So I've been thinking about something, struggling with “pros and cons” arguments to help me decide how to proceed with a new story idea. I realized I needed to answer this question:
In a YA (young adult) paranormal set in modern day America where the plot is about a teenage girl's role in the angel-demon war in heaven and on earth, do I or do I not write God into the story? I'm not talking about God as a person who talks and acts. I'm talking about the characters referring to God, that sort of thing.
I was asking God himself what he thought <grin> and it occurred to me that you guys have a wide variety of belief systems and reading preferences. I should get quite a good selection of answers and opinions here. Will you help me? 😀
Here are some of my pros/cons thoughts on the topic:
1. Mainstream publishers, traditional and digital only/first, separate “inspirational” and “not inspirational” mostly along the same lines. If there is a lot of “God stuff,” then there is also little to no swearing, drinking, sex, violence, etc. You can't have both, as if somehow Christian or godly people didn't do those things, or that they all believed the line between okay and not okay was in the same place.
I am more than happy that there are lots of people who read and write that kind of inspirational – sometimes I like it, too – but I disagree that it's the only acceptable way to tell a story with spiritual/faith elements, or the only way to separate stories along the lines of what readers want. This is why I and a lot of other people self-publish – because we want to write stories that are not currently acceptable or marketable per other companies' definitions.
I write about people like me. That means my characters and I are talking to God, complaining to him, asking his opinion, getting ticked off at him, and about fall over with gratitude when our prayers are answered, while at the same time indulging in a little swearing, taking things that aren't ours, saying mean things and gossiping, getting into sexual situations that we know to be contrary to what we believe, and on and on. That's my idea of writing about “real” people. I do think I need to be true to what I really believe about people, but I also want to be true to what I really believe about God. Technically, I *could* write what I want to say with or without direct and numerous references to God. I just don't know that it would be as honest and transparent a story.
2. I could get really creative and write about the angel-demon war in my story without too much reference to God. But it would be an experiment on my part. I can see leaving God out of a lot of things, but how do you leave him out of heaven?? I don't know if it would be as good a story. It would be just another story about interesting other beings that we don't understand and can't control, and that have no bearing on whether life is good or bad except by way of things they do or don't do around us.
That's the direction the TV show Supernatural takes. I love that show, but they make it work by making part of the story equation the fact that God has left heaven, left the angels to do as they will with no direction. It makes for interesting and entertaining stories, but that's not how I see it. God and what's happening around us is all highly connected, regardless of whether we can see it or see it correctly. That is the most interesting part of the story! That we don't really know what's happening, especially what we can't see, and we're trying to figure it out.
3. I've had some people write in reviews of Unexpected Superhero that they didn't like the God-stuff. Some people said they'd probably try the second book before deciding if they would read the whole series. Other people said they were done, they didn't like it at all. Still other people loved it and can't wait to read the rest because they liked having all those things I mentioned earlier together in one book. I figure those are potential mega-fans, the readers I'm most specifically targeting, and I definitely want to make my target audience happy. 🙂
So knowing that I can only please some of the people, and that should be my core group of fans, I've got to decide how to proceed. Once you've said “this is me as an author,” people will expect it. The superhero series will continue the way it began because that's keeping a promise to the reader. When you're about to make a new promise by writing a new series, you get to decide again what precisely you want to promise.
I think this conundrum is very much like several years ago when many authors who were happy to write softer love scenes were pushed by their publishers to write more graphic scenes. Some writers liked the freedom, others hated the push. It's similar to an author deciding if they are or aren't going to write a certain amount of violence. Who was it who said a few years ago that she sort of had to leave the romance genre because her publishers didn't want to allow as much violence as she put in? But leaving opened up a whole new audience for her and she's now a big thriller writer.
I know what it comes down to is doing what I am comfortable with. BUT…if I'm comfortable with a little or a lot of X (in this case “God stuff”), how do I make a decision that will please the largest number of fans I already have, and hopefully build on that as well? For this series, I have to decide if I can and want to write a series about the effects on earth of the war in heaven without too many direct references to God. Or I need to relax and believe that my audience likes lots of things that I like, and make it a really kick-butt book with lots of scary and interesting supernatural stuff.
Since many of you have read my stories (because you're awesome!), I figure you are some of the best people to ask. What do you think? What do you think you would most enjoy reading in an a series about an angel-demon war?
I hate to beg, but I really hope some of you will reply. 🙂 I love talking about the deeper, esoteric reasons behind why we write and read stories. And I have to make a decision that is rooted in the deep reasons why I write. I'd love to have other opinions to think about as I work through this.
Thanks so much, my friends! I hope you enjoy talking about this, too. Either way, thanks for listening and double-thanks for replying!