Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Sex Problem

As I'm writing the prequel to Dragons in our Midst, I'm realizing that the story I want to tell cannot be fully understood without explaining some sexually provocative details. Of course I can't do that in young adult fantasy in the Christian market. And I don't want to do that anyway. I have a desire to protect young readers from an infusion of sensual thoughts in this already sex-saturated culture.

It's kind of strange, though, that the Bible is not too skittish about giving us some provocative stories. Just yesterday, in our family devotions, our Old Testament reading came from Genesis 38, and there's some pretty edgy stuff in that chapter. The details seemed important enough to include, and they gave us crucial insight into the family situation. I wonder if such a story would be publishable in the Christian market.

But, I digress.

The challenge for me is to write the story in such a way that adult readers and more mature young readers will be able to figure out what's going on, but readers who are too young to benefit from the details or might be upset by them would not catch the underlying meanings. (That was a mouthful!) I tried to do this in Circles of Seven when Billy had to face a temptation to lust, and I think it worked out well.

This new story, however, presents a more difficult challenge. The reason for the existence of a continuing antagonist requires an aberrant sexual union between an established evildoer in my story and a Bible character of ill repute. Don't hit me with the heresy club yet. This union is well within reasonable interpretation principles. The problem will be presenting this source of evil without writing anything provocative or titillating, while at the same time giving the feeling that something very evil is taking place. The sense of darkness is necessary, but I don't want any of that darkness to be left in my readers' minds.

If anyone else has gone through this process, I would appreciate any hints on what you did to pull it off.


Galactic Overlord-In-Chief said...

I haven't encountered this problem yet, though I suspect I may at some future date. I have given it some thought, though.

These kinds of relationships can be based on strong emotion, such as desire or simply pleasure, without the spirtual commitment to each other. I suppose one way to handle this is to take those emotions and cut out the sexual details. You would subsitute say, "fun" for sex. You could also ask yourself, "what is the basis of their union?" Or, "what does each person base their relationship on?" Perhaps even "what does one see in the other?" It could be something as simple as she likes long brown hair, or he comes off better compared to others that are not worth her time. Maybe he's rich or something. Actually, they may not even care, and they happened to be there at the same time! But anyway, I think the idea is to find something to put in place of sexual detail. Maybe she really does just does it for money or riches, and you can show her getting significantly more wealth at times.

Also, you mentioned the question of pointing out that this relationship is rooted in darkness. In that case, I think one approach would be to take out any detail that would make it seem attractive, and focus on the harm it can cause. Actually, such unions are not unlike forms of dependency. Someone hooked on drugs may be getting pleasure, but he is also destroying himself in the process. I think the message would be, "this is not fun at all, and these people are causing great harm by their actions." Then you find a way to illustrate that. The same idea would apply to whatever message you are thinking about in regard to these two characters.

As far as Circles of Seven, I thought the scene was very, very mild as far as any seductive details. I don't think any young reader would have a problem with it.

BeckyJoie said...

I am facing that same question. Although my Christian genre is for adults, there are still big limitations for the same reasons as in your genre. I thought galactic overlord-in-chief had interesting ideas. I would also like to see what you end up doing. If I could wait and learn before I finish my book, I would but I guess I'll have to figure it out myself as I'm writing at the same time you are, LOL. (Blabber, blabber, LOL)

Carol Collett said...

This is a tough question and one that the happy medium may not be the best way to go.
Bryan, I've ready your Dragon books. You write honest, real, and tough. You haven't sugar-coated yet.
While I realize that kids don't need intense graphics--(I'm a pediatric nurse by day-I can tell you how much kids don't need intense graphics!)--I know kids need the truth. What is the truth in your story? If the characters are experiencing sexually provocative thoughts, and it's integral to the story, find a way to explore it tastefully. After all, your audience is going to have to deal with those thoughts and sensations-if they aren't already. Seeing a character they like struggle through it and come out on the side of grace might lead one of your readers to make a better choice.
Praying for you!

jon-in-atlanta said...

Bryan, thanks for your sensitivity to this subject. I don't have a suggestion, but wanted to give one parent's perspective. Our 11 year old son is a voracious reader. There are not enough good books in your genre, so we're thrilled with your series - - it's his favorite and that makes me happy. We work hard to "train up" our 3 sons, and when we allow them to read an author's work, we're entrusting your stewardship. Thank you for your work and care. God bless.

Clefspeare said...


Thank you for the encouragement. As a father of seven, I know how you feel about training up our sons (and daughters, too).

Now that the new book is almost finished, I am pleased with the way this issue has worked out. It will be interesting to see how others will react to what I've done.