As I look back over the stories I’ve written since I began my little foray into submitting for publication, it bothers me a little that a sizable fraction of them have a fairly dark edge. Granted, a good story needs some conflict, and conflict frequently involves a struggle between good and evil, but I consider myself a fairly lighthearted, optimistic person, and some of this stuff is definitely not rainbows and lemonade.
In some ways, this is good. One doesn’t want to be a one-trick pony or a one-note guitar, just like an actor doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into recurring roles as Guy With Idiotic Facial Expression (though he’s making a lot of money at the movies these days). Editors also aren’t too fond of rainbows and lemonade. They want some edge, even in a story with an upbeat message.
So, why worry? I’m a human being. Everybody’s got that little dark corner of their imagination where all the ghoulies hang out, quaffing tall glasses of Type O-Positive and swapping stories about the good old days in Romania.
I’m thinking it makes me uneasy because I’m beginning to invite family, friends, and total strangers into my personal ghoulie bar to have a look round. Strangers probably won’t care, but I don’t want them to get the wrong idea about who I am and what I’m about. Family and friends probably didn’t know the place existed and may begin to wonder how well they really knew me.
It gets dicier when one of my stories gets published, and the establishments on my left and right are scarier than mine. Aunt Maybelle may think my story’s a little weird, but then she gets an eyeful of the guy behind the next link who writes a splatter tale and/or unleashes a broadside of f-bombs. I’m not responsible for his stuff, but a man (or a story) is known by the company he (or it) keeps. So, I end up issuing a series of disclaimers…”My story’s here, but you may want to avoid the story below it, if you’re easily nauseated, and if I knew in advance the magazine was going to run a story like that, I probably wouldn’t have subbed there, etc, etc.”
I guess it goes back to my identity. What sort of writer am I? Am I a Christian writer, or a writer who happens to be a Christian? Do I write Christian fiction, or do I write fiction with a Christian influence? Can I be a legitimately Christian writer or writer-Christian and produce work that may be dark, edgy, and/or without an explicit moral/ethical/spiritual message? My answers to those questions may differ from the answers given by my family, my friends, and the total strangers in my wider audience.
In the meantime, the ghoulies are still at the bar, hollering for another round.