"Are we allowed to write in a way that renders the world as it is, or should we soften it, make it more palatable for our parents, priests, and fellow parishioners?"
This morning, I have the privilege of discussing writing at Jennifer Dukes Lee's place. Jennifer asked me whether I'd consider sharing a piece of writing advice with her readers, and I accepted, knowing that my advice might push us all to the edges of our boxes.
I'll say it simply here: write it real. There is a wide world out there, and if we do not do it the justice of describing it accurately, will our writing be believable? If the writing avoids tension, conflict, or opposing viewpoints, will it resonate with the reader? If we write a world that is completely within the bubble of do-right Christian living, are we minimizing the extent of brokenness here, and the power of the gospel to transform it?
I've tried to employ my own advice in pieces like Bremmer's Loss and Rattlesnake Beans. Amber's Love Songs series is another good representation of writing it real. John Blase does it with poems like "Common Tribe." Emily Weirenga brings it in her book, Chasing Silhouettes. (Speaking of which, Emily's latest piece is a stunning reflection of real writing.)
Are these stories uncomfortable? Sometimes. But so were some of David's Psalms; so were sections of the Gospels. It's that discomfort and tension that makes the stories believable.
Join me at Jennifer's place for a more in depth discussion. And in the comments (here or there), feel free to tell us those writers who you think write it real.
I'll go first: I love me some Flannery O'Connor (here's to you Chris Thornton).