Be bold, not bland
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
The other day I was talking to a film producer, and she mentioned a conference she had attended in which a TV executive said, “If you want a successful program, be bold.” As I considered what that message might mean for a writer, I added, “Not bland. Be bold, not bland.” His point was that it’s easy to create the safe product. You know, the stuff we read as we search for the extraordinary, or the TV program we snooze through. Yeah, we’ve all seen–and created–our fair share of the bland stuff.
But what would happen if we were bold?
What would you create, if you weren’t afraid?
I asked myself, What have I read that’s bold? Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love came to mind. I mean, what author decides to write a novelization of the Book of Hosea? Who even reads Hosea? Yet that’s what Francine decided to do.
The book released in its CBA version in 1997 but first was published for the general market in1991. Here’s a review that was written based on the 1997 version:
From Library Journal
“Rivers has rewritten a secular historical romance of the same name (Bantam, 1991) for the Christian market, and it is a splendid piece of work exploring both physical love and a love of God. Angel, a young, hardened prostitute sold into ‘the life’ as a child, has no interest in God or religion. Then she meets Michael Hosea, a devout Christian who tells her it is his mission to save her. After being badly beaten, Angel decides to take Michael up on his offer of marriage. Eventually, she learns not only to love Michael but to love God as well. There is not one false note in this wonderful novel. The publisher’s foreword rates the book ‘PG’ for its adult themes and subplots of rape and incest. However, these are handled with great sensitivity and are very much a part of the story’s development. Very highly recommended for most libraries.”
Francine wasn’t the only bold one. Multnomah, the publisher for this book, took a big risk to release a book with such a provocative storyline. As a matter of fact, the owner of Multnomah wrote a long foreword in which he explained why he had chosen to take that risk.
This bold move has a happy ending. Redeeming Love immediately was embraced by the Christian market and continues to pop up on the CBA best-seller list several times each year. By 2005, it had sold more than one million copies, and in 2007 (the most recent figures I could find) it still was selling more than 100,000 copies per year. I’d say it struck a chord.
Let’s time travel back to that decade for a minute to consider the context in which the book was produced. CBA publishers considered including in a book the suggestion that a child had been sexually molested, the depiction of brothels and prostitutes, and even allusions to sexual relations intolerable. I remember the furor the book caused when it was released; writing about such topics was headline news.
One other thought I have regarding the idea of being bold, not bland is that such a decision doesn’t give a writer license to be brash. Brash people are heedless of consequences, pushing boundaries for the sake of doing so, uninhibited and lacking in restraint. (Just checked out my Webster’s and found many of these descriptors there.)
We avoid being brash when we ask ourselves why we’re really wanting to write on a certain topic, or to write about it in a certain way. What mission do we hope to accomplish by the writing of this particular piece? to shock? to make headlines? to provide insight? to touch those are hurting?
Francine writes about the affect Redeeming Love has had on readers here. I think that helps us to understand a bit about her mission in writing the novel.
Now, three questions for you:
1. What have you read that’s bold?
2. Is your WIP bold, bland or brash?
3. What would you write if you weren’t afraid? (Now’s the time to be bold and to name it.)