Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain

Hey all, 

I'm here with the Teens Can Write, Too, blog chain. This month's question is  “What is something you feel is generally written well in fiction? What is something you feel is generally written poorly?”

This is going to be fun.

First, "What's something generally written-well in fiction?"

Am I the only one who is pretty much done reading stories about writers? I am a writer, but I honestly don’t want to read about a fictional one’s struggle with writer’s block, or dreams to get published, or, worst of all, their brilliant but misunderstood novel.

Maybe it’s just me. But I think we’re pretty well covered in the writers-writing-about-writers camp. Please move on to something else.

For the second half of the question, “What do you think is generally not well done in fiction?” I’m going to expand a bit on the example given in the original post. While I agree that religion often appears in literature, I believe its numerous portrayals could be more diverse and nuanced, rather than falling into stereotypical categories.

A few stereotypes for your enjoyment:

  •  Corny, sinple-minded religious person (TIFIOS)
  • Perverted, creepy religious person (The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavander, The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
  • Hypocritical, closed-minded religious person (Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature, Noggin, Paper Towns)

I’m not here to critique these stereotypes, or even debate their truth. However, I am concerned that religion as a whole is the one subject no longer tolerated in an otherwise open-minded literary world. As far as I know, inspirational fiction is the only genre that has been ghettoized as in its own market, separate from the general market, with its own authors, publishers, and audience. I mean no disrespect--the market itself isn't bad--but the fact that religious fiction more and more is being de facto censored from the mainstream market troubles me. I recall reading a Goodreads comment on one of Fransisco X. Stork’s books complaining because it even mentioned religion, and so was unreadable.  

These opinions don’t bode well for a world in which books help expand our minds to other life experiences and points of view, even those we don’t agree with. LGBT books shouldn't just be read by LGBT readers. Nor, I believe, should religious books be read only by the religious.

Now, to be fair, the burden is as much on religious authors to make their books more accessible to a nonreligious audience by writing with them in mind, but as a writer fascinated by questions of religion in fiction, I hope for a literary community willing to explore these questions with me not only in religious contexts, but in the mainstream market as well.

So if you, like me, are interested in well-rounded characters grappling with the tough yet meaningful question of religion (or well-rounded characters in general), check out these awesome authors:

Sara Zarr (What We Lost)
Han Nolan (When We Were Saints, Send Me Down a Miracle)
Gene Luen Yang (American-Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints)
Dana Reinhardt (A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life)

Now be sure to check out the rest of the chain:

29th – (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

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