Over at John Salzi’s blog, the sci-fic author James S.A. Corey (the nom-de-plume for the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) defends sentimentality in fiction. In fact, they come right out and say, “Embrace sentimentality.” And they contrast the joys of embracing the sentimental with the tactic of either going Fluffy Bunny (not taking your characters seriously and winking at the readers) or becoming the Solemnist (larding everything with too much, ponderous, overstated meaning).
I agree, and I think that there are some lessons here for Mormon fiction.
Sentimentality is the big bugaboo of those who take Mormon fiction seriously. It is the number one thing to avoid.
Sentimentality is also supposed to be the major hallmark of the “bad” Mormon fiction, the treacle.
I suppose. And I think that Daniel and Ty would also note that you still have to write the sentimental well. That you need strong characters and deft prose and good plotting.
But they still say:
Writing genre fiction is undignified. Reading genre fiction is undignified. If we’re going to do this, it should be joyful. We should create a little literary pocket universe where we can shuck off the irony and defensiveness and care about these imaginary people, and weep for them, feel awe when they’re awed, triumph with them when they win, and grieve with them when they fail.
Writing Mormon fiction is undignified. If we’re going to do this, it should be joyful. And if we’re going to do this, love should be our grand motive because love, true love, involves a deep investment in the progression of others. And narrative art is how we show that progression (and why love is the crucial component to it).