In Which I Once Again Do Not Talk Mortgages

So I’ve been exchanging email with one of these Christmas Book novelists – you know the kind, the smallish, hardbound, bright-covered books pioneered by people like Richard Paul Evans. This author wrote a decent post last week about why you leave sex and swearing out of your books, and I commented on it, so we’ve been in contact. My comment was essentially to say that leaving sex and swearing out of your book is all well and good, unless the things and the people you’re writing about require sex and language to be truly alive. Mormon writers especially (though not exclusively) like to write about these hard-bitten black sheep that find their way home, but even WHITE sheep are far more disposed to swearing and cruelty and sleeping around than they get portrayed in these novels. They come off as fake. It takes me about two pages to tell that we’re dealing with another one of these silly Mormon fictions, in which there aren’t any actual people, just Sunday School versions of people masquerading as human. Gerald Lund is like this for me, for instance.

But I thought, this guy seems like a pretty decent fellow, so I’ll give him a shot. I had Jeanette pick up a couple of his books at the library and last night I started reading one of them. I’m two chapters in, and I’m done. Cannot go on. I do not care a jot about any of the people I’ve met so far. Well, that’s not true. There is ONE character – who has not appeared yet, but has been discussed by two others – that I find mildly interesting, a gal that is blowing off the double funeral of her parents because she’s running a business and can’t get away. I’m not that sort of person, but I find that sort of person entirely believable. She’s the only one so far that strikes me as plausible.

The black sheep, for instance, is off in Brazil when he gets the call on the satphone to come home for the funeral. He does. On the way, he meets this gorgeous Brazilian babe and takes her out for the evening after, essentially, telling her that they’re going to spend the night together. And then, at the opportune moment, he finds that he’s so tormented by the memory of his old flame back at the homestead that he can’t sleep with her. That’s complete and utter garbage. Black sheep don’t behave that way. MISSIONARIES have a hard time behaving that way. What, is the author afraid that we’re not going to approve of this guy if he behaves the way humans do? Is the author unaware of the entirely casual nature of sex outside of certain districts of Provo, to say nothing of Brazil? The whole thing struck me as so ridiculously sanitized that I gave up. It isn’t even sanitized that way you see in, say, Dick Francis novels, where the love interest and the hero finally get together and you know they get together, but Francis doesn’t have to describe the pulsating loins of it all. It makes sense. It is what these people would do. It doesn’t make them less.

The end of my comment to this guy, I wrote that it often seems to me in the Mormon adult genre, that the authors have taken a story and crammed it into the genre so that it would sell, rather than telling the story the way it is and letting the genre find the tale. And this is EXACTLY what this guy is doing. And that’s why I don’t read Mormon adult fiction, except for Card, who seems capable of avoiding this trap, somehow.

Not sure why I opened the day with this when I’m supposed to be writing a business plan for investors, but I do feel better.

2 Responses to “In Which I Once Again Do Not Talk Mortgages”

  • I want to comment because I like commenting on blogs but you’ve already heard my thoughts on this matter (and it’s too much work to cut and paste them over here) but I (mostly) agree.

  • Melanee says:

    Oh my gosh. So funny. I have never tolerated Mormon adult fiction, nor could I tolerate Mormon teen fiction when I was a teen. So fake and contrived. Isn’t the idea of a novel or film or play to identify directly or indirectly with the main character so that as a reader, we are routing for their personal evolution? How can this connection or empathy happen when the character is whitewashed? I truly don’t understand how these sorts of books sell, or how they are so widely read.

    I recently attended a writer’s conference for LDS women writers. Many were published, others were not. I went out of curiosity. The main speaker, a widely published author of teen novels, demonstrated her formula for writing success, heavy on the success part. This emphasis on publishing success seems to overshadow allowing a tale to be told on its own terms. Just my observation.

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