Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Why Young Authors are Tackling Tough Themes
I look at author's Pinterest boards and see deep soul aches plastered all over them. Huge questions of where God is and how he is working in a world torn by so much evil. Young people want to know how to be a good friend when the going gets tough. How to exist in decent happiness when there is so much sin inside their own hearts. What to do about the devil lurking around the corner and trying to gain a foothold.
It's expressed in the literature, in the music, in the art of countless homeschool author-wanna-be's, and for a while that darkness disturbed me. I knew it was there, but I wondered is it a good thing?
I mean, come on. These authors probably had a variety of clothes to choose from in the morning; a hot breakfast and a heated house for the freezing winter months. They've probably seen death on their lifetime, but most of them haven't personally been affected by war and famine and plague. We're 21st-century rich Westerners for heaven's sake! With all this good fortune, why is it easier for them to write books wrestling with pain than a frothy, happy novel?
The truth is, I don't know if it's good. The trend is too young to mark its fruits yet. We're in a season of planting seeds, and the harvest of wheat and tares will appear later on. But I do have a few ideas.
First of all, these young authors want to write stories that deal with real hurt. I've always hated the moral phrase that when you're sad, you should just think of the starving children in India (or insert other country here) and realize how fortunate you are. The main idea is gratefulness, I know--but starving children in India don't negate the fact that even 21st century Westerners experience heartache. The prettiest makeup can hide traces of tears, and the most beautiful outfit can hide a soul that is flat-out bleeding inside. You don't have to be poor to experience emotional hardship.
I think for some writers (including me) there is something therapeutic in writing stories. I don't use my words to vent or take revenge; but I do use them to wrestle out pain and longing. When I began my novel I think my subconscious inserted life-themes to try to make sense of them. By the time I wrote the whole story it was too late to change it to something a little less personal. It is not merely my brain-child; it is my heart-child. And all the questions I have about God's working in a broken world (and my broken self) are in there.
Writing is a form of navigation; even a form of lamentation, on occasion. Perhaps also a form of surrender. As the characters find peace with their circumstances, in many cases so does the author. They write themselves into submission to God's working by bringing the characters to a place of submission too. They find courage when their characters find courage. They forgive when their characters forgive. It is a vicarious spiritual journey through the fictional people.
Writers are often quiet people. Their books express the heart cry of who they are--their questions, joys, sorrows, and struggles. I don't like saying that--there's nothing I'd like better than hiding in a box and letting those who really know guess it out--but it is true.
Secondly, I think, young writers write tough themes to make war on the culture. ISIS is torturing people to death, and why should young authors sit at home and write about trite, fluffy, happy-go-lucky things when the world is breaking, and our country is breaking--and Christians are breaking? They don't want another story about schoolroom crushes and their annoying kid brother. They crave the battles, the flat-out good against evil, the gut-wrenching, soul-bleeding character who accepts God's call to face the impossible odds. The characters are scarred and broken and their world is ripped to pieces--but they make it their business to fight for what matters, and the authors resonate with them. Most authors will never face what their characters face in a physical sense--battles and sword-play and espionage--but they face it every day wrestling with sin nature; they face the themes on a much lighter level in their own families and churches. They simply magnify them in story form to make it interesting.
The fact is, we're in a new generation of the church, and a new generation of stories. A lot of conservative Americans are nervous right now; our country is going down a path that many countries have gone, but that we aren't familiar with. Even small children know about homosexuality, transgender, and torturings that haven't been in the news for a couple of centuries. Young people are growing up in a different world; a harsher world; and their literature is going to reflect that. Life isn't idyllic. And their literature will probably reflect their wrestling as they face brand-new attacks on their faith.
As C.S. Lewis says, Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Readers need to know that their deepest soul fears can be beaten by the one who triumphs. Countless young people in the literary circles are making war on the expectations of the culture, and their own inner demons. Praise God, and may the fruit it bears be true and good.