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LDS Fiction and Depth in Mormon Characterization

March 14, 2009

More thoughts on the Mormon characters in a couple of the LDS fiction works I have been reading.

Here is what defines them as Mormons:

They keep the Word of Wisdom.
They are modest and keep the law of chastity.
They have testimonies of a couple of other aspects of the Gospel (pick from the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, prophets, families) that are expressed but not explored or explained in great depth.

The end. Or at least the end in the book I’m currently in.

This frustrates me. I know that in the genre I’m currently reading, it’s tough to build round characters. But there’s a lot more to being Mormon than just keeping the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity, and expressing your testimony every so often. There’s depth to our doctrine. Also real prayers don’t always get answered as fast as they do in books. The only way to get at that depth is to make liberal use of the “show don’t tell” rule in characterization.

Books I thought did this very well… My favorites are Bound on Earth, Waiting for the Light to Change, and Fool Me Twice. That last one surprised me. Character is often subordinate to plot in that genre. But no; the LDS characters were nice and round, and the non-LDS protagonist, while she was reading the Book of Mormon by the end of the book, did not convert completely yet. The book worked because it had well-rounded characters, and it didn’t try to force their arcs into something unrealistic for its scope.

It’s late. But more on this later.

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