If you’re expecting tips on how to write for Generations X, Y, and Z, you may be disappointed by what is to follow. I offer no fail-safes, no stylistic pointers. Merely my observations and musings.
As a Generation X’er myself, I know we are a squirrelly bunch—postmodern hardheads who are difficult to define, difficult to argue with, even more difficult to convince. (So imagine what all those little Z’s are going to be like). One thing I do know about Generation X’ers is this: Their reality really bites, man. Based on my observations, it seems many Y’s would agree with this statement. And the Z’s . . . well, should we just stop for a moment and pray?
So, the age old question: How do Christian artists, writers, musicians stay relevant? How do we create art that appeals to believers and non-believers alike—art that is in this world, but not of it? Perhaps we start by putting these questions on the back burner, and instead focus on getting to know our audience.
I have experienced Generation X from the inside, and here are a couple things I’ve observed. When the college ethics professor asks, “How many of you think truth is relative?” all the students raise their hands. Well, everyone but the little newbie Christian in the corner who senses some truths are absolute; however, due to years of conditioning, she cannot effectively argue her position. Further, she will not say what she really thinks (that relativism is illogical) for fear of being labeled “intolerant”.
Despite being cautious and (dare I say) wishy-washy, when it comes to the whole concept of truth, these Generation X’ers hold honesty in high esteem. In other words, my truth may not be the same as your truth, but when you are talking about your truth, or describing your own personal journey towards self-actualization, you better be brutally honest about it. Don’t leave out any details, and certainly don’t sugar coat them. Don’t beat around the bush. Ideally, if you can manage it, rip open your heart and let it spill onto the page. Why? Because this is a very cathartic experience which leads to healing and enlightenment for all.
Of course, I am grossly overgeneralizing, but please bear with me.
I cannot speak for Generation Y, and Generation Z is still in its formative stages, but I can safely guess the two are/will be Generation X on steroids. The Left Behind series won’t make it past these folks. Simple answers, simple interpretations, sugar-coated Pollyanna depictions of familial, platonic, and romantic relationships just won’t cut it. Characters who never mess up, never feel real pain, never feel stupid or the slightest bit confused just won’t cut it. Throw in some dysfunction, some grit, some brokenness, some hypocrisy, a little cynicism, and maybe even some sarcasm. Now you’re getting somewhere.
The Generation X’ers do have one thing right. Reality often does bite. It even tends to bite Christians.
So how do we stay relevant? Well, perhaps it’s not so hard. Maybe we just need to be honest with ourselves and our readers, and depict people as they really are, dysfunction and grit included. And now comes the twist: we show our readers there is hope.
DISCLAIMER: Ripping open the heart and letting it spill onto the page is not required nor recommended!