Category: Edgy

High Contrast Christian Suspense

High Contrast Christian Suspense

January 29, 2013 | By | Add a Comment
Fantasy and Science Fiction

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
In its time, the best magazine there was.

Why “Christian” Suspense ?

Good question.

When I was a kid, I started reading a mix of science fiction and suspense novels. Mostly sci-fi back then. I’m talking fourth, fifth grade. Just look at this cover. . . they did such beautiful art work then.

My favorite book from that part of my life was one by Frank M. Robinson, titled The Power. I’ve got a copy two feet from my elbow as I write this. What can you say about a book good enough to stick with you for more than fifty years?

The important thing that was missing in my reading was a knowledge of God. I didn’t get that till I was twenty years old, and it didn’t come from a magazine. It came from solid Bible preaching, in the first believing church I’d ever attended.

After that I went through a period of time where I didn’t read any of the old literature. No apologies offered for that. . . old things passed away, and all things became new. After a while the pendulum began to swing back some. Now I had a Christian World View. I could read the world’s stuff with a discerning eye.

I discovered that I could still read and enjoy most of it, but now it had no authority. I knew the Truth. It was easy to laugh at all the evolutionary fables, the pseudo-science. My wife and I started reading together. We read a bunch of the books written by Bodie and Brock Thoene. They were real pioneers of what many call the modern era of Christian fiction. Then the Amish Invasion hit. You could hardly find a book about anyone who wore shoes. Yes, I know that’s not exactly true, but I thought it sounded funny. Patience, Grasshopper.

I missed some of the good writing by men like James Patterson and Lee Child. Their stuff is way too graphic for Christian tastes. And don’t even talk to me about Stephen King. What these men do know, is they know how to write good suspense literature! I thought to myself, I wonder if I could ever do anything like that? I guess we could fast-forward to “I sure am trying,” but there’s more to it.

We all like to be entertained. I love being held on the edge of my seat by a story. Lee Child recently wrote an article where he said the main secret was to make the reader WAIT. That’s a pretty simple concept. Seems like I ought to be able to get a hold of that one. Another thing he does is present his “bad guys” as really bad. The good guys may not be perfect, maybe pretty flawed. But those bad guys are really, really evil.

I like to call that High Contrast Suspense. That’s a Biblical view, I believe.

2 Corinthians 6:14a-15 “. . .for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”

God’s Word is written in High Contrast too. There’s no gray area between light and darkness, good and evil. So as I’m developing my writing skills, such as they are, I’m trying to present good and evil in the same way.

I have no patience with, and no inclination to emulate, writing graphic violence or sex. Even Alfred Hitchcock managed to avoid that, and he was never accused of being a saint. Let’s have some antagonists who are really, really bad. Evil guys. And let’s have some weak/flawed/doing-the-best-they-can good guys — protagonists — getting a hold of the Throne of Grace and winning a few battles. To me, that makes good fiction.

My first book is just now going into the publishing cycle. I don’t know what the final title will be, but I’ve always called it Friend Me. The antagonist in that book should arouse some sympathy, but you’re really going to want her to be dead, just as soon as possible. She deserves it.

The current work-in-progress is named Bundle. It’s about a family of generational serial killers. They’ve all been bad, back to 1816. More later on that. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to write these stories. Well, not always fun. It’s mostly a lot of hard work! But that’s the thing.

There is a place for CHRISTIAN Suspense literature. Good suspense stories, written with a genuine Christian World View. May God help me to be faithful to him as I try and write some of it.


Edgy Fiction

Edgy Fiction

December 7, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

Edgy Fiction. What is it, and who told you that?

Let’s drive a stake in the ground (not in anyone’s heart) and start right there. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says edgy means “having a bold, provocative, or unconventional quality <an edgy film>”

I consider that a pretty good beginning, but only that.

Many people say they like, or at a minimum can recognize, edgy fiction when they read it.

Me, too. I grew up in the fifties reading science fiction in its Golden Age. My favorite authors were Robert Heinlein and C. M. Kornbluth. Most people today have heard of Heinlein, but few remember Cyril Kornbluth. More about him later.

Cultural Cutting Edge. When one of my daughters read my book Friend Me, she said she was surprised that her dad would write such edgy fiction. Ha! Not sure how to take that, I called her back and asked her what she meant by edgy. She replied it meant being on the cutting-edge of our culture or society. Like Rush being on “the leading edge of societal evolution,” I suppose. I like the idea of feeling like I’m out there in front, sensing the thundering horde behind me trying to outpace me or biting at my heels.

There are always leading-edge trends in any culture. For the last few years, one of the dominant trends worldwide has been the explosion of social networking. Some of you will remember futurist Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock from the seventies. He looked at the exponential curve of new knowledge in our time. Even Mr. Toffler could not foresee what we have seen in our lifetime.

I’m old enough to have been young enough to remember my grandmother picking up the telephone and telling a human operator what number she wanted to call. We all had four-digit numbers back then. I also remember going over to the Hansen’s house to watch Range Rider on television. Why their house? Because they were the family that had “the” TV!

As much as I can handle. We’re always pushing the limits on what we can stand. One person can’t stand to look at blood. The next can look at blood as long as its not her own. This is also edgy. When writing fiction you have to be thinking, how much can the reader handle? There’s a point at which you’ve driven off enough readers that you maybe faced with the law of diminishing returns for your efforts. But it’s realistic, you cry. Great. We have to keep in mind that a good percentage of folks are reading to escape that kind of reality.

General market people that like James Patterson or Lee Child are the kind of readers I hope to attract. In the Christian market, I want Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee’s readers to read my books and feel at home.

Being On Edge. This is what suspense is all about. It’s kind of like this:

  • You walk up to the old house with the dark door in chapter one.
  • In chapter two you open the door, but don’t step in. But something menacing is in there.
  • In chapter fifty-two you find out what it is.

I love that! I want a book that grabs me in the first or second chapter, then doesn’t let me put it down without feeling like I’m on the verge of missing some great thing. Or finally escaping my own fears.

It’s about being on the edge of your seat. Your seat may be psychological, emotional, shrouded in mystery, or coming at you in soft, cat-like steps. On the edge.

My Conclusion:

Which one do I think represents edgy fiction? Every one of them. The best stories are the ones that encompass all three. That’s what I try to write.