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Stacey Sweeney
10-16-2005, 08:04 AM
Is there such a thing as a rated R Christian book? I'm talking about a book where the main character(s) start off living a very unChristian life and then find God during the story. Is there a list of "rules" for what can and can't be published as "Christian"? The reason I'm asking is because I'm working on the rough draft of a novel about a young girl (teen) who grows up in an abusive home. She gets raped, etc. throughout the book. She drinks, goes through a promiscious period, etc. I'd like to have God be the one to save her in the book, instead of herself or a guy. But I want to keep the book real. I don't want to edit it to the point that it takes the life out of the story. If there is no way it's going to be allowed to be published as a Christian book, then I'll probably keep God out of it so that it has a better chance to be published mainstream. Or try to keep the religion to a minimum so that it doesn't turn readers off. Again though, it's still in the rough draft stage. It may end up going in a different direction by the time it's on it's final draft regardless of what I'm thinking now.
Anyhow, I'd appreciate any input on what is and isn't allowed.
Thanks,
Stacey

kelker11
10-16-2005, 09:43 AM
Hey Stacey,

I'm wondering the same thing. My story starts with the MC in prison. Eventually, he will be saved, or at least that's the plan. I've done a lot of research on prisons, and life there isn't great. So the question becomes how realistic can I be in a Christian novel?

From what I've read and researched, its not so much what happens to the characters, but how we, as writers, present it. For myself, the challenge is writing prison life without cursing, which is taboo in christian fiction. My MC is also pretty rude/crude before God gets ahold of him.

I've read and researched guidelines for christian publishers, and while there seems to be no definitive list of rules, the overwhelming majority seem to insist on presentation being acceptable and non-offensive to Christians, which means no crude language, no graphic sex acts, nothing that would offend in any way.

Can you have a rape victim? Yes, as long as you allude to the rape and not actually describe it. Can the MC be an alcoholic? Yes, as long as its before conversion. Can she sleep around? Again, yes, as long as its before she gets saved. While I'm no expert, that's what I've read.

Seems like the Christian market wants happy 'safe' novels instead of ones that deal with real problems (which I think was addressed in another thread in this forum already). We all realize that God is all powerful, but we're not. Only through Him are we made strong. Once in awhile, it'd be nice to see a MC have the same issues I have before they start a perfect Christian walk into happily ever after.

Hope this helps!
Di

Gravity
10-17-2005, 07:01 AM
For what it's worth, my series of CBA novels feature a very unconventional main character by the name of Joe Box. Joe's a complicated individual. He's a fifty-year-old private investigator, a Vietnam vet, a former cop, a widower, and a dry alcoholic.

He's also newly saved.

In a nutshell, my series features Joe trying to balance his new walk of faith with his admittedly gritty profession. Half the time, even he isn't sure it's going to work. Joe has a temper, a smart mouth, and tendency to (sometime) solve his problems with violence. And amazingly enough, my editor says it's these very qualities that sold the series.

For those of you who've a mind to, the first one, Until the Last Dog Dies, came out last year and is doing well. The sequel (although each can be read as a stand-alone), When Skylarks Fall, came out two weeks ago. The next, To Skin a Cat, will be out next fall. Three more are in the works, and they're all available in both CBA stores (Family, Berean, others), as well as the national chains (Borders, Barnes and Nobel, Books-a-Million, etc.)

All that to say, the CBA is changing. Kicking and screaming, perhaps, but changing.

John

September skies
10-17-2005, 08:29 AM
The Passion of the Christ was rated R -- mainly for sequences of graphic violence. But yes, there are R-rated Christain books and movies.

Jamesaritchie
10-17-2005, 10:00 AM
It depends entirely on what the R really means, and on the particular publisher. Most Christian publishers have very strict guideliens about what is and isn't allowed, and all you can really do is check each publisher and see if any have guidelines that fit your needs.

Tertius
10-17-2005, 06:25 PM
I think you could get pretty raucous without being vulgar. As well, you could be firly explicit without profanity. Essentially, getting the point across is the main focus, and their are any number of ways to do that. Think of all the biblical stuff that you have learned as an adult hat you never learned as a child.
Secondly, I think that faith based lessons like you are referring to, are lacking in the mainstream, so don't lose sight of that outlet. Again,these type books are needed in the mainstream, in my opinion. Feel free to contact me for research, curiosity, etc.

*aside to kelker11* Having been part of a prison ministry, and also having worked in a prison, I have realized that the best audience is the captive one. The saying goes"Jesus lives in hospitals and prisons" Well, it's pretty true, as both desparation and boredom bring us to light. There are a number of books and agencies that cater to prison ministry, and many of them are written by inmates. You may look into those for research.

ldumont999
10-18-2005, 10:46 PM
A book that centers on war is going to be violent because war is violent. But what sort of person generally reads a book about war? Mostly men. What sort of person would usually purchase a book about a Vietnam vet who is a little rough around the edges? Probably a man. Please don't come back and argue with me that you are a woman who would buy this book because I know there are excpetions to every rule. What I'm talking about is general demographics here.

Now, what sort of person might read a book about a teen girl? Young women or girls might buy this book (the rule is that girls like to read books about other girls who are approximately two to five years older than they are). So here is the rub -- violent books for teens won't be pickup in CBA because they won't sell violance to kids and teens. And violent books targeting women readers probably won't be picked up either. Why? Because women who buy in Christian books in Christian bookstores aren't looking for something with violence - even if it is "real."

So... what is the answer? A rape CAN be acturately portrayed without the violent descriptions. It IS harder to do, but it would be worth it to accomplish your purpose.

Just My Humble Observations:gone:

kelker11
10-19-2005, 12:39 AM
Having been part of a prison ministry, and also having worked in a prison, I have realized that the best audience is the captive one.
Tertius "thank you"!! You've given me another avenue of research that hadn't occurred to me before.

----------------------------------------------------------------


And violent books targeting women readers probably won't be picked up either...violent books for teens won't be pickup in CBA because they won't sell violance to kids and teens.
Idumont, Stacey never said the book was targeted for YA, she only mentioned that the storyline starts out with the female MC as a teen. In the secular romance world, there are literally hundreds of books where the women (while still young) were victims of abuse from their fathers, their first husbands, or their boyfriends. The books have rapes and beatings in them, but that's not the main focus of the storylines. The focus is usually about how love overcomes all obstacles. Why isn't that true for Christian fiction since the main focus of almost all Christian books is that God can overcome anything and everything? I asked because my own book starts out with my MC as a child and jumps through time with pivotal stops to see what shaped him into becoming what he is today. There is abuse and violence in his past, but the story is not about those things. Its about how God can change even the most hardened heart.

So I have to respectfully disagreed on this. I believe that ANY topic (whether war, romance, sci-fi, or horror) can be written to appeal to either/both sexes. And if its written tastefully (which isn't always an easy task), then the bad/violent/rough parts can play a pivotal and engrossing role in the storyline without overwhelming the main theme of the book, which is my case is: God forgives, and he expects us to do the same.

But, hey, that's just my two cents worth!

kelker11
10-19-2005, 06:06 AM
For what it's worth, my series of CBA novels feature a very unconventional main character by the name of Joe Box.
Hey John,

I went to Amazon to view your books. Being the kind of person that likes to start at the beginning of a series, I was, of course, interested in Sock Monkey Blues...until I saw your review of the book concerning PA. Have you gotten your rights to the book back yet? Are there any plans to reissue it?

I was amazed at the reviews you got on both SMB and UtLDD...five stars straight across except for your own post on SMB. That's quite a feat! I do plan on checking Joe Box out. Sounds like he's quite an interesting fellow!

Di

Gravity
10-19-2005, 05:05 PM
Thanks for the kind words, kelker. Nope, PA still refuses to return my rights to SMB. I have an attorney working on it, but when you're dealing with a company run by such strange and vindictive people, sometimes it takes a while to get them to see the light. Thanks again.

John

Nateskate
10-19-2005, 08:23 PM
The Song of Solomon. I think in some Jewish Communities they don't allow their kids to read it until they get to a certain age.

Hang of Thursdays
10-20-2005, 12:05 AM
Your argument is that the girl pre-conversion is living a bad life. Bad things happen in a bad life, a life without Jesus. That's the entire point. To have a book where that is the point, but not show the bad things, is intellectually dishonest at worst, and just plain idiotic at best.

As someone above noted, you can do all these things without using foul language, without alluding to specific body parts as they go about their specific functions. Remember what they did in the old movies: when someone had sex, they shut the door, and they went to the next scene.

You need to show the rape, the drug abuse, and to an extent the promiscuity, to make your point that hell yes this girl would be better off with Jesus. That's what makes her ultimate conversion all the more satisfying, that she's come such a long way.

And why CAN'T she do some of these things after her conversion? The road to holiness is a steep and narrow one, and sometimes people fall off. Sometimes they get back on. Sometimes they don't. What if after her conversion she goes to talk to her friend, and gets drawn back into the life again? What if, upon returning to her church, some of the people who lauded her when she rose spurn her when she falls? It'd be a chance to make an important point about forgiveness, and the imperfection of everyone.

kelker11
10-20-2005, 01:54 AM
And why CAN'T she do some of these things after her conversion?
I'm saying upfront: I'm no expert. But there were two christian publishers guidelines that I read that said there should be no 'unchristian' behavior by anyone in the story that had accepted Jesus as Savior...for unbelievers that kind of behavior was acceptable, but not for believers.

Now Hang, I have to agree with you that Christians do have problems. We constantly do things we shouldn't--especially in the beginning of our walk. So why can't we show it in books? Beats me...they're not my guidelines! :)

Hang of Thursdays
10-20-2005, 02:59 AM
I'm saying upfront: I'm no expert. But there were two christian publishers guidelines that I read that said there should be no 'unchristian' behavior by anyone in the story that had accepted Jesus as Savior...for unbelievers that kind of behavior was acceptable, but not for believers.

Well, that's to their detriment, then. Too many people want a simple and neat and positive ending, once and for all. Life ain't like that. And good fiction doesn't always have to tie stuff in a neat and tidy bow.

(And of course you realize that I'm not directing any of this at you, specifically.)

kelker11
10-20-2005, 06:33 AM
Well, that's to their detriment, then. Too many people want a simple and neat and positive ending, once and for all. Life ain't like that. And good fiction doesn't always have to tie stuff in a neat and tidy bow. (And of course you realize that I'm not directing any of this at you, specifically.)
Yes, I do realize that...and I agree with you. That's been my one major complaint with Christian fiction--everything is always wrapped up lickety split by the end of the book, and no one EVER has any real problems to overcome. And if they do have a real problem, then, by George, they'll have an epiphany and waa laa, everything is great.

Going back to Stacey's storyline, I think its a great idea. I have a friend that was sexually abused as a child. She never got counseling. And even now, fifty-something years later, she's still dealing with the emotional trauma of the event. She's saved, but trusting God has always been an issue for her, and I think that has to do with the fact that her parental trust was broken by the sexual abuse her father committed on her. But have you ever EVER seen a christian book showing any type of long term negativity in believers? I haven't, but people do struggle to overcome this type of thing. And I believe it would be beneficial if occasionally fiction relayed the fact that not everything is instantaneously fixed with salvation.

*deep sigh* But maybe that's just me!

Stacey Sweeney
10-20-2005, 08:26 AM
I've been noticing that a lot of mainstream books/authors have God as a part of their story. I just finished a novel by Dean Koontz that had God as a large undercurrent of the story. It wasn't published by a Christian publisher. I think I'm just going to write it the way it needs to be written and hope that it gets published by someone. I can't cut out the scenes or allude to them. It's not real. In real life people are abused, in sick and twisted ways. Christians as well as nonChristians. Christians have babies die, get raped, get robbed, get tortured, etc. I'm sure a great number fall away from God as a result of things like that. And many find God after events that are painful.

Plus, as someone else mentioned, we aren't perfect, Christian or not. We sin, it's part of being human. I've been thinking about it for awhile now and decided that I'd rather have the book be written how I honestly think it should, and sit in a drawer than water it down to fit proper standards. I appreciate all the advice and help from you guys.
Now I guess I need to just get off my butt and get the story wrote.
Stacey

FolkloreFanatic
10-26-2005, 10:27 AM
I would say, 'to thine own voice be true.' Pretending that we don't sin after salvation is simply crap. I know I did (and still do), and it's a constant struggle.

The problem with many Christian publishers (and, to some extent, some Christian conservatives who are very fixed in their ways) is that they believe that if you shelter people from ugly truths, those truths will become non-existent and never bother them again. Not that my future children will be watching R-rated movies at four or anything (The Passion was too violent for ME, and I've seen everything...), but sheltering people from real life because it's scary and uncertain just holds off the emotonal trauma until adulthood, when the floodgates all unleash at once. Then home-schooled kids who have only learned happy endings awaken to this harsh, neutral world and are completely unprepared for life.

Censorship of violence, sexuality, drug use and profanity contributes to the problem. It's the message, not the medium, that Christians ought to consider when critiquing art.

Don't censor yourself to find a happy ending.


[Once I wanted to write an essay debating whether fiction with rape in it (glorified or not) was encouraging people to act out fantasies or deal with past abuse, etc, was it fair to say that women are allowed to have rape fantasies, even as trauma survivors, becuase it allowed them to express repressed emotions--this is quite common, btw, whether they should have happy endings (where the abuser/criminal is caught), why people identify with either the victim or the perp, etc. It caused such an uproar because the press mislabelled it as simply 'rape fantasies' without any context that I never sent the essay in, but the readership of the magazine that issue went through the roof regardless. People were intellectually curious and disappointed that the article wasn't in it.]

DrRita
10-26-2005, 10:52 PM
CBA has their standards and desires to keep them that way. I think instead of trying to change them, as Christians we should be seeking to publish our fiction in the secular arena. What is it with the separatist idea anyway, that we all need to shop, live, work, and do business with exclusively Christian concerns. I think the only thing that should be exclusive is our place of worship The rest is up to us to make smart choices. Jesus didn't hesitate to go out into the world an preach the gospel. If we want to get our message out and do it in ways that is not acceptable to the CBA standards, then go for the secular market. Rub elbows with those who don't know Christ. What is it we are afraid of anyway? Just my take on the situation.

Puddle Jumper
11-02-2005, 08:47 AM
Do books get such ratings? I thought they just classified books as being things like early beginner, young readers, adult. Certainly Christian books can contain things inappropriate for younger readers. Ever read the novel "Dead Air" which deals with satanism? That would be inappropriate for young readers.

Cheryll
11-02-2005, 08:13 PM
CBA has their standards and desires to keep them that way. I think instead of trying to change them, as Christians we should be seeking to publish our fiction in the secular arena. What is it with the separatist idea anyway, that we all need to shop, live, work, and do business with exclusively Christian concerns. I think the only thing that should be exclusive is our place of worship The rest is up to us to make smart choices. Jesus didn't hesitate to go out into the world an preach the gospel. If we want to get our message out and do it in ways that is not acceptable to the CBA standards, then go for the secular market. Rub elbows with those who don't know Christ. What is it we are afraid of anyway? Just my take on the situation.

The problem is that, at least for me, the majority of secular publishers don't want books with a "Christian" theme, but the CBA doesn't think my manuscript is Christian "enough"!

Whatever...

Cheryll

Puddle Jumper
11-03-2005, 08:37 AM
The problem is that, at least for me, the majority of secular publishers don't want books with a "Christian" theme, but the CBA doesn't think my manuscript is Christian "enough"!

Whatever...

Cheryll

Have you tried going through an agent?

wgjones3
11-07-2005, 10:22 PM
What is it with the separatist idea anyway, that we all need to shop, live, work, and do business with exclusively Christian concerns. I think the only thing that should be exclusive is our place of worship

Good point! I've often wondered about the seperatism myself. And I find it wierd that my nearest Family Bookstore carries stuff like Dr. Phil's weight loss book--odd to see the ABA making inroads into CBA retail outlets. Seems the line gets blurred more and more as the need for greater returns gets more pressing.

I feel I've been very fortunate (or blessed) in my dealings with CBA agents/editors. I've gotten what I feel is more than my share of personal feedback and most of it has been extremely positive. But the consensus was pretty much the same--my novel doesn't fit into CBA. I was given a rather extensive list of things to change by one editor, with the caviat that even after the changes, the project was not something he wanted to be associated with.

The story in question is a dark crime centering around the efforts of two detectives to find a sadistic killer who tortures his victims for seven days . Ironically, it wasn't the "icky" nature of the crimes described or the overall "edgy" nature of the story (I guess that would be easy enough to edit out), it was the characterization of the victim's husband--a preacher--that seemed to be the biggest problem. As the only strong professing Christian in the cast, his reaction and the interaction of the detectives with him was apparently offensive as far as CBA preacher characters go.

Don't know if that helps you or not.

I just finished a more mainstream CBA thriller that I hope to market successfully to a CBA agency / publisher. But I will also market my edgier work to a secular market (the irony of which is that my edgy work is majorly tame by ABA standards) and hope that it finds a home there.

Cheryll
11-13-2005, 05:15 PM
CBA has their standards and desires to keep them that way. I think instead of trying to change them, as Christians we should be seeking to publish our fiction in the secular arena.

Rita, I'm beginning to believe more and more that this is the route I'm supposed to take.

Cheryll

DrRita
11-15-2005, 05:18 PM
Rita, I'm beginning to believe more and more that this is the route I'm supposed to take.

Cheryll


Cheryll,


GOOD FOR YOU!!! I am a firm believer in being salt and light. I love Christian books and magazines and so on. They have their place. Even Christian fiction is great. But there comes a time when we have to decide who we want to reach. Christian fiction reaches Christians for the most part. That's great if that's your audience. BUT if our desire is to touch the secular world with the message of Christ, we are going to have to take our little boat out into the ocean and sail with the bigger boats. Jesus did that. We can do that. Cheryll, I think you are probably called to go out there. God is with you, he will lead you and you can trust him to open those doors. God Bless.