By Darvell Hunt
A few days ago, I dreamed that my teenaged son was mopping our lawn with a big yellow rag mop. I’m not sure what would have prompted him to believe that the lawn was dirty or why a wet, yellow rag mop would be an appropriate way to clean it, yet that’s clearly what I saw him doing while I was asleep. The thought of mopping the lawn didn’t seem unusual to me at the time, but that my son had the initiative to mop the lawn on his own certainly did.
Creating truly great LDS stories does not involve writing about things we already know. We, as LDS people, all have everyday lives and experience LDS events. Fiction writing, even LDS fiction writing, should take us away into imaginary or unknown worlds where we see things that excite us, make us think, or make us feel something more than just what our normal LDS lives provide. There may be exceptions to this, of course, especially when dealing with romance in women’s literature, but even with this genre, women seem to be seeking either validation of their own romantic lives or something they think they might be missing.
Unfortunately, what I see being published in the LDS market today are too many stories that are ordinary, superficial, and even sappy or boring. That is not the sort of stories I write, so it’s becoming apparent to me why, after almost twenty years of attempting to write for the LDS market, that I have not yet had a novel accepted.
Frankly, I believe I’m to the point where publishers are reading my stuff and thinking it’s good, that it’s compelling writing, and it's interesting material, but they tell me that LDS readers don’t want to read that sort of thing. Well, I am an LDS reader and I do want to read that sort of thing. That’s probably why I find myself reading more mainstream fiction than LDS fiction.
If this truly the way things are in the Mormon media market, I think it’s a sad state of affairs to be in. I know that many LDS readers are craving LDS fiction that is currently not available, mostly, I think, because the “big LDS publishers” are unwilling to publish it. I have a hope that LDS publishers can expand their search for good, compelling LDS fiction and publish stories that are truly thought-provoking, yet still distinctly LDS. The LDS market can be grown to include those LDS members who do not currently read "our" fiction.
As for lawn mopping, I imagine that you’ve never actually seen a teenager out mopping the lawn with a big yellow rag mop. I am, however, willing to bet that I created a mental image of just such an activity in your mind—and I’m willing to further wager that the image you saw brought a smile to your lips, if not a chuckle.
Mopping the lawn is probably something you’ve never thought about, mostly because it doesn’t make sense—but if you could make it make sense, I would bet it would bomome a good story. Personally, I had never seen anyone do it until I saw my son with the mop while I slept. If you have never seen it either, I probably made you think about something new. That’s a good thing, in my opinion. Is mopping the lawn an appropriate story idea for LDS audiences? Sure, why not? Has this been done? I doubt it. Was it boring and sappy? You be the judge. I personally thought it was an amusing image in my head—that’s why I’m writing about it now. (Although writing about someone mopping the lawn is not specifically an LDS story, even if the mopper is LDS.)
I want to see fiction in the LDS market comparable to mopping the lawn—things that are a bit "out there" compared to typical LDS stories, but not so far that LDS readers can’t enjoy it. Is that too much to ask?
I challenge LDS writers to write stories like this and I also challenge LDS publishers to accept and publish these stories, so the rest of us can read them. That’s the only way really compelling LDS stories are going to end up in our niche market. I further hope that the LDS media market’s current situation doesn’t force these great stories into the national market, possibly watered down or spiced up, as national publishers may require.
I believe that we LDS people are a complex, passionate, and thinking people—so why can’t our published writing show that?