Friday, January 1, 2016

Calling All Writers, Novelists, Screenwriters: Dianne's Challenge for 2016 and Beyond - Go Rogue!

A Challenge in the Wilderness
Image by Morguefile.com
I've been thinking about this for a long time, and I decided the beginning of the New Year would be a good time to share my thoughts and a Challenge with you.

I've been thinking about the state of the United States and our world. I see us -- that is, human society -- in decline all over the world. I see the United States in decline -- morally, which affects us politically, spiritually, and in every other way -- and that makes me very sad.

But it's not just the United States. I see the same in the whole world. The results are increasing threats and actual events of violence, terrorism, crime, rumors of war, and more. The world has been simmering for a while and seems to be on the brink of boiling over.

The Power of Writers


So what does this have to do with writers and writing? I've been thinking a lot about our Power as writers. (Tweet that!) That Power has been used well in many instances. However I've been thinking more about how that Power has been mis-used: used for wrong, for bad, and has contributed to the moral decline.

I notice the Power of Writers more when I'm watching TV or a movie, but I believe other writers have just as much power (Tweet that!) -- whether writing novels or nonfiction, for magazines or newspapers, editorials, opinions, or even blogs. Even commercials ads in print or video involve writers. And so I want to talk to all writers of every type, whether I've listed you here or you write for another venue.

Writers are the starting place for so much of what the world consumes (Tweet that!): Books. Newspaper articles. Online articles. TV shows start with the creators and the scripts. So do movies. Not only the main show, but all the commercials or ads in between. Even the news shows begin with a writer putting something into text to put on the teleprompter.

As consumers we probably watch a lot more TV that movies. TVs are in our homes and most of us have them on every day, watching our favorite shows every week, taking in and digesting stories every single day.

Famous line used in Spider-Man.
Those of you who are avid readers may have your nose (and mind) in a book, newspaper, or tablet computer more than your TV on.

Whatever your preferred method of receiving information and entertainment, that's a lot of hours.

That's a lot of influence. That's a lot of power.

What is Being Done with The Power of Writers


If you are anything like me and my family, who prefer to watch more of the family-friendly material with what many now consider "old fashioned values," then it's hard to watch much on TV or in the movies any more. I know a lot of Christians who lament the state of television and movies. 

In the past few years there has been a surge of Christian and/or other faith-based movies -- some wildly successful, some flops. I believe we're only seeing the beginning of that trend and I expect there to be more coming in the future. This is a direct result of the many Christian groups and organizations that have taken root in Hollywood in the past decade or so. We are beginning to see the fruit of their labor and their prayers. Also, many production companies have taken root outside of Hollywood, in other parts of the country, and have made Christian faith-based films that have seen a huge audience.

But still, much of what we watch has content that offends our Christian values. Different families have different tolerance levels for different content. While my family may tolerate more violence than others may want (favorite movies of mine include "Terminator," "Die Hard," and "Lethal Weapon"), other families may tolerate more sexual content that I want. 

The type of content that bothers me the most is the sexual content in TV shows and movies. TV shows have, in my opinion, "normalized" sexual conduct that according to Christian values is not acceptable at all. Yes, I'm talking about characters having sex outside of marriage. This is nothing new in TV or movies, but now days I fear most people, including Christians, watch it in their living rooms and take it in without much thought.

I didn't watch The Big Bang Theory for many years for this very reason. I'll admit I've been watching it the past year or so. I love the humor. I love the characters. They have endeared themselves to my heart and I love what the writers do show after show. But the fact does not escape me that in nearly every single show sex is not only freely talked about, it is experienced. Many of the characters have slept with many different partners. Sex with anyone at any time is commonplace. I find this disturbing.

In more recent years, homosexual relationships have become commonplace in TV shows. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that all TV shows now seem to think they need to have their "token gays." Every show seems to think it must have a homosexual. Some of these homosexual characters come for an episode or two, or some become regulars. 

Another show my family enjoys very much is Major Crimes, the offshoot of The Closer" But the character, Rusty, a troubled young teenager who has been taken in by the good people of the Major Crimes Division, has come out as gay, which was completely acceptable to every character on the show, and his awkward journey to learn how to negotiate his gay relationships has become center stage. I don't want to watch that. It's not welcome in my living room.

My family has stopped watching several shows because of the homosexuality in them. We're closing to calling it quite with Major Crimes, as much as we like the rest of the show. But see how it sneaks in? Instead of booting it out of our living room for good, we put up with "a little." And then that little grows to be more prominent. 

Lest you think it's only fiction in these shows, the age of "coming out" has shown it's real life too. Just a couple of examples: Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory is openly homosexual. Zachary Quinto who plays Spok in the new series of Star Trek movies is openly homosexual.

I realize those who create and produce TV shows are just trying to connect with their audience and provide what they think their audience wants. This may be a new thought to you: They are not leaders. They are followers -- following what they think society wants. What YOU want.

Free sex and homosexuality and more have become cool, and they are presented as cool in so many shows. It's unfortunate but it's as if the children are running the show and adults are not allowed. I've come to think of Hollywood as a teenager that never grows up. There are no boundaries. There's no discipline. There's no accountability.

As I'm writing this I wonder how much of a blow-back this blog post is going to get. Am I going to get slammed for implying or saying outright that homosexuality is wrong? If you watched the short video included with the page linked to Zachary Quinto above, you may have noticed he said he has not noticed any problems at all with his career in Hollywood since he came out as gay. Yet Christian actors, such as Kevin Sorbo, Stephen Baldwin, and Jim Caviezel, say it has hurt their careers to come out as Christian. (Tweet that!) Isn't it interesting what is now is honored and applauded and what some now attempt to peer-pressured away?

Pushing the Envelope


So you're probably thinking by now, what's my point? My point is that as writers, we have the power to write stories with characters who are moral, who are good and godly and live in ways that are of good moral conduct. I believe there is a huge audience out there that is hungry for just such characters. The surprising box office numbers of Christian faith-based films supports my belief.

A few months ago I had the privilege of mentoring a small group of writers. While the guidelines for the group did not require participants to be Christians, the rules were that their writings would expound upon a Bible verse and would promote Christian values. Not surprisingly some of them pushed the envelope when it came to Christian morals. 

That's okay. I'm not saying stories, even Christian stories, can't have worldly elements. Of course they can and, at times, even must in order to tell a good story that has meaning. (If you don't think Christian stories can have such things as violence, sex outside of marriage, adultery, rape, and even homosexuality, you haven't been reading your Bible.) 

But I've noticed that most of the time it seems that writers seem to think their stories MUST have those elements, like TV shows seem to think they must have their token gays. I'm trying to determine if this is just among young writers (either in age/generation or those of any age but young writers as in just starting out as writers). I haven't figured that one out yet.

I don't mean to pick on my young writers who I was mentoring. I've just been thinking about all of this for so long that I was really pleased that group gave me the opportunity to share my thoughts and to issue my own heart-felt challenge to one up-and-coming writer.

He gave me an opportunity to issue my challenge for the first time. This is the same challenge I want to issue to you now. 

My Challenge to You - Go Rogue!


This is an excerpt, edited and tweaked for you, of what I wrote to that young writer, and now I'm challenging you to the same:

I see young (or even older) storytellers wanting to "push the envelope" in their stories. Hollywood has been pushing the envelope for a very long time. Hollywood has pushed the envelope in directions that are not good or godly.

We can also use our power as writers to push the envelope in a different direction – toward the good, the godly. In other words, we can have powerful scenes without being obscene, or gay, or violent, or ___ (fill in the blank).

In Hollywood, this would be truly going rogue and truly pushing the envelope.

Perhaps in book publishing or any other kind of writing this is also going rogue and pushing the envelope.

I hope more Christians writers, whether in print or online or in film, will use their Writer-Power to push the envelope, Hollywood, and the world, in a good and godly direction. (Tweet that!)

That's my challenge to myself as well.

When you look at your goals for 2016 and beyond, how might you take this challenge and determine to use your Power as a Writer to affect the world for good?

15 comments:

  1. Dianne: I have a difficult time with selecting something to watch on TV. I spend time going through the 'GUIDE'section of our sets. I prefer not to see anything that causes me to have to apologize to God for my choices. I will pray about my choices and arrange my TV time according to His direction.

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    1. I so understand, QuietSpirit. I'm right there with you. I LOVE your way of discerning what to watch. That's a good way to choose between shows.

      I've recently discovered a source of TV and TV Movie programming that, I believe, is more faith and family-friendly. You all can check me on that. It is a paid service, but you can find it here: https://www.feeln.com/ If you find it worthwhile, you might spread the word to your friends, family, and church family.

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  2. Hi there Dianne,
    Personally, I've been more okay with violence or things like "monster movies", because it's simply make-up or effects, and actors acting. But sex is real, those are real people doing real things (as real as it need be). To me that is far worse than the former, and does much more spiritual damage.
    Don't get me wrong, none of it is godly or good. But not everything is spiritually damaging. The things that are damaging are always at center stage. I'd also say that many things are far more spiritually damaging to those who are taking part in the creation of the film or TV show, than the viewer. We're in a fallen world that caters to the fallen.
    I am a Christian author of a non-fiction book, but I can understand the difficulties that fictional writers would have keeping it cutting edge yet biblically unoffensive. Perhaps I'll take you up on your challenge and take a stab at Christian Fiction.
    Thanks for the post!

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    1. Well thank you, Brian, for your comments. I love the point you're making -- there IS something different about the sexual. The writer of 1 Corinthians also makes this distinction in 6:18-20. (Links may not work in this Comments section but anyone can cut and paste: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%206%3A18-20&version=NIV )

      I'm also glad to hear you think of the actors. When it first became popular to have two women kissing on screen, and later two men, besides being tremendously bothered by viewing it, I kept thinking of the actors who must portray that. Of course they will -- acting is their job and they are grateful to have a job so they will do it and "act" as though it is not bothering them whether or not it truly is. As an aspiring screenwriter it is my aim to NEVER write a part that would require an actor to portray something that is wrong. (Yes, I did just say homosexuality is W.R.O.N.G.) Portraying the real world is still possible without making an actor act it out on the screen.

      I'm so glad I challenged to you take that stab at Christian fiction. Feel free to keep us posted on your progress.

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  3. Dianne: I agree totally with your marvelous words. Thank you for having the intestinal fortitude to put them out here. I am mainly a non fiction writer but am toying with a novel. Now I’ll do it for sure. Thank you for your encouragement. It means a lot.

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    1. Well I am so blessed that you, like Brian the commenter above you, have also been challenged to try writing fiction, Barb! I love the reaction my post is getting. You guys BLESS me!

      Barb, feel free to keep us posted on your progress.

      Lord God, please bless and guide and help all these dear writers!

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  4. Great job in sharing your information to everyone this past year. Thanks for all the help you give to all who read your work. For me, it's much appreciated. Happy New Year!

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    1. Oh Paulette, my friend. It's always good to hear from you. Thank you for your constant encouragement.

      I'm planning and hoping to make 2016 a tremendous writing year. I'm cutting back on some things so I can write more -- both new projects and finishing some half-done projects.

      May your New Year, and eveyone's reading these, be especially fruitful and godly. Love you!

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  5. I agree totally with your statements. I am a new writer(Story teller) in a very old body, and I am learning as I go. I write for the Lord's glory and have three books published and the fourth is with my publisher as I write. It is a Christmas story and it hits home that Jesus Christ is the foundation for Christmas and life. I have a quote from C. S. Lewis on my desk, "I never exactly made a book. It's rather like taking dictation. I was given things to say." As writers we need to draw near to the Holy Spirit for inspiration and then pound the keys. If we place ourselves in God's hands, who knows what He will do!

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    1. Hello T.A. One lovely thing about writing is that we are all on level ground, no matter how old (or young) the body that is writing. Congratulations on your books and your coming masterpiece. Feel free to let us know when your new book is out and where to find your earlier three. (Leave a link if you wish.) I have Christmas stories in my heart...and about half in my brain...and zero on paper. But I'm working on them!

      I love the C.S. Lewis quote. I wish the dictation came easier for me. But still, it seems the harder I struggle to get a story to come together the more I like it and the deeper the meaning (I hope not just to me) when I finally get it. The more I do it, the easier it becomes (though never "easy").

      I think we do not take enough chances with God. What if we REALLY put ourselves out there to do something completely impossible for us ... and then let Him do whatever He wants to do? I'm working on that too.

      Maybe I didn't say it in my post, but I do think of how we writers may tend to pull back from taking chances because we thing our "Christian" content has no chance in movies or books or wherever. I think if we "push the envelope" we'll be surprised at what God will do.

      Blessings on your writing, T.A.

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    3. Thank you. This is my authors page on Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003VQBOM8. And our Web site with a page of links for the books, http://www.archomai.com/. My book with the publisher, The Christmas Gate, is moving to editing and I am hoping to delay the release until fall. Thank you for your words of inspiration. I follow you on twitter.
      I agree that we need to push the envelop with Christian themes. I truly believe there is a hunger for it. And if one person comes to the Lord, we have a victory.
      May God Bless.
      Al Cline

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  6. Wow. Thats some powerful, passionate writing and view points. I very much appreciate you sharing your thoughts and perspective. I especially like the call to go rogue... And rogue being more Christian. I do wonder as a writer myself how challenging crafting a story would be if I remove the sex the violence. Quite difficult, I reckon. This post gives me a lot to think about. I must admit, I dont neccessarily agree with all your view points esp on homosexuality. I do admit that it is very popular and trendy currently... I imagine this will balance out a little more soon. I do like that they have a voice in tv and movies. I dont like that Christians dont have a voice and Christians audience feel like they have no one representing their thoughts and view points. Hmmm... Gives me a lot to think about. Well done. Thank you πŸ˜‰

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  7. Thank you, Dianne, for reiterating what Christians have been saying about morality in media. The reason I began writing -- first, screenplays and later, novels -- was to create entertainment Christians and non-Christians could enjoy.

    When I began writing, years ago, the only movies and books identified as "Christian" were preachy, stilted, low-budget, amateurish productions that were shown in church rec halls more than in theaters.

    Praise God, times have changed. Well-known Hollywood personalities proclaim their faith and make high-quality films and programs that are popular with everyone who enjoys a good story. And they do it without abandoning Christian values.

    Good product will be appreciated even if its morals are high and its worldview Christian. It doesn't have to be labeled "Christian" to be high quality entertainment that would be pleasing in God's sight. It just needs to honor God and His Word. It needs to reflect the knowledge of Christ and the eternal hope that resides, in the heart of the writer.

    Jesus said, "out of the heart the mouth speaks." And it is out of the heart the Christian writer must write. And write without fear, for "greater is He who is in [us] than He who is in the world."

    Thank you for your challenge, Dianne. I pray to live up to it in the year ahead and beyond.

    Iris Chacon

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  8. Diane,
    I support wholesome literature 100% and your position in Christian Writers using their power to change the trend. I promote wholesome literature over all the stuff we're subjected to and while I, too have enjoyed some of the television shows, I've had to turn them off because of the sexual perversion that pervades.

    I know that the enemy has gained ground in the proliferation of entertainment that is overridden with sex, but I believe we have the power to change it.

    My books highlight a relationship with God, while dealing with real issues in the world that we cannot ignore. I'm more than up for the challenge.

    Thanks for sharing!

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