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Archive for the ‘Terms and Definitions’ Category

Christian suspense author Mike Dellosso gave a talk of the same name at the 2011 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference (BRMCWC): Is Christian Fiction an Oxymoron?

Well, is it?

It’s a difficult thing to define but you’ll find my answer at the bottom of this post. My answer in turn is based on another slippery definition: What does it mean for a story to be Christian?

I posit that Christian stories contain an element of redemption. No more, and no less. Examples:

  • When a high school basketball star becomes pregnant during her Junior year, she must choose between a future with the child, adoption, or abortion.
  • After an inner-city detective discovers his partner has been taking payoffs, he must choose between friendship and duty.

Now, what is redemption? What does this quality look like in fiction? I think of it as an opportunity, a choice presented to a character to do the right thing – or not. This is often a choice between bad and worse rather than good and evil, an agonizing decision colored in smoke and shades of gray.

So if being Christian means there exists an element of redemption, what of horror?

Most people would define horror as being that which elicits fear in the reader. But suspense often induces fear too so I find this definition lacking. I tend to separate horror from suspense along the lines of hope and meaning. In horror, there is a general lack of hope or expectation of meaning behind whatever is going on. However in suspense, there is generally a very good reason why the bad guy is doing bad guy things which is revealed by the end. Plus, the good guy is expected to be triumphant at the end of the story. Not so with the horror.

By the way, these should not be confused with Thrillers where we get to watch the villainy happen as it were over the antagonist’s shoulder. Someone on The Kill Zone Blog defined Thrillers as mysteries in reverse: Mysteries start with a crime and thereafter follow the detective working through clues to determine whodunit. By contrast, thrillers often begin with a credible threat and then follow the protagonist questing to prevent it from being executed.

So, is Christian Horror an oxymoron? Can something with a redemptive quality lack meaning? Yes, by having the chooser make the wrong decision, especially the wrong eternal decision. What’s more frightening to a Christian than a sinner rejecting the offer of salvation?  This dooms them to hell, a very frightening thought.

Attribution:
Image from http://www.mixcloud.com/black-buddah/literature-mystery-thriller-horror/

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This is the best explanation of the difference between a trope and a cliche I’ve come across. It also contains the best advice for when to use and when to avoid them.

A trope (in a story sense) is any plot, character, setting, device, or pattern that we recognize as such. It’s kind of everything, from the unassuming farm boy to the rebellion against an oppressive government to the wise mentor to the chase scene in which the car smashes through a pane of glass being carried across the street.

Tropes are what make stories run. A story is not good or bad based on whether or not it has tropes. ALL STORIES HAVE TROPES. A story is good or bad based on how those tropes are used.

What we like about tropes is familiarity (“Yay, ninjas!”), excitement (“Oo, the hero’s going to get all awesome on the badguys!”), and especially when our favorite tropes are twisted in interesting ways (“I did NOT see that coming”).

What we don’t like is when tropes are predictable to the point of boredom. That’s when a trope becomes a cliche.

via Author’s Echo: Tropes vs. Cliches.

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Source: Terms that cannot be used in a Steeple Hill novel.

[Update: The link above no longer works. Harlequin has taken the page down as reported by Ted Dekker. Read comment #2 for the history behind this post.]

Terms that cannot be used in a Steeple Hill novel:

  • Arousal
  • Bastard
  • Bet/betting
  • Bishop
  • Bra
  • Breast (except for breast cancer if necessary)
  • Buttocks or butt (alternatively, you can say derriere or backside)
  • Crap
  • Damn (try “blast” instead)
  • Darn
  • Dern/durn
  • Devil (except in the religious sense, but the circumstances would be rare)
  • Dang or Dagnabbit
  • Doody
  • Father (when used to describe a religious official)
  • Fiend
  • For heaven’s sake (can use “for goodness’ sake” instead)
  • For the love of Mike
  • For Pete’s sake
  • Gee
  • Geez/jeez (but “sheesh” is acceptable)
  • Gosh
  • Golly
  • Halloween
  • Harlot
  • Heat (when used to describe kisses)
  • Heck
  • Hell (except in the religious sense, but this would be rare)
  • Holy cow
  • Hot/hottie
  • Hunk
  • Need/hunger (when used to describe non-food-focused state of being)
  • Pee
  • Poop
  • Panties
  • Passion
  • Priest
  • Sexy
  • Sex
  • Sexual attraction
  • Tempting (as applied to the opposite sex)
  • St. [name of saint]
  • Swear, as in “I swear…” – Christian characters are not supposed to swear.
  • Undergarments – of any kind
  • Whore

The following are allowed only in the context mentioned:

  • Angel – only when used in a Biblical context
  • Miracle – only when used in a Biblical context
  • Oh my God/Oh, God – ONLY allowed when it’s clearly part of a prayer
  • Heavenly – only when used in a Biblical context
  • Although you can say “He cursed” or mention cursing, do not overuse. Furthermore, only non-Christian characters can curse.

Situations to be avoided:

  • Kissing below the neck
  • Visible signs or discussions of arousal or sexual attraction or being out of control
  • Double entendre
  • Nudity – people changing clothes “on screen” or any character clad only in a towel
  • Hero and heroine sleeping in the same house without a third party, even if they’re not sleeping together or in the same room
  • Also, Christian characters should not smoke, drink, gamble, play cards or dance (except in historical novels they may dance but please limit to square dances and balls, no “sexy” dancing like waltzing cheek to cheek), and terms associated with these activities should only be used in connection with bad guys or disapproving of them or such.
  • Bodily functions, like going to the bathroom, should be mentioned as little as possible and some euphemism may be necessary but we don’t want to sound quaint or absurd.

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Source: http://www.steamthing.com/2009/09/agees-ekphrases.html
Author: Caleb Crain

Depth: a sense of the complexity of reality.

What a good definition for literary depth.

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