1. theniceiceman
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    theniceiceman New Member

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    Question for christian authors

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by theniceiceman, Oct 1, 2015.

    I'm curious, do you write about things that go 'against' your faith? Do you have your characters use foul language? Do you write graphic sex scenes? I was speaking with a pastor who said he feels that such things are okay for Christians to do, as long as they're used in the story, aren't done gratuitously, and don't lead to you doing those same things in your real life. What are your thoughts on this? I have a character who's a complete--well. He's just a terrible man, frankly. He's disgusting, he's amoral, he's an antagonist and protagonist at the same time. You hate to love him, love to hate him. Since trying to get back into my faith, I struggle with knowing whether it's appropriate to write him or not. I can't 'clean him up'--doing so would change him as a character. So I'm just conflicted. My story is filled with graphic gay sex, torture, violence, drugs...and I love it. I would never do the things in real life, and I don't use the story as some sort of erotica; I'm not lusting after the characters...but I don't know whether I should feel guilty or not, so I thought I'd see what you guys thought.

    Note: this story is NOT for a Christian market and I am NOT trying to get it published. It's just for fun.
     
  2. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would agree with your pastor. Such things exist, and in some cases it can be a disservice to leave those things out. That especially comes into play if you're writing villains.
     
  3. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    You can really do whatever the heck you want in a book. Obviously if someone goes and murders someone in a book though you shouldn't go doing it in real life. :bigconfused:
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not a person of faith, but this doesn't mean I cannot understand the conundrum to be found when a written story of mine contains things I would not personally do/believe/participate in/encourage/foment in real life. These things may not be comfortable for me to write, and that lack of comfort may be sourced as much by my discomfort with the topic as my individual lack of knowledge in something that I would not do/believe/participate in/encourage/foment in real life. As a writer, if I am unable to delve into these realms, if I eschew them, if I avoid them when they naturally present themselves in a work I am writing, then I risk the work clearly showing this "detour" (if you'll permit the pedestrian metaphor) and showing itself as a one-sided polemic. It would be a form of authorial intrusion, the author (me) finding Thing X to be so distasteful that I edit it out from the reality of the story, and in this way I make it clear to you, the reader, how I, the author, feel about Thing X. Authorial intrusion. This might (very subjunctive, mind you) put me off writing the story that contains Thing X, not because I disagree with Thing X, but because if I were to feel that torn, then my ability to portray Thing X is clearly compromised; thus, I am not yet up to the task. Striving, but not there yet. Hope that makes sense.

    In matters of faith, though, only the individual can really assess if the writing (or reading) of a work forms a compromise sufficient to give concern. Some people of faith find HP to be harmless, escapist fun, while others consider it a dangerous sidetrack into forbidden realms. *shrug* Where one falls between those two takes is not something anyone else can really reason or define.
     
  5. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I personally write a lot of behavior that conflicts with my faith - in my case mostly profanity. Although, I have to confess that I can be a good bit more profane in private and in my own thoughts than in public (largely due to long-term exposure to the exact type of people I'm writing about.) I debated for a long time about how profane to make some of my characters, and in the end I settled on the idea of playing fast and loose with profanity, because it's absolutely essential to major aspects of my characters. My villain, in particular, was always extremely profane in my head due to some of her own psychological issues, and I thought that depriving her of that would be unrealistic. I also deal a lot with the idea that it's really hard to get to be a hero without getting at least partially corrupted along the way - so I actually have a scale of profane-ness ranging from my hyperprofane villain to my small-town-good-girl protagonist who never uses anything stronger than "heck"...and with her I'm thinking that she'll accidentally drop an f-bomb without thinking in the closing chapters as kind of a Frodo-being-affected-by-the-ring-thing.

    But a lot of it is about the story you're trying to tell and how you feel morally. For instance, my characters curse their heads off but very rarely do they take the Lord's name in vain, despite most people thinking the profanity is worse. In fact, the only time I've allowed a character to use "Jesus Christ" as an expletive was when I was literally making a joke about taking the Lord's name in vain (two reporters got caught making out in a waiting room in the Vatican, by the Pope's private secretary, in front of a crucifixion mural - one of them got startled, said "Jesus Christ!" and the priest looked over his shoulder at the mural and said, "Indeed it is" before moving on without missing a beat).

    Although the other thing I'd say about writing profanity - and this has nothing to do with faith per se - is that overwriting it is just as bad as underwriting it. To many f-bombs doesn't make your story "gritty", it makes it unrealistic and poorly written. So like any other tool, use it with care - also it gets less effective the more one character uses it - which is why my villain actually had to use the C-word to up the ante on a diatribe she went on, because she used so much profanity that it had lost impact.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015
  6. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Rule #1: Don't feel guilty over it. It's your book, do whatever you want to it.

    ------

    I suppose it just depends on who you ask. Some might find it utterly horrifying to write about while others scoff and say, "Tell me something I didn't have my characters do". I'm with Wrey on this one: religious or not, if you're queasy/unsure about writing something, it might be a sign that more research and experience is needed before you write it.
     
  7. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    I think it's okay to write stories where the character's sin, just so long as it's handled with depth and not exploitative. I mean a lot of crime stories for example, have crimes happen. Theft, murder, adultry, etc. But that doesn't mean that the crime genre is completely exempt from Christian's being able to like it, does it?

    As for the violence and sex being graphic, why is it graphic, or how do you mean graphic? When you say the gay sex is graphic, do you describe the whole sex scene from beginning to end? Sometimes it's okay to do that, sometimes, not, it depends.

    When it comes to foul language, I think it can be used as part of the character as long as the language is not 'thoughtless fowl language', if that makes sense.
     
  8. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    You direct the story, it shouldn't bother you honestly
     
  9. Annihilation
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    Annihilation Active Member

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    It's a matter of realness.

    I'm a Christian irl but writing a book let's you know your understanding and knowledge of both good and evil. I have characters who are good and trying to be cruel to survive and I have characters who are just plain wicked.
     
  10. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    You might as well say, "You can't write about Satan." Writing about an amoral character isn't necessarily "glorifying" the terrible actions that someone does. Often times it's a simple acknowledgement that such people do actually exist. And that doesn't matter if we're writing about a protagonist or an antagonist.

    While I've toned down my style, I used to write about very gory scenes when I was younger. It was after Columbine and I couldn't talk about things that bothered me. So I decided to write about things that concerned me. It was just an outlet. A lot of our problems today is because we don't promote healthy outlets. Your pastor is a guy who gets it. He understands that you getting it on paper is a way to just let it out. It's healthy actually.
     
  11. Australis
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    Australis Active Member

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    Sorry, but this completely changes my answer.
    I don't know what type of Christian church you're in...., heck, there's nothing I can say that a good minister couldn't say.
    The only I'd question is --- if your heart is entertained by this type of literature for personal pleasure, maybe your heart isn't in your faith.
     
  12. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    I'm not a Christian myself, but I think you should not let your faith and personal moral weigh too heavily on the way your story evolves. It's just that in the end, a story, and all authors will at some point stumble upon a character or event he or she is either not familiar with or is disgusted by. It's not like the stories that Crime authors, who often happen to create antagonists who have either "strayed" or are downright evil, make these authors commit these acts themselves It let's you delve deeper into those unfamiliar things without having to change the way you think about it.

    In one story I am writing there are worshippers of an old pagan god who worship through battle. That doesn't mean I now wander the streets, looking for a scrap in order to please said made-up god.

    Since I am not a Christian and thus have no full understanding of the psyche of Christians and the way guilt works with you guys, I would feel cheap to just say: don't feel guilty. But look at it like this; Since you are not using this as some way to get your fantasies out, perhaps writing about these sins could be a good way for you to further meditate on the nature of sin. To better understand it, to know what drives people towards them and how to avoid it yourself. In the end, contrary to what @Australis just said, I think writing about these things and metitating and describing them might actually get you to have a better understanding of sin and the essence of your faith itself :)
     
  13. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The bible has some graphic content, too.

    "The handle also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the refuse came out."
    - Judges 3:22
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Also don't forget the whole crucifixion thing. Whether or not you believe in it, getting nailed to a cross is a very painful way to go, and what's worst about it was that it was actually the most merciful. Usually the poor sods were just tied to the beam and left there to die of the elements if they didn't suffocate under their own weight.
     
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  15. Aerisfullofwhimsy
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    Aerisfullofwhimsy Member

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    Here's my ungrammatical answers :

    First, I would like to second Australis above me. If you are not doing this to publish or for a Christian market, and you say you love it (absolutely nothing wrong with that), than why are you doing it? However, I can answer that too, because sometimes you just want to write about something. Sometimes these things, theses creations of the imagination, just need to get out of you (evaporation) and become written words (condensation & rain).

    You can write whatever you want, especially if no one else is really going to read it. Some early Christian writers (saintly maybe ?) came up with some gruesome and graphics imaginings. And it was just that...imaginings.

    The short answer is probably no. Jesus doesn't read modern literature. It's true, it says it right there in red somewhere in that book. He's probably a Sir Walter Scott and Sartre kind of guy.
     
  16. Theoneandonly99
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    Theoneandonly99 Member

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    Being a christian and for 90% of my life and recently turned agnostic, I'd say it's completely fine. In fact one of the stories I plan to make is about a heroic anti-christ.
     
  17. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    'I don't know whether I should feel guilty or not'

    Why should you feel guilty, and why would you think you should feel guilty?

    Christian believers (I used to be one) often create for themselves a theoretical ideal of what they think a true Christian would be like. Anything alternative to this, is then perceived as non-Christian, less than ideal or even evil. So in this context, someone may think, 'writing that sort of thing isn't what a true Christian would do'.

    To me, only those ideas that can be directly attributed to quotations by Jesus should be called 'Christian', and only those ideas that contradict those quotes should be thought of as non-Christian. If Jesus chose not to speak on an issue, it probably wasn't important to him. But this is just my opinion.
     
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  18. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've made my main character a Catholic, same as me, but I only mention it once or twice. No other faith (or lack of) has been mentioned.

    There's also a man who is distressed at the death of his superior officer. I don't explicitly say if they're in a relationship or not - it's up to the interpretation of the individual reader. I don't kill the old man off because he may or may not be gay; he died trying to buy time for the hero and play his role in saving hundreds of thousands of lives - a role model for anyone regardless of their sexual preference.

    Some bad language is used, but I make it infrequent and "light", keeping it to words like "bloody", "damn" and "hell". The use of these words is mainly by frustrated adults or the bad guys.

    But the amount of bad language, sex, violence and general sin you include in your book should be influenced by the genre and your target audience. As long as you don't encourage your readers to partake in such activities, you can write about almost anything and keep within the faith.
     
  19. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think you have to decide for yourself whether it compromises your faith. All things do not affect everyone in equal measure, or in the same way. For one, a glass of wine is harmless but for another, it could lead to a drinking problem. Same goes with faith. Certain things have the power to affect our faith in positive or negative ways, and you have to decide for yourself if writing what you write affects you in a good or bad way, or if it affects you at all.

    I'm a Christian and happily write fantasy novels - the more conservative lot would say I shouldn't. Does writing about magic affect my faith or how I see God or serve Him? Nope. So I continue to write fantasy.

    However, if I notice that something I'm writing is causing my mind to be filled with thoughts or images I'd rather not have - then that's when I'd evaluate whether it's good to be writing it. It's as much about keeping a healthy mind as anything else I find. Usually though, it's rather what I read and watch and not what I write that might have this effect.
     
  20. qp83
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    qp83 Member

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    Doesn't it come down to the message of the story or your motive for writing it? I mean even the bible contains some pretty grim and awful stuff from incest, rape, murder, genocide and stuff, yet I've never heard any christians complaining about that.
     
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  21. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    Generally, I would certainly give the advice of judging by results. The best policy is the policy that works the best, as @Mckk implied. If you have a drink problem, a glass of wine is not a good idea.

    When it comes to feelings of guilt, we are in altogether different territory. Suppose the person who has a drink problem did drink a glass of wine. Is that something he should feel guilty about? Would it be morally wrong for him to drink the wine, while drinking wine is okay for others?

    We can certainly base an understanding of morality on cause and effect. If the effect was good, the cause must been alright. If everything went horribly badly, someone must have done something wrong. This is not Christian/Jewish morality, which defines actions as being either good or bad regardless of outcome. In such a system, drinking wine would either be permitted for all, or banned for all. (Some Old Testament Laws may have been originally derived by assessing cause and effect but applied as a universal requirements. (that worked out so badly we should forbid people from doing that again)).

    As for keeping a healthy mind, I think it's good to get things out of your system. I find I can be haunted by ideas that keep nagging me. Writing is a form of exorcism, and once written down I can perceive the ideas clearly, assess them, and move on.
     
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  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I find sometimes Christians like to see everything as very black and white, as if everything had morals attached to it. I think perhaps we as human beings we are simply inclined that way because do's and don'ts are simply far easier to understand and follow than the concept of grace, of being kind to one another, etc. There's really no moral value one way or another in writing whatever type of fiction you wish.

    Loving God and neighbour makes you a good Christian. Trusting God and having His peace strengthens your faith. Writing, whatever it may be that you're writing, may reflect the state of your faith, but does not actually determine your faith one way or another. A little like sex is usually the symptom/expression of a loving relationship, but having sex in and of itself doesn't mean there's love or a relationship at all.
     
  23. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    I'm a Christian. A Mormon, to be more precise. I don't drink or smoke or swear or even drink coffee. I don't believe in extramarital sex. My characters sometimes drink, sometimes drink coffee, and sometimes swear (mostly lightly.) My characters don't often have extramarital sex, but when they do it's "behind closed doors" we could say.

    My reasons for this are because I write what I want to read. I do read books with explicit sex sometimes (ASOIAF are gratuitous enough for me) but I don't particularly enjoy those bits. I tend to just endure them until the story moves on. I haven't yet read a story with a graphic sex scene that felt necessary. Mostly it just makes me feel I'm glimpsing into the author's personal fantasies and it takes me out of the narrative.

    This isn't because I feel I don't understand sex, or don't have enough information on it. I enjoy a healthy and adventurous love life with my husband - we aren't the kind of Christians that think sex is only for procreation. But I also don't feel the need to see into someone else's bedroom, and that includes in books. So if I wouldn't care to read it, I don't care to write it.

    I once read an interview with Orson Scott Card (also a Mormon) talking about how some Christians criticize him for being a "hypocrite" and having his characters swear. He said that it would be shortchanging his characters, who are -in the world of the narrative - real people who did not grow up with his faith. For these people, it would be odd for them not to swear. And it would be even more odd for them to use a silly byword instead. ("Dagnabbit!")

    So my characters swear when it is natural that they would. And they have sex when it is natural that they would, but I give them their privacy about it. And I don't feel that any of it conflicts with my personal beliefs.
     
  24. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    This is exactly how I go about it. I'm a Christian, I believe extramarital sex is a sin, I believe lying is a sin, I believe theft is a sin.

    But when I'm writing, none of that matters. Especially in my books, where Christianity doesn't even exist. I put some Christian values in some societies of my mythological world, but I don't make everything conform to my faith. That would be both a massive gutting of my vibrant (or what I hope is vibrant) world, and a large reader repellant.

    And if people want to call me a hypocrite and pagan, then they can. Though they'd be wrong, of course.
     
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  25. ADreamer
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    ADreamer Banned Sock-Puppet

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    Are you writing a character that worships the devil? Eats children for supper? Skins cats alive?

    The "issues" you bring up are part of everyday life. Yes some highly religious don't swear - or if they do, they do so in the privacy of their own house. However, unless they wear blindfolds & paper-bags over their heads anytime they have sex with their partner in real life will be "graphic".

    The anti-gay aspect of the Church will forever make me laugh - forgoing the problems of priests & little boys - there is the rather glaring fact that Vatican City was one of the earliest places in the world to acknowledge the legality of gay behavior [same sex sexuality rights (so basically okay to have sex with someone of the same sex) since 1890] and of course homosexuality has been part of the church [in the background] from day 1 (it was, after all, "norm" or in a way acceptable [Romans & their bathing houses anyone] then). For all of the anti-homosexuality there's only 6 verses in the entire [Old & New alike] Bible against it; only reason why priests & religious are so against it really isn't a spiritual reason (there's far more damning crimes in the Bible people do daily) but a moral reason.

    Torture / violence - have you by chance ever read the Bible. It is NOT a book of gumdrops & rainbows. It is violent, cruel and the Old Testament was simply barbaric in some places. There's over 1,000 verses of undeniable violence in the Bible and 30 of those will literally turn your stomach. I'll give you the benefit and say you've never heard of the Crusades or the Malleus Maleficarum and the witch hunting.

    For drugs someone please point me to the verses that speak against them. There are, if any, very few. Weed in the Bible is for farming & Pot is which you cook in. The drugs actually mentioned in the Bible aren't illegal drugs but rather drugs in general - after the Greek word pharmakeia - or pharmacy ... so the next time you have a cold - need something for a pain, an allergy pill or something for that dratted headache, tough it out.


    In short if it isn't going against what your belief is in the Bible - isn't "corrupting" your spirit than ... go to it. Do you think some of the anti-religious authors out there [Brown for example] are devil worshippers or something?
     
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