Monday, August 30, 2010

Quick Question

Since I began writing seriously, I have had a fear of fiction. I don't trust myself to make up a story, tell someone's life or perhaps end someone's life and not somehow screw it up. But this fall I am taking a fiction-writing workshop--a requirement for graduation. And tonight I am starting on my main character and the two supporting ones. One of the interesting "rules" that my professor gave is to love your character, but not to cuddle him. At first I had been thinking, 'I'll just write someone like me and it will be easy to understand them.' But that's not brave. This is college--the only time where I will be able to challenge myself and no one can tell me I'm wrong. So then I thought, I'll write about a terrible person who deserves nothing. But my professor reminded me that it will be impossible to write about someone who I don't like. If I try that, I will only end up driving this character further and further into the ground before killing them or giving them a terribly disfiguring disease.

Writing is powerful stuff.

So here is my quick question.
As a Christian, I have a witness. But in my writing, I want to create a character who isn't me. Maybe he's a mercenary or maybe she is an illegal alien trying to make it by any means necessary. She's not me. So should I still not use cuss words, even when I am trying to create a real character? If writing is so powerful, what is powerful about not making your ex-marine character who took shrapnel in Vietnam talk like a softy when some liberal gets him all riled up? Would he say something like, 'gosh darn it you big jerk!'? Probably not.
It's not me saying it...but then again it is--in the end, anyway.

Food for thought. Chew away!


The Kopers said...

That's a tough one.

My thoughts:

Yes as a Christian you are a witness. So, that means that your writing should be not be offensive and full of lude, discriminating, foul language. God specifically commands that we do not take his name in vain. There's no exception for fiction writers.

However, there is no where in God's word that it says "thou shalt not cuss." Cuss words are bad (M'kay?) because they are offensive and we are, as Christians not to offend others with our words. You have to decide if the words of your character would be offensive to your reader. If neither you nor your reader are offended by your character's words, then I see no reason that your character would not be true to his or her personality.

That being said, in our society there seems to be two sets of cuss words, the non-offensive ones, and the offensive ones. Personally, as a witness, I'd stay away from the offensive words and phrases because you never know, years from now who may end up being your reader. Maybe your kids, one day.

marnmic said...
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marnmic said...
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marnmic said...

Very tough and very interesting thought to ponder. This is an area which I struggle with, so I'm just speaking totally from my opinion. Please judgement meant in this, just some love and my thoughts...

Many Christian authors deal with very "worldly" ideas/subjects. My two fav authors right now are Robert Whitlow and Frank Peretti.

As far as language, for me that is very difficult. I totally agree with Holly about not taking God's name in vain. Scripture is very clear on that.
However, for me personally, I have to try to stay away from "bad language". If not, I find that it goes through my thoughts...and while that is bad enough, because it's offensive to me and the Holy Spirit living inside me, I definitely don't want it coming out of mouth my to offend others. (Hence, I do own a TV Guardian to block's not just for my kids but for me also! :-) Too many rich stories out there that are polluted with offensive language.

However, I understand you want to make your stories relevant, and I do agree with Holly's thoughts of non-offensive/offensive words. I totally understand where she is coming from. Maybe we can go a bit deeper.
Would it be possible to have your characters written so vividly that you didn't have to use the language so just not to be a stumbling block for people like me. (and if the story is good, you want readers of all ages to enjoy the richness of your writing and not be on a "caution" list for younger readers.

There are many Christian writers who are eloquent, real, and effective without the use of language.

As far as scripture saying "do not cuss" the only thing that I can think of quickly that applies is Ephesians 4:29:

New Living Translation
Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

New American Standard Bible
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Different versions for exploration.
While you will be writing for another character, the words will still be your words, and any accommodation or accreditation for those words will be given to you.

I really do see your struggle, but I just think by taking a high road, of not using "cuss words" you will be serving your readers well. You will not be a stumbling block to them in their lives.
Romans 14:3
So let's stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

BTW, I loved Ghost Clocks, and yes, writing IS a powerful thing. Best wishes to you! :D