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  1. tech-spectre

    tech-spectre New Member

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    What kind of message am I sending?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by tech-spectre, Jan 3, 2017.

    Hello all, new user here. I don't have much creative writing experience, as I'm more used to expository writing, but I'm trying to form my first original plot concept (my intent is to use it in a choose-your-own-adventure style video game, but that's beside the point). However, I'm worried about how it may be received and interpreted. I know that I should let the audience decide for themselves what to take from a story, but something tells me that mine still needs a lot of work.

    In essence, the story explores what would happen if monsters (or spirits, the specifics may change) found an artist's ideas, specifically about the concept of Heaven, and took it to a literal extreme. They would try to emulate what they saw in the artist's work, only for it to painfully backfire on them. The protagonist would then have to decide whether or not to save them from their mistake.

    While writing my notes on this, I quickly realized that this could be interpreted as an anti-religious sentiment, or worse, condemning those who consume art and try to derive their own morality from it. That is not the kind of ideal that I would support, and I don't want an audience to think that this is what I believe. Is this something that should concern me? Should I change or alter the concept to be more inclusive, or leave it as-is and deal with potential backlash? Should it even matter to me what an audience sees in my work, and how that might reflect on me as a person?

    Any input at all would be extremely helpful.
     
  2. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Welcome to the site!
    I'm a Christian, and I hate the damage that's done when people reinterpret religious texts calling for people to treat each other humanely and turn them into calls for violence. Go ahead ;)
     
  3. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds kinda' like a religious version of the Science Fiction / Comedy film Galaxy Quest.

    On a more serious note, as I have found myself saying a lot lately, the function of art is to comment on culture. A piece of writing (which is art) commenting on the comment made by the artwork that is the source of its own premiss is pretty meta. :) My opinion is that a story written with the purposeful intent of not rustling any jimmies is a pointless endeavor. Why would you want that? It's funny that you mention this particular scenario. I just finished Frank Herbert's Pandora series wherein the idea of god-as-artifact-of-man is taken to a literal level. In that story, we, humans, literally create God. The repercussions of this, as played out on the vicious planet of Pandora is the meat of the story and an obvious commentary on Man, God, and the dysfunctional relationship that exists between them.

    What I would ask you is this: What do you want to say with this story? It's a pretty interesting premiss, so I have to assume its coming from somewhere.
     
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  4. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    While it's a good question to ask, I think this should be a question you should answer. Just what is the message you're trying to send, exactly? Get that clear in your head and perhaps you'll know better how much, if anything, needs to be altered. The best writing asks the reader questions - what questions do you want your audience to ask? And what is your answer to those questions?

    Now write your story that asks that question, and that leads your reader to the answer you think you have.

    If your question and/or answer are controversial, inevitably there will be people who will be offended. Don't worry about them. Know your own intent and craft your work to the best of your ability. People will always misinterpret, and you can't control what they take away from it anyway. The purpose of any good book should simply be challenging the reader to think, and your story and its conclusion to guide the reader to seeing things from your intended point of view. So, this comes full circle back to your own question: what is your message?
     
  5. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    Go ahead. Anyone who would call your book anti-religious is likely not going to read it anyway. Those people probably haven't even read the bible they so often quote. How many of the people who campaigned to have Catcher in the Rye banned actually read it? Maybe 1%? Also, isn't controversy among that group of people good? If I were writing something with any undertones like that, and Donald Trump went on twitter demanding it be banned, I'd be thrilled and sales would go through the roof.

    Most religious people that I know understand that the bible is just a story book, written thousands of years ago by men. They understand it's not a literal description of reality and are perfectly aware of how ridiculous and inconsistent it is so pointing out things like that will likely not cause any stir. Think about your target audience and ask how would they most likely answer the following questions: How old is the universe, did Moses really speak to a god, was Jesus really crucified, was the good Sumerian story true?

    Fundamentalists would say: 6000 years, because it says so in the bible. Yes, because it says so in the bible. Yes, because it says so in the bible. Yes, because it says so in the bible.

    An athiest would say: 13.8billion because we can calculate expansion. No, he likely made it up to control a group of warriors as they wandered the desert. Yes, the Romans were good record keepers, that certainly happened. Not sure, probably not, but that's not the point of the story.

    Most christians would say a combination of the two: 13.8 billion because science. Probably, because of bible. Yes because of bible and roman history. Probably not, like the rest of the stories it's about teaching morality, not giving a literal description. This is probably your target audience, the other two groups are not.
     
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  6. tech-spectre

    tech-spectre New Member

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    Wow, thanks for the quick response!

    Thank you! Glad to know that I've got your support. :)

    I should definitely check out that film soon, sounds very interesting.

    To address both responses, I'm really intrigued by how art and culture interact and bounce off each other. As creators of art, it's important to understand the effect that our work has on the people who consume it, and how that goes on to influence their work in turn. Criticism of art is just as important to this process. To me, a work is not complete until it has been experienced and assessed by at least one person.

    Perhaps I should head back to the drawing board again and flesh out this aspect of the story more. I could explore the ramifications of putting out a work that comes from a place of misinformation, or is incomplete, and how that affects its audience. Or I could go in a slightly different direction; how an interpretation of a work is influenced by the audience's knowledge of its context (or lack thereof).

    I'll definitely give it a few more passes before moving forward.
     
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  7. tech-spectre

    tech-spectre New Member

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    Yeah, I can see how controversy would boost the overall visibility of the story. As they say, all press is good press, right? ;)

    Beyond just getting people talking, I think the part I need to mind is what kind of discussion I'm encouraging with my work. I'd rather have people focus on the art aspect over the religious aspect (which would really only constitute a surface-level significance to the story), but that's probably the control-freak in me.
     
  8. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That sounds really interesting and I think if you do it well, this could be really very, very good. Definitely flesh it out more, as you say :) I'm a Christian actually and what you've said here really reminds me of the Bible. Are personal interpretations, though taken from limited or even a complete lack of context, necessarily less valid than the interpretation based on context? Are all interpretations equal, and what determines whether they are? A lot of Christians now are debating the whole issue with gay marriage precisely from this angle: they argue the context of supposedly anti-gay passages have been taken out of context by the church, while others are saying those who claim erroneous context are in fact themselves trying to excuse what is written down in black and white as wrong. However, the argument for female leadership in the church is usually made with the same argument now used for the question of homosexuality - context. Obviously, these passages concerning both issues, when taken out of context, have dire consequences for us all. It seems there are different types of interpretation - historical, theological, rational, literal, personal - or maybe I'm just making it up :-D:coffee:

    Another interesting aspect might be stereotypes. I heard a costume party was criticised because children dressed up as people from different parts of the world, which obviously utilized stereotypes. This, too, has to do with interpretation of cultures, as well as interpretation of how the children would understand cultures and the peoples related to them. To what extent is political correctness appropriate?

    Out of interest, do you have a piece of art in mind?
     
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  9. tech-spectre

    tech-spectre New Member

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    Personally speaking, I prefer to believe that interpretations of any text that are taken from a limited context are just as valid as those taken from a full understanding of the context. I'm all for "death of the author" or whatever the technical term for this may be: analyzing a work as if it stands on its own, with only minimal reference to the creator's original intent. This comes up a lot with any controversial fiction, but I see it more with modern works. Even if the creator meant one thing, what is their work actually saying? Of course, it comes with the exclusion of completely outrageous interpretations, like To Kill A Mockingbird is actually encouraging slavery and oppression. :rolleyes:

    Even as a queer person myself, if a Christian person interprets the Bible as condemning my existence, I'm not going to claim that their interpretation is incorrect. Their opinion of me may be hurtful, but I won't dispute what they see in the text.

    For the art, I'll probably invent a piece to use within the setting of the story. And if all else fails, just turn to renaissance paintings. :)
     
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  10. ginkgo88

    ginkgo88 Member

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    My first thing I'd like to say is someone above quoted about the good Sumerian and that in itself is pretty funny.

    Anyway, the issue of interpretations from a full understanding of context or those from a lack of contextualization or feeling, there's a whole area of religious study on this topic and it's called hermeneutics. In theological school, which I have attended, they teach you to make your interpretations of the bible based on what would have been meant by the author of the text to the original target audience, then to relate the concepts in such a way that they become applicable to modern life. A fundamental misinterpretation on the behalf of your monsters about the audience of the art they are trying to emulate would give your protagonist plenty to correct, they they so chose. Even a small misunderstanding at the beginning could lead to disastrous ramifications when taken to its extreme end.
     
  11. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But when does an interpretation becomes incorrect? Since you say incorrect interpretations do exist (Mockingbird example you gave) and then you say you would not tell a person that what they see in the text is not incorrect even if it's hurtful.

    How do you lead people to interpret within the correct spectrum of meaning a piece of art offers?

    Renaissance paintings might be a cool idea because it's something your readers can then go out into the real world and re-examine it for themselves, quite literally bringing your story to real life. Personally I'd be very intrigued by this route, but only if you can find the perfect piece to wrap your story around. If we're talking art history, you could even get into how people treat one another through the interpretation of their clothing - you see a homeless person, or a black person in a dark alleyway, and you cross to the other side of the road. You see a man in a suit and you deem him as wealthy or trustworthy. You see a Chinese person and assume he might work in a takeaway. This, too, is visual interpretation - clothing and how one presents oneself have always been part of political and societal practice. Or the Jewish star during WWII.

    I want you to come up with a story already! I'd read this!! (I studied art history btw lol)
     
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  12. Kritikilthynkr

    Kritikilthynkr New Member

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    Hi, I'm Jason.

    You must only listen to your own voice. If you want to write then you can never listen to the critics and the imaginary what-if's we come up. Look at the Golden Compass. Christians went nuts all over it but seriously, who cares? They have their beliefs and a belief is an idea meant to be challenged and changed. Let them believe anything they want but do not start letting religions, races, politics, or even your own mother and what she might think, be something that stops you from being honest with the creativity you need to put out. This is your baby and it will eventually be judged, you can't help that. People will judge you up and down. They will read into your work to find the good or evil they want to find. There is to much pressure to write if you worry about offending anyone.

    Akira Kurosawa said something close to the job of an artist is to never look away. He was much more profound but never look away from your art for anyone. There are 1000 religions. Not one of them care about what the other thinks so stop caring what they think cause in any group you will find fans and haters. Just write for you. Write for your audience. Write and don't look away or you will rob your audience and your self.
     
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  13. tech-spectre

    tech-spectre New Member

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    Thank you for the insight, looking back at some of my previous replies I'm seeing a pattern: namely that I'm parroting the advice my high school English teachers used to give me.

    "Everything's right unless it's wrong!!" lol

    In addition to everything else we talked about, it looks like I'll have to sit down and do some soul-searching to form an actual opinion on the subject.

    Anyways, I'm glad you're excited for the story! I hope your PC is up to date, because this will most likely come out in the form of a game. Like all narrative art forms, game design requires some level of creative writing capability, which is why I'm deferring to the more experienced folk here ;)

    Hi Jason, nice to meet you!

    Thanks so much for the advice. I know that part of my hesitation comes from my non-confrontational nature, but you're absolutely right; I've got to challenge that at some point if I'm going to get anywhere with this project.



    Speaking of which, it looks like I've got tons of work ahead of me to make this happen. Everyone here has been amazing, and I think I'm at a place where I can truly start putting this thing (whatever it ends up being) into motion.

    Feel free to message me any time, as I'll most likely be yelling at my own keyboard at any given moment for the next few years. :dead: In the meantime, I wish everyone here the best of luck in your own endeavors!
     
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  14. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @tech-spectre - mine isn't so up to date but my husband's is, as he's a bit of a gamer lol. But how do you get a story published in the form of a game? Don't you have to be on the team working on a particular game's content for that? From what you're saying, it sounds like it would have to be an original game in its own right - but for that, I'd say the story writing aspect would be the least of your problems in getting it produced... :ohno:
     
  15. tech-spectre

    tech-spectre New Member

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    A lot of games are very story-driven, especially those of the single player variety. I figure it's going to make my life a lot easier to get that phase of development out of the way before anything else, so that I have a solid foundation to work with.

    With the right software, it's really surprising how much of the development process can be done from home/independently! There are free programs for character modelling, animation, environment building, sound design, and even some complete game engines that handle each aspect natively. For engines that have more features, personal licenses are available on a subscription service much like Adobe's current line of products. You don't even need extensive programming knowledge to use them. (But I still plan to study it while I'm still in college.)

    Teams certainly are beneficial to completing games quickly, but these days a small handful of people or even a single person can create a full product using free/relatively cheap resources.
     
  16. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's surprising and not surprising at the same time haha! Surprising that there're so many tools out there and not surprising because... well these days, that's the way tech goes right?

    But going by what you're saying, you'll run into all the same problems as self-published authors: that even though it is possible for everything to be done by yourself or by just a small team, the quality in every aspect may not be professional enough. And even if you had the skills to make it professional, there's still marketing. With a game, there's far more design to it than to a novel, and therefore an even higher chance it won't come out right than a self-pubbed novel, and with a game because it's much more interactive as well as visual, any mistakes would be glaring.

    You should totally study game design or something :D
     
  17. tech-spectre

    tech-spectre New Member

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    Yeah, you're right about the difference in... I guess intensity of the two mediums? Many more components to worry about in a game vs a book. I fully expect mine to be lacking that professional "polish" that studios are able to produce.

    That's the plan! I'm currently studying interaction design and programming at the UW, and I intend to earn my game design certification before I graduate as well. (I think I've drifted off topic :bigoops: If necessary I can move this convo to another thread?)
     
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