Friday, 14 February 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

(image provided by Stock Free Images)
By Andrea Grigg 

Ah, Valentine’s Day. The perfect day to the year to talk about romance.

Interestingly enough, Valentine’s Day hasn’t always been the commercial celebration it is today. Its origins  come from the church, a day of commemoration for several early saints named Valentinus. Back in the middle ages, Geoffrey Chaucer and his friends were responsible for associating the day with romantic love. By the 18th century, it had evolved into a day when lovers would present each other with flowers, confectionery and greeting cards. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Now this romance stuff is all well and good, but if it’s only alive and well on one day per year, then I don’t think the relationship would last for very long, do you? Let’s face it, one day of ‘hearts and flowers’ is just not enough to sustain a meaningful relationship for the next 364 days by any stretch of the imagination.

There have been several thought-provoking discussions over the validity and reality of Christian romance in the last few months. There have been suggestions that, perhaps, like Valentine’s Day, Christian romance is simply ‘hearts and flowers’ and not of any substance.

I strongly disagree of course! However, you might like to take a look at this article, recently shared by Narelle Atkins – here’s the link if you’d like to read it: http://www.christiantoday.com/article/whats.wrong.with.christian.fiction/35663.htm

Within the article is an intriguing comment by Grace Bridges, a NZ writer and editor who runs Independent Press Splashdown Books. One of the things she said was that Christian romance novels ‘can seem like a lot of fluff and create unreal expectations of life’.  It’s important to note that Grace was referring to a bunch of books she was given as a teenager.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’d heard of this. A friend of mine once told me about a girl whose expectation of marriage came from these novels. The young lady then married, and it wasn’t long before she was in trouble, to the point of needing counselling in order to cope with the realities of life. Very sad indeed.

I firmly believe Australian Christian romance writing has come a long way from those days. Of course, there is always room for improvement, but I can safely say that the romance novels written by my colleagues deal with issues and situations that are real and common to many of us today. The characters have struggles; they are flawed; they both frustrate and delight as we are taken along on their journey to find love.

But here’s the thing: Even though they are made up, fictional people, they are relatable. This statement has been borne out countless times by emails,  reviews, and conversations with readers. Nothing does an author’s heart good more than hearing that one of their characters has given a person the courage to make the right choice, given them hope, inspired them to try again, and encouraged them in their walk with God.

One of the tools many of us use when creating our characters are The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Lucy Morgan-Jones explained this beautifully in another blog post last year:
http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/the-five-love-languages-for-characters.html

To recap, The Five Love Languages are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Once we have a good handle on each of these, they not only make our characters relatable, but they help us to love our spouses and family members in ways that are meaningful to them.

So here’s to a great Valentine’s Day. Perhaps you could buy your loved one a romance novel. That’s if he or she is into Receiving Gifts of course!


Andrea writes contemporary Christian romance, and lives on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Her debut novel, ‘A Simple Mistake’ was published by Even Before Publishing in 2012. Her second novel, ‘Too Pretty’ is to be published by Rhiza Press in August 2014.

http://www.andreagrigg.com
https://www.facebook.com/author.andreagrigg
https://twitter.com/andreagrigg


17 comments:

  1. Thank you for the history lesson Andrea, I never knew the origins of the holiday.
    I agree novels need to have realistic characters who have problems and find solutions to them. This post has got me pondering, however, at the individual responsibility of a reader to remember that all characters in fiction are just that - fiction. I feel sad for this girl that she formed her expectations from a form of entertainment. Just my pondering.
    I will endevour to have realistic characters who offer hope, inspire courage....but I hope my readers realise that my characters are not real. As Christians we need to weigh what we learn, learn from others, look to real life experience and use wisdom to guide us in love and life.

    Happy Valentines day!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Cat - yes, it is sad for that girl, but on another level, a reminder as to how influential the written word can be. Also, how many times have we heard someone say, 'I saw in a movie that ...' You're right - it is the responsibility of the individual to realise the difference between fact and fiction.

    Happy Valentine's Day to you too!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Happy Valentine's Day, Andrea. I love a good romance novel but generally when it involves a good dollop of suspense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ian - good to hear that from a bloke! Have you read 'The Celtic Stone' by Nick Hawkes? Happy Valentine's Day :)

      Delete
    2. That is a great book. I loved it!

      Delete
    3. Thanks for the tip, Andrea & Dale.

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  4. Great points to ponder, Andrea. I remember watching the Brady Bunch when I was little and wondering why families didn't resolve their issues as neatly as the Bradys by hour's end. Then I grew up and understood the difference between fiction and reality.

    Like Cat, I'm so sorry a girl of marriageable age can't distinguish between a story which wraps up with a satisfying ending, and the ongoing challenges of real life relationships.

    It's good as a reader to remember we're only following an extended scene of characters' lives. And that as much as we love the people we read about, we are not them.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Andrea,
    I totally agree with everything you've said.
    The secular market gets a lot of novels which may be classified as 'fluff' along with meatier, more thought-provoking, ponder-worthy romance stories. I just don't get why people can't see that this is the same for the Christian market. We have our 'fluff' and deeper stories too, just the same.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point Paula. Readers accept the 'fluff' in the secular market and don't buy it if they don't like it - as simple as that.

      Delete
  6. Thanks for the comment, Dotti. Funnily enough, our kids called their dad Mr Brady at times!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great comments and a worthy topic for writers on Valentines Day, Andrea. Thanks for sharing the post by Lucy. I missed it at the time.

    Sometimes I scoff at the sweetness in Christian romance novels, however, I often find myself crying and being challenged by elements of them. Sometimes it's the actions of the characters, the lessons they learn or the powerful words of faith shared throughout that speak to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have to agree, Elaine - it's not very often I don't get even a little 'takeaway' out of a story. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  8. Hi Andrea, Happy Valentine's Day :) As others have mentioned, it's interesting how some people may hold Christian romance novels responsible for their relationship problems, or perceive that Christian romance novels may cause problems for other Christians. It's kind of like saying to the police officer, when you're caught speeding, that it's not my fault because I chose to watch movies and play video games with high speed car chases, and that's my expectation of how I should drive. This is despite driving every day in the real world with the majority of drivers obeying the speed limit, usually in fear of being caught by a speed camera. Real life relationships, for example your nuclear family, will have a big influence on your perception of romance and marriage. Hopefully Christians are reading their Bible and learning God's expectations of romance and marriage from the source.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A great commonsense post, Andrea and a good piece of santifigumption, Narelle.
      It's just too easy to blame what we read for our actions.

      God's Word is the greatest foundation we can lay in our relationships with spouses, relatives, and friends. Take a look at Song of Solomon to check out romance also!

      Delete
  9. Good to be reminded of the origins of the day and agree we need to maintain that behaviour and romance on the other days of the year.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you for your comments, Narelle, Rita and Dale. Just love reading the variety of thoughts! What a creative bunch you are :)

    ReplyDelete