This blog entry is prompted by a response to a recent post, “What’s Wrong with my Book?”
A reader commented about portraying characters consuming alcoholic beverages. She didn’t want to change an historical fact that alcohol was a beverage of choice in past times thanks to foul water supplies and the like. She felt it would be wrong to write otherwise. I certainly agree!
Still, I err on the side of caution when pitching to publishers. Just like individual readers, the houses that are strict are strict. The houses that aren’t, aren’t.
Today, many Christians are adamant about not drinking any alcohol, ever. I asked one of the many devout Christians in my life about her strict stance. She cited Ephesians 5:18, which does say not to drink to excess. She argued that if you don’t drink the first drop, then there is no chance of getting drunk. Although she didn’t cite Galatians 5:22-23, one of the fruits of the spirit is self-control. Refusing strong drink is one form of self-control.
Of course, anyone can look to the Bible and find advice on medicinal uses for strong drink, so if you like to debate, have fun.
As for myself, I am not taking a stand on alcohol consumption. I am only explaining what I believe to be an accurate and safe viewpoint regarding manuscript submissions.
I always suggest to go conservative because not mentioning alcoholic beverages won’t offend those who aren’t strict, but mentioning alcohol will offend those who are. In other words, why emphasize a character’s consumption of alcohol when there’s no need?
I was particularly addressing contemporary romance writers where the hero and heroine might have the opportunity to consume cocktails. Why have them do this and turn off some readers when the characters can just as easily drink soda?
Going back to history, though, what I would recommend is not showing characters drinking alcohol. If you say, “They supped that evening,” I see no need to give readers a complete menu. If you want to mention an entree, fine. But again, why mention ale and wine when there’s no need?
If you have a plot involving a drunkard, this could illustrate the harm that excessive use of alcohol can do, so that could be an exception.
I have written many historical stories and successfully avoided the issue. The exception is when a character from one book was rehabilitated in a subsequent story. But otherwise, if memory serves, (I wrote lots of books and stories), I steered away from portraying alcohol consumption in my work. Until and unless you get the go-ahead from your editor to portray alcohol consumption, I recommend you do the same.
How do you feel about characters being portrayed as consuming alcoholic beverages in Christian books?
Would you like to see Christian literature become even more edgy, or do you prefer to have the alternatives in reading that exist today?