Friday, June 3, 2016

Writing Against the Grain

by Bruce Brady @BDBrady007

Writing against the grain.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. - Romans 8:1-2 NLT

“To sell more books, you have to write for the contemporary reader. That means you must include illicit behavior as acceptable in your characters and their stories.”

This is a compilation of what I’ve heard and read from authors who write for the Christian market and the general market. It’s a mindset that is growing—most notably in the self-publishing arena. Legitimate arguments can be made for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. After all, God has blessed us with free will—the right to choose how we will live. However, the profit motive seems to be the dominant force behind the anything goes mindset.

We do have the right to self-expression. However, I believe it comes with a responsibility. A responsibility to edify, and encourage our readers and listeners to strive for excellence in their lives. Stress the impact of our actions on others. In other words, showing them how serving others with a genuine concern for their welfare over our own will result in a more rewarding life.

Characters and stories can be much more impactful when we avoid bloody violence and explicit bedroom scenes and expletives. When we challenge ourselves to spin our tales without using foul language, graphic violence, or steamy sex, we’re forced to write better. And we help expand the vocabulary and thinking of our audiences.

If profit is our primary goal, then I understand using profanity and pornograhy. It appeals to our human nature—the nature that is rebellious toward God. But ironically, if we seek to please God by blessing the souls of those who purchase our products, they will learn of civility and godly love, and we will be richly rewarded beyond what the world can provide.

I recently learned from a colleague that even some seemingly harmless, everyday expressions as simple as the word darn could cause others pain. While this may appear to be an overly sensitive reaction to such an innocuous word, we have to be ever mindful of the effect our words and deeds are having on even the most delicate people—especially children. After all, try as we may, our children will be exposed to everything, whether we like it or not.

It’s ludicrous to think we can shelter the innocent from the harsh realities of the world. But it’s our duty to ensure that we don’t legitimize vulgarity through our language or lifestyles.

The Lord has made it clear that we’ll be held accountable for everything we think, say, and do— whether we believe in Him or not. So it makes sense that we choose our words carefully, considering the effect they may have on our readers.

What do you think? Whether you agree or disagree, I want to hear from you. Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments section.

TWEETABLE
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Bruce Brady is an author, writer and playwright. His work has appeared in Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family, www.ChristianDevotions.us, and on stage. Currently, Bruce is working on a Young Adult Novel about a boy who must deal with the death of his dad, being bullied, and helping his mom through her grief. His first five pages took third place in the ACFW South Carolina Chapter’s “First Five Pages” contest.

When he’s not writing, Bruce spends time learning from and helping other writers. He serves as Mentor of Word Weavers International’s Online Chapter, and as a member of Cross ‘N’ Pens, The Writer’s Plot, ACFW’s National and South Carolina Chapters.

“My dream is to entertain my readers and give them hope as they travel the rocky road of life.”

29 comments:

  1. Thanks for this great post, Bruce. I've had this same discussion in critique groups and with writers I coach and in classes I teach. My points are the same as yours. I also add that, as a Christian who writes, I see my responsibility is to present the readers with characters who are flawed but who live Christian lifestyles. My goal is to never call them Christian but to let their story witness to the reader.

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    1. I like that last point, Henry. Writing in a way that shows the reader the Christian lifestyle, rather than saying it outright. It applies to how we live our lives as well as how we write.

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    2. Thanks Henry. I, too, am striving to present "real" characters who live as Christ would have them live, without shoving Christianity down the readers throats. I believe when the truth is presented, our readers will want to know Christ. We don't have to sell Him.

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  2. I agree. I've been surprised (and very disappointed) at the Christian writers who choose to include profanity and graphic intimacy. If I wanted to read that I would purchase secular books. As writers we definitely have a responsibility to entertain in an appropriate manner. Thanks for the post.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. To paraphrase a friend, like the movies of the forties and fifties, a man picked a woman up, took her into the bedroom, and kicked the door closed. We adults knew and children wondered what was going on behind the closed door. We didn't, and don't, need a play-by-play description.

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  3. When my sons were young I told them they couldn't watch a certain movie. When they asked why, I quoted Phil 4:8 Whatever is true, noble, right, pure...think about these things.
    Their response, "Gosh mom, if we followed that, we wouldn't watch anything."
    We need to raise the bar with our standards, if we don't, who will?

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    1. Amen, Jennifer. I've often heard from various media people that we must give the reader what they want. However, I believe they want what we give them. And what we've given them has greatly contributed to the moral decline of our nation. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. Very well put, Bruce. I've had to ask myself whether I write to bless or to indulge. Am I writing to bless another person or writing for my own selfish indulgence? Sure, some types of writing may be pleasing to me because of how it stirs my imagination, but what about that young adult who reads it? Will it cause him/her to stumble? Jesus had some no-so-nice things to say about those who cause others to stumble.

    David

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    1. Thanks, David. You've hit the target. When we write to indulge, we usually serve our sinful natures. Jesus has called us to rise above, and has equipped us with the tools to do so. Keep writing to bless and leave the results to Him.

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  5. I can't begin to count the times I quit reading a book or leave a blog because of the language. I hate to have the words even pass my eyes. I always wonder how stupid and uncreative a person must be that they can't find a better way of expressing their thought

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    1. I agree, Carol. I realize that we adults may be able to read "around" the profane and pornographic, but I believe doing so is detrimental. As Jennifer pointed out above, Philippians 4:8 isn't a suggestion. It's a command, one given to us because the Lord knows that our thoughts and actions will reflect our focus and meditations. I also know that it is more challenging to write without using the "demands of the world." Thanks for contributing.

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  6. I can't begin to count the times I quit reading a book or leave a blog because of the language. I hate to have the words even pass my eyes. I always wonder how stupid and uncreative a person must be that they can't find a better way of expressing their thought

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  7. Great post, Bruce. When I stand before the Lord, I'll have plenty of unholy spoken words to account for. I sure don't want to add to that list with written words that don't honor God, words that I had the opportunity to delete before I published them.

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    1. I'm with you, brother. He never promised easy, just simple. If we follow His lead, He will take care of us in every respect. Good to hear from you, David. Thanks.

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  8. Bruce, Thank you. I wholeheartedly agree. My favorite line; "When we challenge ourselves to spin our tales without using foul language, graphic violence, or steamy sex, we’re forced to write better. And we help expand the vocabulary and thinking of our audiences."

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    1. Thanks Cherrilynn. It's my desire to add value to my readers' lives, and I can't do that if I write to keep them where the world is, or is currently headed. Thank you also for faithfully following my posts. Talk to you next month.

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  9. Bruce,

    I whole-heartedly agree and have made several attempts to express my thoughts on the subject. You've done a much better job!

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    1. Thank you, Carrie. Your words encourage me, as I hope mine do you. Have a blessed weekend.

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  10. We just had this same discussion in our writer's critique group. I am glad to receive the support and validation you put forth in this blog. Thank you for the encouragement to stay on the right path.

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  11. We just had this same discussion in our writer's critique group. I am glad to receive the support and validation you put forth in this blog. Thank you for the encouragement to stay on the right path.

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    1. Thank you, Sharon. I'm happy to hear it's a topic of discussion in critique groups. It means the Lord is speaking to all of us. And I'm always glad to serve Him by encouraging my sisters and brothers. Have a blessed weekend.

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  12. Amen, Bruce! Very well put. I agree with Cherrilynn's point that it's a greater challenge of creativity as writers to spin realistic tales without taking the easy route of piling on the sinful content that the Bible says we shouldn't even think about, let alone include in our stories! Thanks for braving this controversial topic.

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    1. Thanks, Jerusha. The Holy Spirit made it clear as I wrote this that it would evoke strong reactions from both sides. He also assured me that He would take care of me. It's wonderful knowing that I can't really be harmed when I'm walking with the Lord. And I hope this encourages you and everyone to trust Him, especially during those scary moments. Keep serving Him, and come back next month. I'll be continuing this line of thinking in my next post.

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  13. Amen, Bruce. Amen. Well said. :)

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    1. Thanks Andrea. You're a true friend. And it's encouraging to receive support form an editor. Thank you for serving Him by serving writers who seek to serve Him. Have a blessed weekend.

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  14. This is a hot topic, Bruce. Thank you for tackling it and doing such a good job.

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    1. Thanks Susan. I prayed about it, knowing it would be controversial. And the answer I got was we need to decide who we will serve--Him or man. I happy you got something out of it. I'm also happy I took the right path despite the potential backlash. He will always honor our honoring Him.

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  15. I agree. We have "A responsibility to edify, and encourage our readers and listeners to strive for excellence in their lives." As Christians we must remember "In everything you do, in word or deed, do all to the glory of God.
    #judithvanderwege.org

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