I have written on this blog in the past about how much I dislike stories designed purely as propaganda. People with a political or religious axe to grind are particularly guilty in this respect, so here is a little insight into how I approach the problem. Like anyone else, I hold political and religious views. For instance, given that I am a Christian, how do I try and avoid making my writing sound “preachy”?
Firstly, I always bear in mind that a story is not a sermon or a political speech. I am not trying to convince anyone of anything, I am simply trying to tell a good story. That shouldn’t just be the primary goal. Really it should be the only goal. If a writer can do that, whatever they believe politically or spiritually will be inherent in the text in any case.
Second – and this is a point specifically for certain fellow Christians – because a story is not a sermon, it does not need to be “theologically accurate”. I am astonished at how many times Christians take issue with, for instance, supernatural stories, because “ghosts are really demons”. Or when they criticise depictions of an afterlife that doesn’t adhere to exactly what is written in the Bible. When confronted with such people, I normally ask if they can honestly say, with a straight face, that Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has no moral or spiritual worth.
This problem is compounded for some Christians when sex and violence are added into the mix. Again, for me such aesthetics are merely tools that can be used well or badly. Besides, it’s always worth referring said Christians back to the Bible in any case, which has more than its fair share of bloodbaths and sexual encounters/imagery (I can think of quite a few “too much information” passages).
The important thing for a story is that it should be honest. Propaganda tales like to tie things up in neat bundles. For instance, a Christian propaganda novel often involves a very neat, sinner-gets-converted narrative, which frequently glosses over any sex/violence elements. It feels phony not just for that reason, but also because the reader knows the author’s purpose is to try and make converts.
When I wrote my upcoming novel, Love vs Honour, I wrote it for one reason alone: I thought it was a good story. It does examine both the Christian and Islamic faiths at various points, but I believe the treatment is even handed, and not what might be termed “preachy”. Whether or not I have succeeded is ultimately for readers to judge.
Love vs Honour is now available for pre-order from Amazon:
Here is the blurb from the back of the book:
Two Religions. Two Deceptions. One Love.
When Johnny meets and falls in love with Sabina, their bond proves stronger than a teenage holiday fling.
Fearing the disapproval of their strict Christian and Islamic families, they undertake an elaborate deception to continue seeing one another. Johnny pretends to convert to Islam whilst Sabina pretends to covert to Christianity to appease their parents.
But how long can this deception last before it unravels?
Love vs Honour is released on the 31st May on Kindle.
Print copies will be available from the 7th of June.