I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month. It’s a fabulous activity; I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who has even the slightest interest in doing some creative writing. The concept of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. You just write, write, write. Editing is eschewed; that’s what the rest of the year is for. Sure, you’ll write a lot of crap that way, but that’s okay. To quote from the NaNoWriMo website, “By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.” It’s an exercise in simply writing. It’s really rather enjoyable.
This leads me to my contemplations and quandaries this morning. My story has taken a very dark turn. I’m rather enjoying where it’s going, but still, very dark. And I’m a sweet, gentle Mormon girl (with a side of snark). If this were to ever be published, would I be able to recommend this be read in a book club of LDS women? That, of course, is just a specific way of asking if I represent my faith well if I publish something dark and violent. This is not, at all, LDS fiction. It is in the mainstream area. One character is identified as Mormon, but it’s in passing and not integral to the story. Is it fair to say that it is just a story and the fact that I’m a Mormon shouldn’t constrain my art? Or am I covenanted to remain out of the darkness, not contribute to it?
A few years ago I was in a book club with a group of women from church. It was a good group and I was quite sad when it drifted apart. Because they subjected me to LDS fiction (not my thing), I felt it was only fair to subject them to science fiction (not their thing). I selected Ender’s Game because it’s a fabulous story and also because I thought it contained nothing that anyone in the group would object to. In the discussion, one woman said she was surprised by all the swearing considering the author was LDS. My response was, “There was swearing? I didn’t even notice.” And I didn’t. So you can’t make everyone happy.
I make a living as a technical writer. Thus, most of my daily prose consists of exciting phrases like, “Remember to click ‘Save’ before leaving the page,” and, “Fundamental to this approach is the capability to rapidly install interchangeable mission packages into the seaframe.” There is no ethical quandary beyond accurately filling out my timecard each day. One could reasonably argue the ethical quandary lies with the choice to write for the military in the first place, but I’ve obviously already made my choice there. But fiction is different. It’s not just a statement of reality. It creates possibilities. Do I represent the church in my writing simply because I’m LDS? Must I? Or if my story goes down a dark path, is that okay? Mortality is, after all, sometimes a very dark place.