Thursday, July 17, 2008

Defining LDS Fiction

Just what exactly is LDS fiction?

It's fiction that is written for people who want to read about LDS topics, or issues as seen through the LDS lens. LDS fiction may include elements of romance, suspense, mystery, history, or drama, but the underlying foundation is the same -- the characters are either LDS or become LDS, the story is clean, and sin is shown, yet so are the consequences. The sin isn't shown graphically, and language is kept to a tasteful minimum.

What is an LDS author?

A person who writes books and is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


As we bandy about terms in the LDS market, there's room for confusion. The term "LDS fiction" refers to a genre, as described above. When you pick up a book that is listed as "LDS fiction," you should be able to count on it containing the above elements. If it doesn't, it could be classified as "general fiction" or "women's fiction" and the like, but if it doesn't include many if not all of the above elements, it doesn't truly fall into the "LDS fiction" genre.

There are LDS authors who write for the national market, and their books would fall more into the "general fiction," "women's fiction," or "young adult" genres.

When you pick up a book by an LDS author, unless it says "LDS fiction," you shouldn't automatically assume that it will contain the elements of LDS fiction. The book may or may not mention the Church at all. It may contain swearing, bed scenes and the like. Those things are more accepted on the national level and the LDS author has more leeway than they would in the LDS market. Being an LDS author doesn't mean that you have to write LDS fiction any more than I have to write women's fiction because I'm a woman or chick lit because I'm a chick -- every author has the right to choose what they want to write.

However, if you're going to write a book and call it "LDS fiction," it should maintain certain standards. It's the genre type. I wouldn't write a romance with no mystery whatsoever and call it a mystery, any more than I would write a chick lit and call it a man's book. You've got to properly identify your genre or you won't hit the audience you're targeting. If you tell me your book is chick lit and it turns out to be about four college guys who drop out and take a road trip, I'm going to be disappointed. I had my mouth set for chick lit and didn't get it. By the same token, if you tell me your book is LDS fiction and it doesn't contain the elements I'm expecting, I'm going to be disappointed. It's false advertising.

This is one reason why I'm such a stickler about the backliner of a book being accurate. It annoys me no end when the backliner doesn't give a good hint about the contents of a book. I need to expect what I'm going to read. That's why, on the back of "Season of Sacrifice," I mention the polygamy aspect. I want my readers to know full well that book contains polygamy, so if it's something they just can't read, they won't be expected to read it.

I've gone off on a tangent, although the point is valid. Let me come back to my main premise. When you pick up an LDS fiction novel, you should be able to expect a clean read. When you pick up a book by an LDS author, that guarantee doesn't exist, as the author has free agency to write whatever they want. They can just call it by another genre name to indicate to their readers what to expect.

This is where LDS authors like Stephenie Meyer have gotten a lot of criticism. Yes, she's LDS. But she's not writing for the LDS market, and so her constraints on content would be different. Her books certainly don't qualify as LDS fiction, but that's okay. She's never claimed that they do. She properly identified herself as a young adult author on the national level. I've been a pretty strong advocate for Stephenie when others have dogged her for writing the way she has. It's a different market and you can't hold her to LDS market standards when she's writing for the national market.

To summarize: In order to call your book "LDS fiction," make sure it falls into the guidelines for that genre. If it doesn't, choose another genre title and call it by that name. You'll give your readers a much more clear idea of what to expect. The fact that you are LDS and you write fiction doesn't automatically mean that you write LDS fiction.

11 comments:

Kimberly said...

Well put, Tristi!

Candace E. Salima said...

Hear, hear! Go Tristi! I agree with you 100%. I get so angry when I buy a book expecting what is advertised and then getting something else entirely. If it's something else entirely it better be good enough to withstand my anger. The last book I read falsely advertised it's content and made me so mad when I finished it. Obviously, it wasn't good enough to curtail my anger.

Donna said...

Thank you for saying clearly, Tristi. The LDS market and LDS fiction is a world unto itself and just being a member of the LDS church does not mean that an author must necessarily right to, or for, or in behalf of, the LDS world. I like Stephenie Meyers works but I have never equated them with LDS Fiction. I think it is a disservice to everyone to describe them as LDS fiction or LDS stories. I had to laugh when I saw New Moon and Eclipse on the "LDS Inspirational" kiosk at Wal-Mart today, right next to Commentary on the Book of Mormon.

Anna Maria Junus said...

Good explanation and kudos for sticking up for Stephenie. I don't think LDS authors should be put in a box about what people think they should or shouldn't be writing.

Orson Scott Card is another author who writes for the market and I bet most of his readers don't know he's LDS. Same with Anne Perry.

Jennie said...

Stephanie Meyers can write any thing she wants to, but my objection is to seeing her occult books next to LDS fiction in LDS bookstores and in LDS bookstore flyers. If she weren't LDS her books wouldn't be in those stores because they don't hold up the standards LDS bookstores claim to represent, though I'm sure they're profitable. There are LDS publishers also who claim to be edgy or progressive (sometimes they tout their wares as literary which isn't true either)who put out a lot of garbage I wouldn't call LDS Fiction even if their characters are LDS and go through the motions of living some aspects of the LDS culture. They too have the right to publish whatever they wish, but I cringe to see it promoted as LDS when in fact, it twists LDS beliefs and standards.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Exactly and precisely, Jennie. That's one of the reasons I wrote the blog.

Amanda said...

So Tristi - you say an LDS author is a person who writes books and is a member of the church - what are you then if you are NOT a member of the church (or are considered an inactive member for many years) but you write a book that per your definition qualifies as LDS fiction? I'm curious because I'm doing exactly that. I was a convert and only went to church for two years before I left. I have nothing against the church, but I don't believe in it. My current novel, however, is definitely an LDS novel, about a girl who has struggled with her spirituality, left the church, and who comes to realize through her father's declining health and eventual death that she needs to return to the church. I wonder how I would ever publish such a thing, because I don't consider myself LDS. Sort of an odd quandry, no?

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I heard a rumor that Deseret Book does not carry Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Do you know if that's true or not? I haven't been in so wouldn't know.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Hey Natasha,

I checked out Deseret Book online and she's definitely listed, so I would have to say that's a rumor. I haven't been in there for a while either but I think if she's in the online store, she'd be on the shelves as well.

Thanks for asking!

Donna said...

Natasha,

Deseret Book is carrying all of Stephenie's twighlight books and you can preorder Breaking Dawn. (can't remember if I saw Host there.) I ordered Breaking Dawn two weeks ago at the American Fork DB BUT they are not discounting them. I don't know if that means they haven't gotten around to it or if they feel that they should get full price but I am kicking myself for not going thru Amazon.com for 1/2 the price. Anyway they have the books.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Thanks! I wonder where I heard that from . . .

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