Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Why Exmormon?

A lot of people have pointed out to me that calling my novel Exmormon makes it sound like it's some sort of expose of Mormonism -- a book that's going to shock you with all of Mormonism's deep, dark, dirty secrets.

Since it's not that at all -- it's just an ordinary story of Mormon and ex-Mormon young people -- I should have given it a title that makes people think story. Like, say, "Gone with the Wind" or something like that.

Others have pointed out that the plot of Exmormon is all over the map, if it can be said to have a plot at all. This novel seems like the classic example to illustrate one of my favorite Simpson's Quotes: "It's just a bunch of stuff that happened."

The novel does have a structure to it though, and it's one that ties in with the strange title. As Rachel noted in her review, the different individual sub-stories work together to build on the theme of what issues you face leaving the church as a young person:

1. Young Women's: Trying to be a good Mormon and live up to the church's expectations for you as a young teen.
2. Youth Conference: More serious indoctrination and the beginnings of cognitive dissonance.
3. Saturday's Warrior: The dark side of the resulting mindset.
4. BYU: The epiphany; realizing that it's not real or true.
5. Polygamist: Breaking free of the mindset.
6. Temple Wedding: Dealing with the family fallout.
7. Orem High: A second adolescence while exploring your new-found freedom.
8. Bordeaux Mission: Reflecting on your life, your choices, your feelings about the church.
9. Exmo Conference: wrap-up.

This is why I wrote the whole story in first person (although there are multiple narrators). The point is to see the world through the eyes of the Mormon (later apostate) character. I absolutely didn't want the story to be told by the omniscient (third-person) narrator who's giving you the objectively true "real scoop" on what's going on. The readers' question "What do I think of the narrator's perspective here?" is a part of the story.

As you know, I'm planning to make the novel available online so it will be more convenient to read it and to talk about how it relates to people's experiences in and out of Mormonism. I'm already happy to note that different readers have related to different characters -- i.e. several cases where from one email I can see that a reader disliked character X, whereas another reader clearly identifies with that same character. ;-)

And I've gotten good feedback from non-Mormon readers who have enjoyed it as a story and for its insights into what Mormon culture is like.

For my LDS readers, I've tried to write the story as complex, realistic, and fair enough that the faithful won't just angrily dismiss it as a bunch of bull. The novel is appropriate for some LDS readers but not all. Basically, if you're open enough to want to try to understand what your apostate friends and family members have gone through, you might be interested in reading this. And if you like Zarahemla books, then Exmormon probably won't offend you. And depending on your tastes, you might like it. :D

I was hoping to be ready to announce the novel site's URL and the date I'll begin posting it, but unfortunately I'm a little behind schedule. Keep watching this blog and I'll keep you posted!!! :D


Rebecca said...

I don't think there's NO plot. I loved that the characters' stories got all intertwiney. Although, I'll admit, I would have liked to get MORE about the characters. I was so interested in most of them that I wanted to have another chapter or two from their points of view. Also, I KNOW that you know this, but I still feel compelled to point it out (because I am an insufferable know-it-all who is ignorant of her ignorance) - the third person narrative can be limited, and can also be unreliable -- doesn't have to be objective. Anyway, I LIKE that you have the narrative from the different characters' points-of-view (like culs-de-sac. Heeheehee!).

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Rebecca!!!

It's true that a third-person narrator isn't necessarily giving you the "objective scoop" by definition. Actually, it might be kind of fun to write a story in third person where it's clear that the anonymous narrator has a wacky biased perspective and the reader ends up asking "Wait a minute -- who the hell is telling this story here?" ;-)

But that's not what I was going for in this particular novel. Maybe next time!!! :D

Baconeater said...

Just wondering if you ever saw the South Park episode on Mormons and what you thought about it.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey BAEJ!!!

I haven't seen it but I want to!!!

I've read the transcript, and it sounds hilarious and right on the money!!!

Some have complained that it promotes the LDS church's (questionable) claim that Mormonism promotes happy families, however considering the treatment of the very familiar story of the pages of the BoM that Joseph Smith lost, they might as well be kinder and gentler on the other facets of Mormonism...

This one quote sums it up perfectly:

"No, it's a matter of logic! If you're gonna say things that have been proven wrong, like that the first man and woman lived in Missouri, and that Native Americans came from Jerusalem, then you'd better have something to back it up. All you've got are a bunch of stories about some asswipe who read plates nobody ever saw out of a hat, and then couldn't do it again when the translations were hidden!"

Baconeater said...

Here you go.


Kalv1n said...

This does sound like a nice theory break, and most mormons would say that anything that doesn't end in a temple wedding and generations of offspring and having your second endowment and calling and election made sure and you going into the temple to wash his feet is a failure and anti-mormon, but I'm sure it's not. Keep us updated.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm one of the people who agree that you should have come up with a name like "Gone with the Wind..." or something. Something that sounds like a novel.

Naming things is always tricky and always important. "ExMormon" tells me we're talking about ExMormons (clearly), but it doesn't tell me that I'm getting a novel.

I say this as I've been pondering branding in the liberal Latter Day Saint tradition of the Community of Christ. It's clear that "Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" was a bad name. There are advantages and disadvantages to the new brand, "Community of Christ." One disadvantage is that there's no identity for the membership: e.g., "Community of Christ-ians".

I've been trying to come up with a name for a new faithful history of the Community of Christ. What a mess! So far, my favorite concepts are: The Book of R: Latter Day Saints of the Community of Christ OR The Reorganization: The Community of Christ and Latter Day Saint History OR Liberal Latter Day Saints: The Community of Christ Story

In another example of problematic titling, our historians association "JWHA" (the "John Whitmer Historical Association") has a terrible name but there aren't any "silver bullet" alternatives.

All "Mormons" have had this problem from Day 1. Which is why even the Utah church is saddled with the abyssmal "The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints"...

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks BAEJ!!!

Actually, I have some weird problem with my system here that prevents video files from playing correctly, but as soon as I get it fixed, it's good to have this one where I can find it!!! :D

Hey Kalvin!!!

An update will be coming very soon!!! :D

Hey John!!!

I'm sure you're right, but I'm not changing the title because I'm just that ornery. ;-)

My strategy is that someday I'll write another novel -- one with a reasonable title -- and once everyone reads and loves that one, they'll come back and read this one despite its crazy title.

You're right about those CoC guys having a naming problem. Their first choice "RLDS" was bad because it basically makes them look like a shadow of the larger Utah church.

The FLDS, by contrast, have good branding. By tacking on the word "fundamentalist" they're acknowledging the big LDS church while saying "we're the real ones." To many people the word "fundamentalist" connotes "crazy, potentially dangerous extremist," but again that kind of goes with their market niche considering how far outside the mainstream they are...

Regarding your ideas for the title of the CoC history book, all three of those are pretty good considering what you've got to work with. It would be better if they hadn't rejected the label "Mormon" though -- then you could have come up with something shorter and more pithy...