Jan Flanders

As everyone who has not been dwelling under a rock for the past half century knows full well, Jan Flanders is a world-renowned expert on writing, editing, and publishing fiction. A bona fide member of the landed gentry dating back to the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement, and a magna cum laude graduate of Ms. Finicky’s Foundational Finishing School of Fiction for Well-Bred Females (FFFSFWBF), she resides with her three Angora cats in the heart of the deep South on the plantation, sadly diminished, where she was born and reared, and which her family has owned since the early 1700s. God forbid she should ever allow it to fall into the rapacious hands of any vile Northern carpetbagger! That will happen over her dead body. She is still mourning the lamentable outcome of the late War of Northern Aggression, and if you know what is good for you, you would be well advised not to bring up the subject unless you wish to have your ears pinned back. Rest assured that if anyone knows etiquette, it is our own Ms. Flanders, and she is doing you a favor by sharing her expertise.

Fiction Etiquette with a Southern Twist Twisted Southern

How appropriate that we are gatherin’ just preliminary to the Thanksgivin’ holiday. Ah know y’all are most thankful for the extensive admonishment you are receivin’ in the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette from very your own Ms. Flanders—as well you should be. And to fortify myself for your profuse expressions of gratitude, Ah have brought along a libation of my sainted Aunt Beulah’s cherry cordial—completely nonalcoholic, of course, sweetheart, in case you were wonderin.’ Though you should certainly know better, darlin’.

Hic—Oh, do pardon me! It appears this batch of the cordial has been, shall we say, maturin’ down in mah wine cel—ah, basement a mite longer than usual. But never you mind. Age has its prerogatives, as we all know.

With no further ado, let us turn our attention to today’s reader question. The envelope, if you will, baby doll. Bless your heart.

Dear Ms. Flanders,

As an aspiring fiction author, I’m wondering why romance novels dominate the Christian market. I assumed Christian readers would be attracted to stories that address more profound themes than whether the girl ends up with the boy—all within God’s will for both their lives, of course. So I was thoroughly disillusioned to discover that none of the established publishing houses would publish The Shack, even though this story addresses profound themes about God and life. The author had to create his own publishing house to publish the book, and it has generated astounding sales and considerable excitement even among unbelievers.

Admittedly, romances are perennially strong sellers in the secular market, but shouldn’t Christian publishers seek stories that offer answers and hope for our deepest concerns, which the world can’t supply? What gives? Is the Christian fiction market shallow, or is it just my imagination?

Bothered and Confused

Allow me a moment to catch mah breath. Where is mah cordial? Mah dear, Ah believe Ah shall sink into the vapors if you continue to go on like this.

Sweetheart, Ah fear you are laboring under a severe misapprehension. Chaste, unsullied romances that give no quarter to the base emotions so as not to lead readers into temptation by thought, word, or deed are the most upliftin’ readin’ you will

ever find. Readers are all the better for such noble expressions of man’s highest ideal. The editors at all the leadin’ publishin’ houses who continue to buy romances in spite of the occasional anomaly like this shack story know this full well, honey chile, and you would do well to trust your betters’ wisdom and follow their guidance without question.

While we are on the subject, Ah cannot emphasize enough that this current trend toward what some of you young’uns have the temerity to call “edgy” romance is far beneath the supremely cultured and refined author who deserves to be revered by his or her peers. Do not allow your thoughts to stray in that direction if you have any hope of gainin’ that elusive publishin’ contract! Keep your eyes on the narrow path, and you will someday receive the reward—the honor—of writin’ a best-sellin’ romance. A fiction writer has no higher goal.

Ah don’t know about you, but Ah am havin’ just too much fun! However, it’s time for me to bid y’all adieu. Just remember, if you should neglect to return next month for another dose of admonishment on the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette, Santa may just have to leave a lump of coal in your stockin’ on Christmas mornin’, darlin’.

Upcoming Topics

Why does so little Christian fiction generate the kind of reader excitement and sales that the Harry Potter books do?

January: What’s wrong with sprinkling adjectives, adverbs, and exclamation points throughout your manuscript, anyway? Weren’t they invented to be used?