So who are you writing for?

Previously I asked if you would keep writing, even if you knew you’d never strike it rich. With the debate still smouldering over at Mike Duran’s blog: deCompose I’m curious who it is you’re writing for?

We can throw marketing phrases around if you like: target demographic, market niche, potential audience… but who do you imagine actually sitting down with your book and reading it to the last page?

I’m open about my desire to write a science fiction action novel that contained authentic Christians and Christianity. I was sick and tired of brain-washed, brain-dead believers and villainous, inconsistent theology. I don’t believe a SpecFiction novel is the place for a sermon, (you can listen to my sermons online if you really want) but I weighed in against what I perceive as the usual sci-fi trope. I made an effort, however clumsily, to keep such themes and characters organic and un-contrived. Whether I succeeded is up for debate, but that was one of my prime motivations.

I also didn’t shy away from violence, profanity, or non-believing/other-faith characters. There are tons of reasons, but my imagined audience of milscifi/thriller genre-readers are not stupid folks. They deserve more than a heavy-handed didactic, an artificial evangelical scenario, or a refried Shadowrun RPG module.

My story-telling approach obviously stems from my worldview and how I perceive my faith integrating into reality. We don’t live in a Christian world. A sizable percentage of the world’s population aren’t Christians. A tiny fraction fall in the “Evangelical Christian” category, and I’m unconvinced America is a “christian” country. (And No, I’m not in the ‘blame-America-first’ crowd.)

What I’m saying is honesty compelled me to be explicit about both my characters’ faith and their world’s flaws. I owed it to readers of genre fiction, to my conscience, and yes, to the ultimate Audience of One. Deliberately including positive references to Christianity is vastly different than being inherently dishonest and playing coy, clever, or contrived, and with lies being another being’s native language, I had a greater conviction in that area.

The on-going debate over Christian fiction has moved beyond publishing house standards and specific market expectations into a more foundational realm of how we act and react to God and our fallen world. Now it torques my bolts to discover some of more vociferous opinions harken from individuals who don’t even write!(That’s people for you, eh? ) But the question remains: who are you writing for?

I think a frank answer there would go a long way to clarifying the issues and cooling some attitudes.

3 Replies to “So who are you writing for?”

  1. I would not know for sure. I am many things, but writer is not one of them.

    Perhaps you write for yourself? You have a story to tell? You want to portray Christians in a gritty real world environment?

  2. Go with what you know. It’s perfectly legitimate to write the stories God gives you, as an offering, a recognition, of them and Him.

    Tolkien wanted to try writing an epic tale and was surprised so many people liked it. C.S. Lewis was the same, never imagining it would become a series. And didn’t Harry Potter start out as a bed-time story told by a struggling part-time waitress to her kid? (I know some folks would say H.P. wasn’t from God, but that’s another debate for another day)

    Point is, you’re a writer if you write, and I think if you’ve got stories bouncing around in your head, you should take the time to write them out and develop that gift. It isn’t given to everyone.

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