Erica Vetsch is back today - yay!
One of the things I was intrigued by in A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas was that it was set in such a wild town, and it felt like it was, yet the book was still clean. I wanted Erica to weigh in on that. Even if you don't write for a Christian publishing house the way Erica does, you will still want to evaluate how much illicit behavior your reader will want to read.
Again, Erica has offered to give away a copy of her latest, A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas to one lucky commenter. To get entered, leave a comment on today's post (and yesterday's, to get entered twice!) either asking Erica a question or commenting on something you found interesting. Or about how awesome that camera is on the cover of her book. US Residents only. Closes at whatever date I specified yesterday.
Here are Erica's thoughts to my question, how do you set a clean book in a less-than-reputable town?
It’s no secret that Dodge City was the “Wickedest City in the West” and a wide open cow town with plenty of vices available around the clock. Gambling, drinking, prostitution, cock fights, dog races, dance halls, and more. Pretty unsavory stuff, especially for Christian fiction. So what is a writer to do if she wants to be authentic, but she also doesn’t want to offend the reader?
• Don’t ignore the truth. Your reader will be insulted if you pretend that Dodge City was Mayberry. A historical novel set in Dodge that didn’t at least mention a saloon or dance hall will ring as true as a cracked bell. (Stephanie speaking - I just have to say this sentence is so Erica. She has the most creative similes in her books.)
• Don’t glorify the vice or go into gory details. Assume your reader gets it. Make sure to show the consequences of living amorally, but don’t go into great detail about individual actions. The reader will fill in the blanks based upon their own experiences and understanding. An example is profanity. Christian fiction typically refrains from the use of cuss words, but how can a writer be authentic when cowboy language was quite strong and often offensive? Be creative. Instead of writing out the cuss word, describe the character as ‘turning the air blue with his cussing’ or ‘she gasped at the ribald word he uttered.’ This allows the reader to fill in the blank however they feel is appropriate and you’ve avoided offending them by the use of a specific word.
• Do show your character in conflict over the temptations and vices around him. The reader will relate to this, since we all live in a fallen world and we know what it is like to face temptations and have to choose one way or another. Have your characters live with the results of their choice.
I hope this post (and yesterday's) have given you a few new tools for your writing toolbox. I’d love to hear other questions you might have. There’s nothing better than talking writing with other writers!