Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Violent Stories for a Christian Guy, Part 2

In my last entry I defined what a Christian is as compared to those who call themselves Christian.

Today I want to answer the primary question of “How can you write such sex, swearing and violence and yet call call yourself Christian?”

Well, first off let me answer by saying that I have two hard and fast rules in my writing. I never use those English words considered the most foul or sexually derogatory i.e. F**k and C**t. And there are no graphic sex scenes. So, if you thought you read or heard either of the above, it was all in your own head, not in my book. That being said, other swear words are used through out the dialogue as is common in English, although my heroes seldom swear. They don’t need to, they’re too cool for that kinda talk. And there may be a bit of what a friend calls “psychological nudity” but only as required by the description.

(there was a rape scene in Karl’s Last Flight, but it didn’t get too far before the hero stepped in)

Why write that kind of stuff at all? The answer to this is simple.

I am writing something very close to reality.

Often times, especially here in America, we are fed a version of the world that is not at all realistic. The images of violence we see in movies are either too clean and bloodless, or go way over board on the blood and gore. Things are over sexed to the point of being raunchy, or so squeaky clean they represent a fantasy world akin to a pre-schooler’s cartoon. Not that there’s a problem with that, but my target audience is men and women aged 18-45, and they aren’t buying stories about purple dinosaurs and rainbow coloured ponies. Therefore I have tried to find a place in the middle, the place where the reality actually lies.

What I don’t want is for some one to read my books and walk away thinking that the trauma and hardships my characters overcome can be taken care of easily just because they are the good guys. I want them to go through the whole book wondering how in the world the hero or heroine is going to survive, or even if they are going to survive. If you notice, all of my good guys end up getting hurt to some degree. They feel weak, they get tired, they are scared at times.

I want my readers to understand that the heroes in my stories got to the point where they could take care of themselves in horrific situations because they worked hard at staying fit and when the trouble hit the fan they made a hard decision and took take sides in the drama that unfolded. They cannot be wishy-washy, or half-ready. That state of being would simply get them killed.

The converse is that I also don’t want my readers thinking “There is no way that can happen, people just don’t have that much blood or guts in their bodies.” Or, “No one is that strong.” Etc.

I want my story to be believable. I want the violence to be realistic. When a person hits another person with their fist that fist hurts. They may even break a knuckle or a finger. If you get punched in the stomach, unless you managed to tighten you abdominal muscles just in time, you’re probably going to puke or at least get the wind knocked out of you. There might even be broken ribs and will almost certainly be a serious bruise. My characters, those who are combat trained warriors, are smart enough to know that combat should always be considered a fight to the death whether it ends that way not. They don’t shoot to injure someone. They shoot to kill.
I try and research every thing I write to make sure I set the scene as realistically as possible. Whether it is the climate of the Somali desert or the wooden house boats of the Mokken people I do everything I can to not have to make things up when it comes realism. And even the things I do make up, such as the bio-weapon in 65-Below are as close to real as I can make them. In the case of 65 Below, I had a biologist and a geneticist review my work to make sure it was plausible.

The fight scenes I paint are as realistic as I can make them and still put them down on paper. I have had combat veterans from around the world write to me and say how some of the stories captured them and brought back memories of what it was really like in the Jungles of Vietnam or Africa. Scenes like those from Burma in Karl’s Last Flight, or the short stories 1917 and The First Time (from the In The Shadows podcast) elicited a whole slew of letters from people who have been there.

What I am trying to say is that the violence in my stories, while quite graphic, is certainly not overblown. The stories do not glorify violence, foul language or sex. They merely portray it as it is. And yes I do actually hold back sometimes, because real is sometimes just too gross.

In that sense I do not claim to be a Christian writer. I am just a writer, with a Christian worldview. Not all of my characters share that world view. Liam does. Kharzai does not, that’s for sure. Mojo is mostly on board, Lonnie is close too. Farris is probably the strongest adherent to Christianity I will ever write. Because I am writing real world.

And reality is just that: Real.

And if the realism makes you look over your shoulder when the next time you walk down a dark street, well…that’s all part of the plan.
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