Randy Ingermanson has published six novels and received about a dozen awards for his writing. He holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from UC Berkeley and is the entire software department for Vala Sciences, a San Diego biotechnology company. Randy is the inventor of the "Snowflake Method," used by novelists around the world to design their novels. He the publisher of the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, the world's largest electronic magazine on writing fiction. More than 1000 novelists read his daily blog, the Advanced Fiction Writing Blog. Randy's goal is to become Supreme Dictator For Life, and he may have already succeeded. Visit his site at www.SupremeDictatorForLife.com.
Cell phones have rendered Lassie as obsolete as last year’s Alpo.
Not too long ago, one of my agent friends told me about an idea he’d seen for a science fiction novel with Amish characters.
The scary thing is he was serious.
The scarier thing is when he explained the idea, I thought it was brilliant.
We might as well admit it—the Amish have conquered Christian fiction. It’s not quite clear when this happened.
I don’t recall any particular day when the Amish arrived and demanded that we surrender. No metallic “All Your Barn Are Belong to Us” announcement. It just happened.
I suppose it’s a good thing. I hope it’s a good thing. So I made a list of three reasons why all Christian novelists should write an Amish novel. Three excellent reasons, in fact, why we should simply ban all non-Amish novels.
1) It solves the “Cell Phone Problem.”
The novelist’s job has gotten much harder in the last ten years because of those pesky cell phones. You can no longer hang your lead character off a cliff, because the reader will yawn and ask, “Why doesn’t he just use his cell phone?”
The entire Lassie TV series could never have happened in the cell phone era. Every episode had Timmy falling down some abandoned well on the old Gazoober farm, Lassie running for 300 miles, barking her head off for five seconds, and then Timmy’s parents rushing off to the Gazoober place to haul him out.
That couldn’t happen today. Timmy would have just sent a text message: “cn u rscu me, i m n gzbr wll agn, srry.” Cell phones have rendered Lassie as obsolete as last year’s Alpo.
Here’s where the writer of Amish novels holds an enormous advantage. The Amish don’t send text messages. The Amish don’t use cell phones. Plus, I’ll bet the Amish have zillions of wells.
The Amish make the world safe for cliffhangers. The Amish have given us Lassie back.
2) It solves the “Cuss-Word Problem.”
We all know that Christian fiction has changed radically in the last twenty years. The quality of writing has gone up, way up. The range of topics has spread out, way out. And the subject matter has gotten grittier, somewhat grittier.
But we still can’t do some things in Christian fiction: We can’t have sordid bedroom scenes. Few Christian novelists are much bothered by this restriction, especially since we can kill as many people as we want, as violently as we want, as graphically as we want.
Our non-Christian characters can drink alcohol. However, that glass of sherry will be tastefully edited right out of the hand of our Christian character and transmogrified into a paper cup of Martinelli’s. A fair number of Christian novelists chafe at this restriction, but generally we don’t sweat it, because who really cares? It’s not a molehill worth dying on.
But our characters can’t cuss, no matter how evil they are, no matter how dire the situation, no matter how fitting a “damn” or “hell” would be. Such words can be used only in sermons, never in fits of anger. So our bad guys must subsist on tofu cuss-words that make them sound like that gosh-darned Miss Marple. A fair number of Christian novelists feel the bite of the handcuffs on this issue.
Once again, the writer of Amish novels has no problem here. Those devious Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch, so if a naughty word is needed, the hard-pressed writer can simply translate it. Naughty words are only naughty if said in English.
So the writer of Amish novels scores again.
3) It Solves the “F-Word” Problem.
The “f-word” is, of course, “faith.”
Every Christian novelist has read about five hundred reviews of Christian novels that run something like this:
“Joe Schmoe’s excellent novel is a refreshing change from the usual drivel found in Christian fiction. Well-rounded characters and a lively plot make this book a breath of fresh air. The book is marred only by Character X’s preachy dialogue.”
Now, no Christian novelist wants to be preachy, but all too often, the alleged “preachy dialogue” is just the way average, ordinary, garden-variety Christians talk. Regular Christians talk about their faith once in a while.
Of course, this is a shock, a terrible shock, to some reviewers who feel that the “f-word” is simply too graphic to be used in polite society. Oh, the horror of it all.
This puts novelists in a bit of a bind. Should we write Christian characters the way they actually are? Or should we lighten them up a bit so as to get better reviews?
Once again, the Amish novelist solves the “f-word” problem quite handily.
The Amish, after all, are folks of faith. They wear their faith on their sleeves, quite literally. They are just plain oozing in faith, but since they are quaint and benighted throwbacks to a forgotten era, the novelist is free to write them just as they are.
No reviewer will consider an Amish character’s dialogue “preachy.”
Instead, the novelist gets points for being authentic. Score again!
You just can’t lose when writing an Amish novel.
I therefore call for a five-year moratorium on non-Amish novels in the Christian publishing world. While this will work a hardship on writers in some genres, it will also force them to tap new, um, wells of creativity.
And let’s face it—if you can write an Amish science fiction novel, then you can go Amish in any genre. I can’t wait to see Amish elves, Amish assassins, and Amish Knights Templar. The future is bright.
As Pogo might have said, “We have met the Amish and he is us.”