Just to clarify, I mean single narrative as in only narrative, not like not yet romantically paired up narrative. Though the latter does get involved with the former.
But what do I mean by only narrative, then? In short, stereotype: when only a single story is given attention and (ergo) treated as legitimate. As in, not all Australians live in the bush and fight dingos and crocodiles on their way to pick up some groceries or whatever. In more short, it’s about being more deliberate about including the wide range of experiences.
And then we have Christian fiction. It’s very….white. Middle-class, suburban, and white as fuck. Though quite a bit of Amishness is imported, so for variety we can have rural, lower-middle-class and white as fuck. I hear it’s getting better, but like anything in Christian subculture, it’s anywhere from five to fifteen years behind the mainstream trends of getting better.
So let’s talk about those not yet romantically coupled single narratives. The main reason I can’t really stomach those is because there’s only so much variation you can put on what is basically a really damn simple narrative. Person A is into Person B, but there are Reasons, but then the Reasons are overcome. Or not—but who am I kidding, there is no not.
But one of the basic assumptions is that the coupling of Persons A and B must happen (or at least be attempted—but who am I kidding). Singleness is counterproductive to the coupley narrative. In that context, singleness becomes a problem to be overcome by the narrative. Singleness is not a story given attention and, ergo, given legitimacy.
So let’s construct a basic Amish Christian romance. So Person A is some Amish chick who yearns. And there’s only so much yearning I can stomach because it gets boring because nothing happens. Except the Amish frown upon anything that is not traditional gender roles, so our protagonist chick is stuck in the passive role, waiting for something to happen to her. But something (men) always does happen, because that is the point of these books. And then we have Reasons why they can’t just get together and shut the fuck up already.
Something that Amish books offer that is a little different than the usual is the Threat of English-ification. Oh noes, will Chick abandon everything she knows to be with some English dude? From what I can generalize, no that does not happen. Chick’s sister or cousin or best friend may (and usually ends up miserable), but I don’t think I’ve heard of an instance where Chick does. One less story given attention, ergo legitimacy.
And what about non-Amish Christian romances? …Nothing changes, really, because non-Amish Chick is usually still relegated to the role of passive yearning until something (men) happens. And we have the non-Amish version of the Threat, in this case the Threat of Secularization. Except, oddly enough, there are instances where Chick does marry the Secular Dude, but that’s because she transformed him into the Formerly Secular Dude. But Come-to-Jesus is the trope of Christian fiction. But more on that later.
So what kind of background do these characters come from? Generally speaking, sympathetic characters come from two-(hetero)-parent, middle-class, specifically Christian households. Usually the variation is whether they have siblings or not. Single narrativity out the ears. We get more variation out of less-to-non-sympathetic or Redemption Narrative characters—at least within the context that they came from non-Christian and fucked-up households. Granted, some of this variability is inevitable, all happy households being similar while fucked-up households are fucked up in their own little snowflake ways. But if you’re going with the nondescript happy background, you’re gonna need to…compensate, I guess, by introducing variability somewhere else.
But let’s shift to the Redemption Narrative, perhaps the most singular of single narratives. AKA the Come-to-Jesus, the staple of Christian fiction. It’s kinda inevitable that when this audience thinks that Christianity is the only thing worth thinging, we are not going to have much narrative variation by way of characters being Jewish/atheist/Buddhist/pagan/Muslim and also being wholesome and happy about it. It is what it is, but it really cramps down on narrative variation, so it needs to be compensated for.
So if somebody held a gun to my head and told me to create a Christian romance, what could I do for narrative permutation? First of all, I would be inclined to minimize the romantic junk and create a plot that had stuff going on. And then the person holding the gun to my head would make a production of cocking the hammer. So then my next attempt would involve making the protagonist Chick someone who does shit besides yearning. Someone who can fucking communicate her feelings to the potential Dude(s) of Interest. Except, shit, I would need to make some Reasons why they can’t be together. Fuck, I dunno. But then my Chick would weigh her options and make a decision and then fucking communicate it. And also she does not really want babies right now, so she is still going to job, whatever the job is.
So I would have the less-overdone-to-death variations of an active (or at least not so fucking passive) female lead and a less-bullshitty resolution with no babies. But would it sell? Would it sell in a Christian market? I doubt it, because most evangelical Christians are as uptight about traditional gender roles as the Amish are. No narrative variability for you!
But this really starts to prompt the question whether single narrativity is actually a problem in Christian fiction, or considered a perk by the Gatekeepers That Be? Do they want to give legitimacy to not-Christianity? Do the nutter-butter complementarians want to give legitimacy to anything other than Victorian gender roles? Rhetorical question is rhetorical.
So does this mean Christian fiction will inevitably suck balls? I think I’m being generous when I only say that it’s a distinct possibility, should the Gatekeepers That Be continue to hamstring it with this growing list of restrictions. Do they care? That’s another issue entirely.