January TCWT Chain


Hello and a jolly Happy New Year to you all. Due to the curious circumstance of my moving back to the other side of the planet, and my dear computer Barbara being packed for freighting, I couldn’t take a date when I should have, and had to ask John and Erin to be terribly accommodating and let me double-up with said Erin.

The skedder:



7thhttps://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/ and https://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/ – you are here






















29th – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (John might announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

The prompt: “What is something you feel is generally written well in fiction? What is something you feel is generally written poorly?” 

I will not grouch, I will not grouch…

Okey-day. Something I think is usually well-written in fiction…

Not much. Basically, every author has their own little specialties, and their own little blind spots. For instance: Tom Clancy (the late, the great, the much-mourned) was an absolute genius about military anything, but he had to put human interest into his novels as well, because nobody actually likes reading stories about fighting machines. Except maybe my brother and a certain Josh. (Yes, Sarah, yours.) So Clancy has to put in the bits about how Jack Ryan feels about his family, and about the guilt and emotional trauma of warfare – I love these bits best, actually. But he makes the mistake of trying to go inside Cathy Ryan’s head as well, and he can’t do it. No woman has ever thought like that. Ever. I’ll take Clancy’s word for Jack’s thoughts and feelings, because I have it on good authority that some men think with their hmm-hmm’s, but I know for a fact that girls just don’t.

I think – contrary to the prompt spiel, John – that religion is very rarely well-written. Anybody mind if I only discuss a Judeo-Christian viewpoint? ‘Cause it’s the only one I’ve ever actually read anything of, apart from the Koran, which was weird to Korriban and back. (Sorry, Unikke et al. Just my personal opinion over here – isn’t that what blogs are for, after all?)

Okay. Now that everybody who was offended by that has gone away, I’ll discuss a few least-favorite books. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, I’m sorry to say, I found nothing short of heretical. Incidentally he also got a few little historical details wrong that my kid sister would have spotted. The Olympic Games were dedicated to Venus? Please. I suspect his deep anti-Catholic bias is partially due to complete incomprehension and ensuing distrust/fear. Though, had anything he said referred to a real monastic order, I think there would be solid grounds for a libel case.
The single best description of a religious community I have ever seen was written by a French atheist, to wit, Victor Hugo.
The Left Behind series, to call out another offender, has a bizarre way of interpreting Revelation, and I sincerely hope LaHaye and Jenkins are quite wrong in every particular. Because some of that chizzk is truly disturbing.

Basically, I don’t think anyone can write religion to suit everybody. This is partly due to the huge diversity of beliefs out there (I’ve been practically every Christian denomination but Catholic, so far, and don’t really know what I believe anymore, beyond the basics) but partly also because however you write it, you’ll go too far in one of two directions: supreme, groveling, utterly-unfit-for-fiction respect, or supreme, arrogant, utterly-unfit-for-fiction disdain. No avoiding it, unfortunately. I tend to get around this by either avoiding the subject altogether, or disguising it. Though I did once accidentally tackle the question of inter-denominational tensions, in allegorical/parable form, and only realized it months later.

Teen romance is usually very bad indeed. This is because most teen romances are written by adults, who’ve quietly blanked out the excruciating embarrassment of being a teenager, and being in love, and not knowing what to do about it. Tomorrow When The War Began was a prime example of this: the eight teenage ‘heroes’ of the book, being stranded without parental supervision, immediately began to – well, know one another. In no particular order or pairing. I don’t know how adults conduct affairs of this nature, but I don’t think most teenagers would do that, stranded in the wops of Australia or no.
I’ve heard somewhat about the Twilight series from my cousin, and have been forced to come to the conclusion that all rules of ordinary human psychology are suspended in any case where vampires are concerned.
I stopped reading teen fiction when I was fourteen – having had a bad experience with the Princess Diaries books, a gift from a well-meaning aunt. I, being slightly maladjusted according to Western societal norms, assumed that the lifestyle depicted therein was normal for girls of my age. Having discussed the matter at length with my brother and a friend of his, I learned that it is, in fact, not, and does, in fact, cause significant embarrassment to the male of the species when the female of the species tries things like that. No further elaboration.

I think mystery stories used to be terrific, but have declined hugely since the advent of the fashion for adding sex to everything. Dear grownup authors: It is not necessary! And if you must hint at it, please close the bedroom door and leave the reader outside! At least even Ian Fleming, randy reputation and all, had that courtesy to his characters and readers alike.

Anybody else out there think books ought to have 15, 12, 16, M, R, etc. ratings on the spine like movies do? It works for FanFiction.net. They used to do it in New Zealand and England. I honestly think freedom of expression, at least in matters of smutty books, is vastly overrated.

Now that I’ve offended everybody and all their uncle’s dogs, I think perhaps I’d better stop. Come back on the thirteenth for something tame and civilized.

Thanks for reading.



About coruscantbookshelf

"A writer is an introvert: someone who wants to tell you a story but doesn't want to have to make eye contact while doing it." - Adapted from John Green
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8 Responses to January TCWT Chain

  1. I agree with most of what you said, except the Christian fiction bit. It can, occasionally, be done well, but only when the Christian in the fiction seems to take back seat to the plot–it is integral to the plot, but only when the reader gets to the end of the book does he see how and why. Basically, the characters LIVE their beliefs rather than preaching to the choir. Either way… well, I’m just going to say that religion is a huge clue to a character’s behavior and a window into their mind, and it’s often sadly neglected. For instance, if someone claims to be Christian but doesn’t actually act like a Christian, or if they claim it and don’t act like it except when they’re going to church, or if they don’t go to church at all, it is a HUGE clue as to what they really think, feel and believe. Because the first person narrator can never be wholly relied on. (One of the heroes in one book is a fallen-away Episcopalian and I need to do more research on it, but the fact of their religious beliefs is a HUGE part of making them a dynamic character.) I wish we could see all kinds of characters of all kinds of religious persuasions in all degrees (practicing and neutral, practicing and living, practicing but not living, fallen away, fallen away but still living it, not going to church but still claiming to be of said religion… atheist, atheist who lives like they’re religious, atheist and WHY they’re atheist, etc… I should just make a chart for this, like the four-letter-personality chart Myers-Briggs thingy.), for variety. People complain a lot that we don’t have equal representation when it comes to race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. I want to see equal representation in religion, fallen-away-religious people, practicing and non-practicing people, etc., because I feel it will lead to more fleshed-out characters.


    • I agree with you about the character side of things – it’s just so few people actually use Christianity in books for that purpose. Mostly it’s either preaching-to-the-choir, or setting up a character to be a fool, and their faith gets ridiculed along with them: “oh, so-and-so’s a Christian, isn’t he an idiot?”
      I’ve read maybe two authors who do Christian characters anything approaching well: Frank Peretti, who goes quite heavy into the spirit-world warfare side of things, and C. R. Hedgcock, (who I am proud to call my friend) who uses the characters’ faith as a very matter-of-fact background to their everyday – and less everyday – lives.
      Fallen-away Episcopalian as in now atheist/Buddhist/Hindu/something, or fallen-away as in changed denomination? ‘Cause with my family background, there’s not a lot I don’t know about the Anglican church. (One uncle a canon, two uncles vicars, two aunts vicars, one life-long diehard who is more Anglican than the Queen.)


      • Yeah… It’s so sad that people use things to mock people or make fools of themselves when they really are legitimate character tools.
        I read Frank Peretti some… He’s good. It’s like Christian-young-adult meets Jedi Apprentice, though I would have liked a bit more character development… he tends to go a bit heavy on the action as well…
        Fallen away as in not-exactly-changed-denominations but not-really-practicing any more; almost on atheist territory, but not quite. Just thinks of himself as “not religious,” which is really sort of self-misleading, if you think about it. EVERYONE is religious about something. We all just tend to pick different poisons, or healing potions. I need to write my aunt, who is Episcopalian, to get some ideas… she thinks it’s awesome that I’m going to be a writer.
        Does anyone else think it’s stupid that demographic brochures and Gallup call people just “evangelical” and not evangelical CHRISTIAN, because they ARE indeed Christian and it’s just misleading!!!?!


  2. Heather says:

    I, for one, have come to dislike Christian fiction just because it feels forced—creative nonfiction is where it’s at. Teen romance is also a struggle; I personally don’t have a problem with the “Twilight” books but I also know there are a remarkable number of stories that reduce teenagers to objects, which is difficult to read when I like to think I’m a person. These were some pretty deep ideas, though, and kind of bitter, which isn’t a tone I’ve seen before. Definitely one I’m going to remember, though!


  3. John Hansen says:

    I don’t think religion is done well either–in my defense, it was just an example to illustrate how the prompt can be done. 🙂

    Agree on teen romance! I’ve been wondering what the problem is for me. YA/teen fiction is really diverse and, the further you go, the more complex and rich they get (have you read Andrew Smith? Grasshopper Jungle is incredible, IMO), but I still can almost never get into teen romance. I wonder if I’m too cynical, but I don’t know–it just usually feels too Hollywood, when in reality a) I’ve only known a handful of teens who actually date and b) most teens don’t seem to want the stuff of romance novels. What happened to simple romances?


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