, but instead of thinking about that, consider the way we portray other things in our books. After reading our books, do people compare their own lives to the lives of our characters and regret that their lives don’t measure up? Consider the woman who reads a book about a couple. The man woos the woman with flowers and chocolates and by being attentive to her. The woman in the book returns the sentiment by cooking a nice meal, setting candles on the table. They talk late into the evening by a blazing fire. So the woman closes the book and decides to try the same with her husband. She spend hours fixing a great meal. She puts candles on the table. She puts on a nice dress, the kind that she probably shouldn’t wear in public. When her husband comes home she lights the candles and turns off the lights. He walks in and flips the switch. “What are you doing in the dark? Is that ham? I had ham for dinner. And I need your help outside, so you might want to change clothes.”

How many women would translate the man’s actions into “he doesn’t love me” when in fact he spent a long day at work so that she could afford to stay at home and read? He needs help outside because he is going to work on her car. And if she had given him enough warning that she was hoping for a candle lit dinner, he would have left the lights off.

We create idealized characters and people in real life don’t measure up. I can’t help but wonder if some of the characters we create aren’t causing people problems because their lives don’t work out as nicely as our characters’ lives. We have to be careful about how we portray the success that comes from doing the right things. It is tempting to have a character go through a story rejecting God then reach a point where he falls on his knees in prayer and everything works out fine. That’s rarely the way it works in real life. Yes, God takes care of those who worship him. Yes, God answers prayer. But God’s answers don’t always come in the way we might expect. If we aren’t careful, we will convince our readers that they do and they will be disappointed when they don’t get that new care they’ve been praying for or the hot girlfriend from down the street.