In a recent thread on the ACW Facebook site, some us shared our thoughts on Mslexia magazine (‘for women who write’) and in a wider context, the sense of gloom, re-named better ‘bleak’ which appears in so many contemporary novels. Although we reminded ourselves that bleakness is not a new departure for fiction, inhabiting for example Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and the Greek tragedies. we seemed to feel this post-modern bleakness is different.
Initially, I began writing a piece (without a clear idea if I’d send it off or where to) describing what I feel browsing in bookshop today (and for a number of years). This piece began to get quite long, as I cited the various apparent essentials for a current novel, and the desperate and overwhelming amount of ‘visceral’ - now termed more often ‘physicality’ thought necessary. Especially in scenes of sex or violence, this also hovers around at all times. Though examples exist about anything: say, the way person eats a sandwich, or slurps their tea, the scent of a full nappy, what happens behind the lavatory door. And of course terminal illness, mental breakdown, and living with disability: all in extra-stark realism.
However, it proved a catalogue of complaints, which is not what was intended. Should we carp at the writing of others, people may conclude this is merely in order to talk up our own work. Like a not-so-good preacher who loudly condemns the Pharisees in order to make Jesus more attractive. Positivity is best.
And then it came at last to at least two of us: the problem is that within these earnest, bleak, novels there is nowhere a sign of hope. We, the readers, must conclude that the human race is all utterly depraved, lonely, loveless, and unloving, and there is no hope for it. The curtain should indeed be rung down on it sooner rather than later. Yet the writers keep writing, becoming prize-winning or acclaimed, selling books. Presumably, they do actually want to live, even without hope?
Not to talk my writing up by contrast, I turned a corner from what I had been working on when I realised that I should inject discernable hope into the novel I’d been working on. Without making everything into a 1950s, cosy, ‘Ladybird Book’, story, I would write about both sides of the secular/Christian (or secular/faith, indeed) divide, have my central characters from a secular and a faith-based upbringing, and give weight to each side. I’d not paint the Christian Family as either perfect or totally imperfect and destructively pious. Nor the secular as wrong in every way. I wanted to proclaim the hope side of life, something which Christians have, even though their lives may be flawed (always a problem!). And even to slip in bit of faith knowledge while not preaching, indeed while demonstrating how Christians can get it wrong. And what they do about it.
It has stuck me with a problem, though. Family stories aren’t fashionable. Crime, mystery, yes. Not family.
So you see, here I am writing a blog post … and wondering whether or not it is right to continue with novel number 3. Which though a family study again, will surprise and disturb, even without being over-physicality-based, and definitely still including hope.
About the Author
She has 3 grown children, no grandkids, 3 cats and a long-suffering husband, was born a Londoner, studied in Newcastle, and now lives in Oxford. To escape the compulsion of writing, she is also a painter, likes gardening, spending time with friends (& retail therapy), and helps organise her church walking and Exploring Spirituality groups. She is passionate to try and put across, in fictional form, the essence of the real lives of believers - often messy and confused, but always predicated on the hope we have in Christ, whatever our circumstances.