Dave Meigs

David Meigs is a novelist with a background in youth outreach, specializing in ministry to at-risk youth and their families. Though his writing is enjoyed by all ages, his novels provide a unique, life-changing quality, critical for the youth of today. David and his family lives in Seabeck, Washington, where he serves his church as youth pastor.

Darkness and Light

Chasing shadows.

One of my favorite scenes from the animated Disney classic Peter Pan is when Wendy awakes to see a boy chasing his shadow inside her bedroom. How exactly Peter became separated from his shadow is never revealed, only that Peter had somehow left it behind on a previous visit. Peter’s shadow proves to be quite a slippery customer in a knockdown, drag-out fight; but in the end, Peter subdues his shadow. With Wendy’s help, his shadow is properly sewn back on. The adventure goes on from there.

In the real world, shadows cannot act independently from the object they duplicate. However, in the world of fiction, shadows can, and sometimes do, get a mind of their own. This was exactly the case in a recent episode of a popular television show. In the show, while one of the character’s slept, his shadow started going off on its own for the sake of taking revenge on his enemies.

I must admit that at first I thought this was an interesting concept, and I was eager to see how the episode unfolded. Unfortunately, my interest was rather short-lived. It was one thing to suggest that strong light, such as the strobe from a camera flash, could cause the shadow pain. It was a whole other thing when they discovered that the shadow could not exist in the darkness. All they had to do was to turn out the lights, and poof, no more monster. Way too easy! Where’s the fun in that?

The contrast between shadow and light.

So what does all this have to do with writing life-transforming fiction? Simple. Nowhere is the relationship between darkness and light more crucial than it is in inspirational fiction. After all, redemption is the very core of what we write. Minus the darkness, there is no need for redemption. God’s love for us shines even more brightly when set in contrast to all He has brought us through. The same is true of the stories we write.

But it strikes me that within the Christian writing community, the shadows have taken on a life of their own. For many years I have watched a growing debate as to what are the proper standards for presenting dark subject matter within Christian novels. In the past, this was dealt with by the individual publishing houses. Each publisher had a list of standards they expected their authors to honor, or they would not be published.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Ps. 139:11–12 NIV)

Much has changed within the Christian fiction publishing community. Several of the old, well-established Christian publishers have either disappeared or been purchased by other, and sometimes secular, publishing companies. Many new and often smaller publishing houses have emerged and seem to be doing quite well. The result is a much changed publishing landscape, where the rules seem to be in flux.

Edgy Christian fiction, or a stumbling block?

The popular catch phrase “edgy Christian fiction” is often used to describe this growing direction within Christian fiction. The primary aim of this edgier brand of fiction is to provide a more realistic story. The author has greater freedom to create more true-to-life characters who are sometimes deeply flawed, or perhaps to write about dark subject matter in greater detail.

Are these changes good, or bad? Some complain that the line between Christian and secular novels is going to vanish completely. They worry that overly graphic scenes could potentially result in causing a reader to stumble into committing the same kinds of sin they are reading about.

How far is too far when it comes to Christian inspirational fiction? It can only be answered on a case by case basis. It all comes down to a matter of a writer’s individual conscience before God. And fortunately, even in today’s Wild West environment of changing standards, there remains the tried and true safety that results from each new set of eyes that view the project at the various levels of the publishing process.

Will some well-known Christian author slip up and push the edginess too far, only to have it blow back into his or her face? It’s bound to happen someday. But until that day comes, I doubt we can settle the debate on this subject today, or at any time in the near future. In the meantime, my hope is that we all remember to keep the discussion honest and respectful. And if your shadow tears free and makes a break for the exit and you find yourself without a proper sewing kit, just turn off the lights.