Monday, August 12, 2013

A funny thing happened on my way to hell...

Writing a story about angels can get tricky.

Those winged critters are irrevocably linked with religion, and few topics inspire more passion, both positive and negative.

I knew this going in, and I knew I'd have to tread carefully. But not too carefully, because that's just, you know, boring.

I really didn't worry about offending someone, because of course I was going to offend someone. Hell, I could manage that walking the dog in my pajamas or driving barefoot.

Still, I did make a conscious effort to weave a respectful tone throughout the story, in regard to the spiritual aspects. I didn't do that because I felt I had to, I did that because it's part of the plot, I'm not an asshat, and I hold genuine respect for my own beliefs and those of others. That being said...

My characters are opinionated bastards who don't always share my views.

Despite mental preparation for such an event, I was a bit stunned when an acquaintance of mine - who happens to be very devout - gave me back the autographed book I gifted him. He only read a few chapters before deciding it wasn't his thing. Fair enough. I was disappointed on a personal level, but not angry or upset. I don't even want to imagine a world where everyone likes and dislikes the same things. And I appreciated the honesty. I'll take Hard Truth over Easy Lie for eternity, Alex.

Then The Incident happened.

Devout Acquaintance started listing aspects of the story he didn't like, and they all centered around my interpretation and representation of certain religious aspects. He told me where I was wrong and had a list of bible verses to prove it. An actual list. Hand-written. In bullet form.

Upon further discussion, I discovered Devout Acquaintance assumed that what I wrote in my book was a reflection of my own beliefs. Beliefs that might be my one-way ticket to a fiery afterlife, and he assumed (rightly this time) that I was more of a pro-heaven type of gal.

I did my best to explain. Had I been writing Christian fiction, I would've followed religious canon, but I felt no such obligation with Urban Fantasy.

Sadly, I think my words bounced off and went spinning into space like a rogue asteroid. I disengaged as quickly as possible, but my retreat wasn't nearly as cool as I would've liked. Think stammering, awkward smile, fumbling with my phone and pretending to get a text. Smooth as an elbow to the boob.

I've thought about The Incident a lot, much more than I'd like to admit. It's weird. I've received all sorts of feedback on the story - positive and not so positive, glowing reviews and harsh reviews and everything in between.

handled it all pretty well, but for some reason, the assumption that I was trashing religious belief really, really got to me - so much that I'm blogging about The Incident nearly a year after it occurred. Closure. Get some. I know.

I'm not angry, just a little butthurt because I know that's not what I'm about, and it's not what Fires of Providence is about, either. But short of putting a warning label on the cover, there's not much I can do. Five hundred readers, five hundred views, that sort of thing. I get it.

What I'm trying to say is this: if I do something or say something or write something that could be interpreted in different ways, I hope people choose  the one that doesn't piss 'em off. Because that's probably what I was going for. :)

~ Dawn


  1. I guess I understand what you mean to a certain extent, except that for me, it's coming from a reader's point of view. Yes, that means that I take great care when recommending books to friends, especially to devout friends because I don't want them to think that I'm going atheist or something. There was this once when a friend actually had an argument with me because she was convinced that if I liked a book of that nature, I was condemned to go to hell. I don't quite remember how I backed out of that argument, but it wasn't all that great.

    Like you, I'm not exactly angry. Far from that, I'm actually touched that she was so concerned about me because a lesser friend wouldn't have cared if I was going to spend the rest of eternity in hell. I just feel hurt that the others would think that I'm such a weak minded fool that I'll believe the first thing I read in a storybook.

    Just because I like a book, it doesn't mean that I believe everything in it. It simply means that there are certain things in the book that I like and I'm choosing to focus only on that. I mean, hey, it's FICTION! If I'm really going to believe everything in a book, I'd say all of the books in SFF are a load of blasphemy.

    The worse part is, I'm supposed to be condemned to hell because I like a book about angels and at the same time, I'm a spoil sport because I did not support the ideals of an anime character who believes that killing one to save hundreds is the right thing to do. What?

    1. How did I not get a notification from Blogger about this? Probably need to check my settings. *facepalm*

      I know exactly what you mean. As a fan of fantasy for as long as I can remember, I've always had someone quick to tell me why I wrong to like such things.

      I remember waiting in line with my kids for the first Harry Potter movie, and a woman came by with a handful of brochures about Heaven and Hell and witchcraft and handed me one. I was stunned - mostly because I remembered being 7 years old, waiting in line for Star Wars with my dad, and he had almost the exact same experience with a gentleman from our Church!
      I called my dad right after the movie, utterly amazed at how some things hadn't changed, even after 25 years-ish. But that's a testament to faith, and I can't be upset because like you said. people obviously care or they wouldn't say anything.

      It feels a bit strange being on the other side, knowing that someone might think I'm part of the problem, trying to actively lead the world away from righteousness or whatnot.
      This will sound bad, but my first thought was actually "I WISH I had the number of readers to pull off something like that!" :)

  2. Great post. It is amazing how many readers assume that the opinions of characters must necessarily be those of the author. We all read according to our own experience and outlook, but somehow this gets forgotten sometimes in black-and-white thinking. One reviewer of my last book took issue with what she saw as my "anti-abortion" message. That was certainly news to me as I had intended no message of any kind, only the response of a particular character to a particular situation. The interpretation was entirely in the mind of the reviewer.

    On the plus side, it does show that a reader has really engaged with the book.

    1. I would've replied sooner, but I guess I turned off notifications.

      It's amazing how much of our own beliefs and experiences influence our reading, I think that's why I've always preferred books over other forms of entertainment and why I love talking books with others. The fluidity of perception is amazing, and I often come away from a book discussion with greater understanding of the other person, and even myself.
      As a writer, I sometimes feel odd when a reader sees something I didn't intend, but in the end, I'd never want it any other way. And like you mentioned, it's wonderful to know a reader has formed a connection with the story! <3