There’s been some discussion in the blogosphere lately (see, for instance, this post on Novel Rocket) about whether Christian fiction in general is too sterilized. I generally come down on the “yes” side of that question. What I look for in a novel (overtly Christian or not), what makes it really satisfying to me, is redemption. And it’s pretty tough to write about redemption without writing about sin.
But here’s the other side of the coin: For a story to be believable and engaging, the reader has to enter deeply into the character’s emotions. That means when a character—especially the protagonist—is tempted to sin, and even more so when he or she succumbs to sin, the temptation has to be shown as, well, tempting. If it isn’t, the reader will lose identification, thinking the character is weak or stupid or just plain bad. Whereas if the temptation is rendered convincingly, the reader may think consciously, “This character is acting wrongly and better get his/her act together quick,” but deep down inside the reader will know that he or she, given the same situation, just might act the same way.
So here’s the syllogism:
A) Good fiction must depict sin in order to depict redemption.
B) Good writing requires that readers feel what the character is feeling.
C) Good fiction writing requires that we lead our readers into temptation.
Of course, if we really are writing about redemption, we also lead them out again. And if we honestly believe in what we’re saying, the redemption will end up being more attractive, more compelling, than the sin.
But does that end justify the means? Is it responsible to stir up lust, anger, greed, envy, in order to show them ultimately quelled?
Or is there something wrong with my syllogism?
What do you think?