Posted in Miscelaneous Musings, The Writing Life

Clean Fiction for All?

A/N: I’d like to apologize in advance if this post offends any of my religious friends in the clean indie writing world with this post.  Additionally, I’d love to hear feedback and other perspectives on the issue I’ve raised.  Please feel free to leave a comment below!

When I browse the web for “clean” fiction, I usually find books that are both clean and faith-based, specifically in the Christian faith.  I don’t see much differentiation between faith-based clean fiction and … regular clean fiction.  I get that there’s a huge demand among certain religious Christian circles for books with minimal “offensive” content and an abundance of positive messages.  But I think I’m living proof that the desire for such books and for positive messages isn’t limited to Christian religious people, or religious people in general.

Several of my writer friends are Christian authors who write clean stories infused with values found in the tenets of their religion; I have the utmost respect for them; they’re lovely people and talented writers; but I’m not sure I’m the ideal audience for their stories.

The thing is, I’m Jewish.  While we have similar views on many things and value religiosity on a whole, we practice different religions and worship in different ways.  I’m just not sure the religious themes in specifically Christian clean fiction are relevant to me.

Digression: Additionally, I’m not particularly interested in faith-based fiction from my own faith.  I could write a whole other post about what I love and don’t love about that genre.  That isn’t to say I don’t love a good, mainstream story where religious Jews, especially Hasidic Jews, are given some positive representation.  But really, faith-oriented fiction just isn’t my thing no matter what faith it’s coming from.

My personal interest in clean fiction has nothing to do with religion or my religious values.   It’s more of a prudish thing.  (Seriously, even my religious Jewish friends think I’m a bit weird for being so “sensitive.”)  I think it’s great that there’s clean fiction from a Christian perspective, available to anyone who wants to read it.  Yes, non-Christians can read it too and, in the process, learn about a faith that isn’t their own.  If they want to do that, okay, that’s cool.  But my concern is that these books seem to be marketed as the only kind of clean fiction, or alongside neutral clean fiction without any differentiation.  Basically, I’d like to see some differentiation made between clean fiction and faith-based clean fiction when they’re being advertised on the indie market.

I try to write clean fiction myself, but I don’t make it my habit to use my books as a medium to educate others about my religion.  The positive messages I try to infuse into my plots don’t necessarily stem from Judaism either, even if many of them happen to be consistent with the ideas found in scholarly works like The Ethics of Our Fathers, or in the Torah itself.  I like to keep things as neutral as possible, because I also know religious people aren’t the only people who like a substantial, quality clean read.

Digression II: Not all religious fiction, by the way, is “clean.”  I’d say The Red Tent by Anita Diaman is a great example of religious (Jewish) fiction that is geared towards mature audiences.  Likewise, there are definitely portions of the Torah, the Books of Prophets, and Writings (aka the “Old Testament” among Christian circles) which are not “G-rated,” even by today’s standards.

My intent as a writer is to tell good stories that anyone can enjoy (whether they’re theists or atheists), not to proselytize or even just inspire people to strengthen their connection with the Almighty.  I feel like that’s none of my business.  Just as I don’t believe it’s my job as a writer to teach young readers about the joys of puberty and procreation, I don’t think it’s my place to teach my readers about religion (or politics, or the Great Pumpkin).  That’s yet another sensitive and intimate matter that, personally, I’d rather gets left to parents (and the religious leaders they trust).

But my intent as a clean fiction writer is probably different from other clean fiction writers.  All the same, I hope that my colleagues in this genre will keep these points in mind as they continue on their noble task of filling the literary world with substantial, clean fiction with all kinds of good values:

  • The niche audience of clean fiction may be slightly more diverse than one might assume from its current offerings.
  • I don’t think it should be assumed that the only audience looking for clean fiction is religious, or of a particular religion at that.
  • If you’re writing and marketing clean fiction that’s specific to any religion, please be upfront about it.
  • Clean fiction religious fiction, even if the two genres can, do, and should intersect.

That said, I think you’re all doing great.  Keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. 🙂

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8 thoughts on “Clean Fiction for All?

  1. I have seen a lot of debate on this among Christian writers. Many don’t like the restraints publishers of “Christian fiction” put on them, even when they are writing specifically Christian books. It isn’t that they all want to put explicit content in their books, often they just want more realism and the freedom to discuss mature topics. Sometimes adult just means adult and not something bad. By the same token, it can be argued that the overuse of graphic violence and sex in some books has become a crutch and example of bad writing. So maybe it becomes an issue of the writer showing restraint and creativity. You’re right though, “clean” fiction doesn’t have to be “religious” fiction. I think there is a growing number of Christian writers who write books where their beliefs inform their work, but not overwhelm it. There is still a big market for explicitly religious fiction, and that’s fine, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi again! I wanted to reply in full to your comment. (Also, I apologize for spelling your name wrong before – autocorrect is the bane of my writerly existence.) I really appreciate the amount of feedback I’m getting on this post – I was a bit hesitant to bring this topic up, but I’m glad I did.

      I’ll admit don’t know enough about the Christian fiction industry to know what standards they have for explicit content. But I think you’re absolutely right, adult content doesn’t always mean X-rated content; sometimes it just means content that kids wouldn’t be able to appreciate or understand.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “But really, faith-oriented fiction just isn’t my thing no matter what faith it’s coming from.”

    SAME. Although I did greatly enjoy The Red Tent, except that it should’ve ended a good fifty pages before it did.

    I don’t look specifically for clean fiction, but definitely I have a limit going the other way. Like I once read this book called “The Lie” because a guy I was dating mentioned it to me, and…nope. There was tons of fairly graphic sex, mostly for purposes of revenge or using people, plus the most sailory of sailor mouths on virtually every character, and most of that vocabulary was used in reference to other characters. I mean, I can take some sex and swearing, but…wow, not like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your input! I’ve yet to read the Red Tent, but I’ve heard good things about it. Perhaps when I’m EVEN older than I am now. 😀

      Wow… I’ve had to become a bit more tolerant of stuff, especially when I’m reading books for school, but we all draw the line somewhere.

      I think there’s a place for “mature content” (which I don’t think includes KidLit), but like all things, it needs to be with responsibility and moderation. The book you’re describing sounds like it was abusing these elements for shock value alone. That’s pretty sick, in my opinion.

      Like

  3. Really good point!! I’m so used to “clean” fiction being more Christian based that sometimes I forget about the different religions (if that doesn’t sound too horrible…). As a writer, I think I’m straying more towards keeping the content clean and not focusing on the outward religion and instead letting the character actions speak for themselves. It’s more natural to let the characters speak for themselves than trying to force and insert your particular brand. And it’s easier to keep it open to more people that way I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, that’s not horrible at all! “As a writer, I think I’m straying more towards keeping the content clean and not focusing on the outward religion and instead letting the character actions speak for themselves.” This is what I enjoyed so much about Adela’s Curse!

      Liked by 1 person

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