Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, April 21, 2006

Farewell . . .

Sadly, this will be my last blog for Six LDS Writers and a Frog. I'm afraid my schedule has been so insane I had to start carving things out. I'm really going to miss being involved in this project as I feel it to be very worthwhile, not to mention a lot of fun.

So my last thoughts on writing for those aching to launch themselves into the business.

Have you ever heard of the "crab syndrome"? It goes something like this. If someone within the circle of your family, friends or culture actually achieves some success outside of the aforementioned family, friends or culture, they immediately try to drag you back down to the level of their medocrity.

Some examples:

Kool and the Gang. Now I know I'm dating myself here, but Celebration (the song) was one of my favorites when I was in high school. Kool and the Gang is a classic rhythm and blues band. When they crossed over and achieved success after success they were called "Sell Outs."

Rod Stewart. A rocker from way back. When he crossed over with "So You Think I'm Sexy", he too was called a "Sell Out."

Why? Because they achieved success beyond their wildest dreams and their peers simply couldn't handle it. In other words, they were jealous.

How does this apply to writers? It's simple - don't limit yourselves. By virtue of being writers, you are most likely readers as well. Readers launch themselves into a universe non-readers will never enter. Their imaginations soar up and above the mundane, allowing the reader to immerse themselves in worlds of suspense, romance, magic, dragons, heroes, villains and so much more. So why, when you start writing, would you limit yourselves to what is expected.

You've worked hard your entire lives to hone your craft and become good enough to see your name on the cover of a book on the shelves of a store. That's an accomplishment. I've heard people tell me I've "settled" because I chose to publish within the LDS market. I didn't settle at all. I made a conscious choice. I wanted to write romantic suspense. I couldn't do that in the national market without including sex scenes (check out the submission guidelines sometime). I am not a Sunday Mormon - I live what I believe. So there was no way I was going to compromise my principles by publishing in the national market and rationalizing to myself as to why I included scenes I don't approve of . . . so, no, I did not settle. I made a choice.

So sit down and decide who and what you want to be. Outline what you have to do to accomplish that goal and let no one, no thing, no circumstance prevent you from accomplishing.

Kerry Lynn Blair will be taking over for me now. She'll do a marvelous job and you'll enjoy her blogs. Goodbye and good luck. I'll still be checking the blogs and commenting on occassion, so don't think you got rid of me for good!


At 4/22/2006 3:27 AM, Blogger C.L. Hanson said...

Excuse me for saying this, but it's funny how fixated LDS writers seem to be on sex. Here, and in the blog entry plugging LDS fiction below, the fact that the protagonists in a romance won't be doing it seems to be a big factor in what separates LDS fiction from non-LDS fiction. The same thing was mentioned over on "A Motley Vision" in this interview with an LDS author of vampire novels: Interview: Twilight author Stephanie Meyer.

Now I know you're going to say that it's not you that's fixated on the absence of sex, it's the market that's fixated on putting it in, and you refuse. Still, this point comes up so frequently, far more than any other distinction. Surely there are other things that make LDS fiction stand out from non-LDS fiction, aren't there?

To explain my bias, I'll tell you that there's sex in my novel. Yet I certainly didn't just throw a bunch of irrelevant sex scenes in to make the novel more marketable. I only included as much detail as was necessary and relevant to the story I'm trying to tell. If anything it limits my market because it prevents me from marketing the novel to teens.

Sexuality is a major theme in my novel because it's a comedy about the interplay between relationships and religion. It hit me the other day that in addition to my novel's three sex scenes, it also has three non-sex scenes, in which an LDS character is presented with a tempting opportunity and refuses. (The novel has a number of intertwined sub-romances, and all six situations are all very, very different from one another.)

At 4/22/2006 8:14 AM, Blogger Candace E. Salima said...

I find this to be yet another rationale of why it's okay to include sex in a novel. The LDS market exists solely and completely to promote the values so prevalent within our own culture. Just because you've written a story that calls for sex, doesn't mean you have to include it. You can intimate it, you refer to it but you do not, under any circumstances, need to include it. Just because you included an LDS character who chose not to participate doesn't make it right. So while, I'm assuming, you are trying to get some point across about religion and sexuality, it is somewhat obscured by the hot and bothered reaction of the teens to the details of sex. It somewhat defeats the purpose, if that was your purpose.

I don't think LDS writeres fixated on it at all. I was simply explaining why I chose to stick with the LDS market because of the genre I selected. It is a valid reason, one by the way, which I would feel very comfortable explaining to the Lord, the prophet or my mother and feeling justified in doing so.

I'll admit, I don't know who you are, so I don't know if I've read your books or to what degree you've gone in your descriptions of sex scenes. Books targeted for the teen market are not the first one's I pick up. Therefore, I don't know how explicit your sex scenes are. But for the sake of argument, let's say they are as explicit as the ones in national romance or romantic suspense. If they are, you've done a disservice to yourself and others as a Latter-day Saint.

I end with the words of Elder Dallin H. Oakes:

“Pornographic or erotic stories and pictures are worse than filthy or polluted food. The body has defenses to rid itself of unwholesome food. With a few fatal exceptions, bad food will only make you sick but do no permanent harm. In contrast, a person who feasts upon filthy stories or pornographic or erotic pictures and literature records them in this marvelous retrieval system we call a brain. The brain won’t vomit back filth. Once recorded, it will always remain subject to recall, flashing its perverted images across your mind and drawing you away from the wholesome things in life.”

At 4/22/2006 1:58 PM, Blogger C.L. Hanson said...

Well, we have a slightly different perspective here. The thing is that I don't believe in God or in sin, so I don't think it is inherently wrong to describe sex or sexuality. When I include LDS characters who refuse to have premarital sex, I'm just going for accuracy. I'm not saying that they should or shouldn't have sex, I'm just saying that in such-and-such a situation this character would, this other character would not.

Anyway, I recognize that this blog here is a space for believers, that you all here are all believers and that your faith is important to you. I respect that. I'm really sincerely not trying to disrespect or insult your beliefs by commenting here. I'm just trying to have a discussion about ideas and opinions.

I think you guys have some interesting things to say, so I really hope you don't see my comments here as an unwelcome intrusion even if my perspective is very different from yours. :D

At 4/22/2006 2:29 PM, Blogger Darvell Hunt said...

We'll miss you Candace. I can't believe that you already do as much as you do. You're a great example to a lot of us.

Keep up the good work, even if you're no longer going to be covorting with little green reptiles.

Darvell Hunt

At 4/22/2006 8:25 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

You will be truly missed, Candace. I hope you do stick around and comment when you get the chance.

At 4/22/2006 8:58 PM, Blogger Candace E. Salima said...

C.L. Hansen,

I guess if you don't believe in God or sin, then you don't believe in consequences. As sad as I find your lack of belief, I hope that you are happy. Simply realize that when chatting with people who are still members of the church that they will not agree with those who have left the church and eschewed all they believe in. So allow us to have our beliefs, values, understanding of sin and consequence and we will allow you to have yours. But do not denigrate our beliefs or values because we choose to focus on something that will promote goodness in the world instead of promoting promiscuity and a life free of consequence.

I hope for you peace and comfort in your life.

At 4/22/2006 8:59 PM, Blogger Candace E. Salima said...

Sariah & Darvell,

I will miss doing this as well. But I will check in every week as I have so much enjoyed the daily blogs which are posted.

I also look forward to both of your books hitting the market. I'm so pleased for both of you.

Hopefully I will continue to get all the comments even though I will not be blogging anymore.

At 4/22/2006 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The thing is that I don't believe in God or in sin, so..."

*cough* COP OUT *cough*

At 4/23/2006 2:08 AM, Blogger C.L. Hanson said...

It doesn't bother me to have a discussion with people who disagree with me or even with people who see my views as bad or wrong. If it did bother me, then I would be pretty stupid to be posting comments on LDS blogs, wouldn't I? lol

I just happen to be interested in LDS literature, so I think it's kind of fun to discuss it even with people whose worldview is very different from mine.

That said, if I'm annoying you guys, I can be persuaded to go away peacefully and leave you alone... :D

At 4/23/2006 6:40 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

To C.L. Hanson,

You're not annoying us. We welcome comments from differing viewpoints.

But one of the bedrock features of LDS fiction is that it is free of graphic sexual depictions. Yes, there are other things that distinguish the genre, in differing degrees (for instance, some LDS novels contain lots of religious references; others contain very few). But one thing that LDS publishers promise their readers is a clean read. Those of us who write LDS fiction simply do not and will not include graphic depictions of sexuality in our work. We write for a very specific audience, an audience that regards sex as a sacred, private matter between a husband and wife. When sex is included in an LDS novel, it's hinted at, not described, and extramarital sex is never condoned (if an extramarital relationship plays a part in the plot, it is presented in such a way that it's clear the author is not condoning the characters' actions.)

We're not "fixated" on sex. But we live in a culture pervaded by sexuality (a fact brought home to me when I went into a teen clothing shop a few months back--aiyee!!!) So the fact that our books are guaranteed clean IS a big deal.

I understand that you don't believe that right or wrong exist, so I'll put it in marketing terms: if we put sex in our novels, we lose our audience.

At 4/24/2006 12:07 PM, Blogger jmm43 said...

Not only do I not enjoy books with sex scenes due to religious reasons, but i also believe that by having characters jump in and out of bed breaks sexual tension, which I believe hinders the romance rather than enhances it. I personally believe classics like "Pride and Prejudice" are so romantic and so powerful because of the sexual tension that is constantly building. It is completely lost if they fall into bed, and the rest of the book is them trying to fall in love.

I believe most people implicitly recognize this when they talk about their favorite books/movies. Even if you take a look at AFI's list of 100 most passionate films the majority of them, especially the ones at the top, are older movies that brushed over the sex, held out on the sex, or had it be implied. This is because the tension builds the romance and as a result we become more emotionally involved in the lives of the characters.

I also think all too often the sex in novels is completely unnecessary. It is rationalized as helping to build a character, for instance Dan Brown's Assassin in "Angels and Demons". Do we really need to know about his exploits in brothels? Does it add to the story? Could we understand the depravity for life the hassassin carries with him without the sex scenes?

That is all.


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