[caption id="attachment_3550" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Dirty Harry and his loaded question."][/caption]This week’s prompt is: Pushing the Envelope. Therefore, the first question one must ask is: "Do I feel lucky?" Okay, that's really a bit of dialogue from the classic motion picture, Dirty Harry, but a very good point which we will get to. I mean, really, what does that mean, pushing the envelope? What envelope?
For me it means just the opposite of what I have been doing since this amazing turn of events began last year when I found that publisher. With regards to my writing, I haven’t been pushing anything, other than myself to do so much more. Yet, we're not discussing working hard, meeting impossible deadlines or making our presence felt to the masses. I believe that "pushing the envelope" refers to pushing past one's comfort zone. To move beyond self constructed barriers. To do what is not comfortable.
I am not a marketing guy, but I think I have been bright enough to know not to alienate potential buyers of my novel. Therefore, I have not mentioned in any short story, novel, post or article which side of the political fence I may or may not reside. I have stayed away from any and all incendiary topics. Not only this, but I have also attempted to shy away from small things which could also get feathers ruffled, such as what form of music I have little appreciation for, or which sports teams I follow. Some of these things probably sound rather trivial to some, and most certainly, some of these things will eventually be made known (Country Music; Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Cubs). My point is that in the beginning I wanted to try to be able to reach every facet of my potential audience.
[caption id="attachment_3551" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Draper Street, Swedish Festival"][/caption]One example that I can give is The Kingsburg Swedish Festival. The city that I live in has Swedish roots. Therefore, our colors are Swedish; our buildings have a Swedish architecture; for all intents and purposes, we are a Swedish town. Once a year in May, we hold a festival which draws thousands. Years ago, the festival used to be held in our large park. Before and after our Saturday parade, people would head back to the park where the vendors and food booths were located. We had shade and comfortable grass to walk upon. Eventually, it was moved downtown to what we call our main street. Now we have to walk on cement and asphalt, and have little shade from the sun; but the consumers can walk amongst the shops and thus boost the downtown. Recently, there was a Facebook movement began which hoped to move the festival back to the park. However, since I am now a member of the Chamber of Commerce, you must now see that I declined the invitation to side with one side or the other. I think any reasonable person who has attended the festival would probably know which choice is best, but I am staying away from the subject.
Now, having said all of that, is this really what we mean? Or is it something more?
There is another way that one could push the envelope. My novel is a Christian/Horror crossover. It has a little bit of both and, I hope, is just the right combination to make the novel interesting, fresh and gripping. Now that it has been out for seven months, and I have begun to grow a small following across social networking sites as well as in my hometown, and the audience has begun to know what to expect from me, could it be time to push against their comfort zone? Do I now release a dark and pure horror novel where the devil seems to win more than he loses? Or do I release a purely Christian novel? How about Romance? I could do that, you know. I reach for the romantic comedy DVDs quicker than my wife does. Don’t think I couldn’t! Perhaps I could really shake things up by writing about the rape and murder a young girl much like The Lovely Bones.
What do you guys think? When might it be time to do such a thing? Too early and one might lose an audience before they have that trust factor where they’ll follow you anywhere; too late and they might feel abandoned. I was going to cite Stephen King, but because his writing is so prolific and his audience so varied that he probably did not notice the couple of times that I quit reading him. Of course, he knows that we sometimes come back.
[caption id="attachment_3552" align="alignleft" width="212" caption="See! I told you."][/caption]