By: Dennis Bates
When people ask me what kind of books I write and I tell them Christian love stories from a man’s perspective, I get a lot of strange looks. Many of those people don’t know which direction to run first; others just smile and try to back away slowly without losing eye contact. The really adventurous ask, “What’s that?” I never know where to start with that question. Do I tell them that Christian love stories are nothing more than love stories told from a Christian world view, or do I tell them about men writing them?
First, let me say I have always liked a good love story. I prefer the stories with happy endings, but I have even read the ones that don’t turn out so happy. Romeo and Juliet do not live happily ever after, but it is one of the classic love stories of all time. Still, I would prefer to put a book down and say, “Wow, that was good,” instead of reaching for the box of tissues and saying, “That was so sad.”
I am not talking about formula romances where boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again. Some of those are very good in spite of the formula, but I basically view those as two opening pages where we meet the characters we know will get together, and two pages of ending where they get together. In between there’s three hundred or four hundred pages of tease. Everybody knows that he really loves her and she really loves him except the characters themselves. Why are they so clueless when it is so obvious to everyone else?
Some writers call that character development. They claim they want to take a journey with the heroine (let’s face it; they’re usually women) to see how she changes and falls in love. Men, on the other hand, watch baseball while they read the middle stuff, if they bother to read it at all. Unrequited love is not a man’s thing; there better be some requitement there or we’re going to actually watch the baseball game, as boring as that may be.
That doesn’t make men unromantic. In fact, one of my real pet peeves is the tendency today to make men look like stupid, wishy washy, clueless simpletons that would be lost if they didn’t have a woman there to remind them what to do. Where I come from, that’s called nagging, but it seems to be in vogue. And maybe men have some of it coming, since the slipper has been on the other foot for a long time.
My goal is to set the record straight as much as possible. Men are romantic; they have feelings, and they have the capcity to love very deeply, which is a good thing because it’s what the Bible requires at least husbands to do. They are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, which means they should be willing to give their lives both figuratively and literally if necessary. There is so much more to that than I can go into here, so I will have to come back to it.
Suffice it to say that I feel strongly that men need to read and write love stories. I don’t think I can personally write anything else because to me love is what it’s all about. Ultimately, we are supposed to love God and to love one another, but we need to learn how to love romantically too. Having said that, a man is never going to be able to wade through the foggy British Isle lowlands with some woman bent on wallowing in her own misery and helplessness. Nor are we going to be able to identify with some stiff, proper gentleman who would rather maintain his stiff upper lip than use it more pliantly where it would do him more good. I know that may be classic stuff, but it just doesn’t resonate for me.
I would rather skip most of the angst in the middle, get to the together parts and then see what happens from there. Just because there’s a wedding doesn’t mean there will be a happily ever after. In fact, statistics today establish that marriage itself has become less and less favored, and even when there is a wedding, fewer than 50 percent have an ever after, let alone a happy one.
So at least in my case, I chose to have the couples kiss when the people I know would really kiss. I will explore what happens after that both before and after marriage, and I will let my characters wrestle with how you do all that in a Christian context. There are no pat answers, in my opinion, save one, Jesus Christ died for our sins and if we believe that we will have have eternal life. How do couples who believe that fix what might be broken in their relationships or better yet, how do they rely on that to forge stronger and more loving relationships?
Those are the questions that I can relate to and they are the things that I am led to write about, all within the context of love and romance. Every now and then I throw in a sweeter love story just because.