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Underestimated

It’s a strange experience hearing from your mother that she had a perverse dream after reading your novel. It was unexpected and humbling. At the time, I didn’t think I had the ability to inspire such imagery from what I wrote. I figured my writing had no life in its words. I was a novice pretending to be a career writer. I had a tendency to belittle myself like that.


From the age of 12, my writing has been mostly a hobby. I hardly shared it with anyone and if I did share it, it would only be with those who loved me and would know how to respond when I asked for feedback. I’ve received everything from “I couldn’t read it” to “This is a really great story”. However, when you realize that your writing has the potential to cause issues for someone, it makes you, as a Christian, step back and rethink some things.


I’ve always wanted to be able to keep it real and keep it Christ. I wanted to show the muck of the world while also showing that Christ still existed in it. It hadn’t occurred to me that showing the perverse things would also welcome them into the lives of my readers and viewers. I had to be more responsible than I realized.


My first story produced a character that drew the attention of a student director. The character was an alluring queen with the ability to present herself in whatever image a man desired. She could be black, white, blonde, red-head, thick, thin, or slanted-eyed. Whatever a man considered beautiful, she would present herself in that image. That character almost produced an entire movie. A six-page short story and I was watching scenes from a movie about that character. I didn’t expect that.


I had to assess what kind of film it would be. The wrong director and it would become a movie about sex. The right director and it will become a movie about the consequences of sin. To this day, I believe that project fell through because the film wasn’t about what I intended the character to represent.


I’ve often thought of what would happen in scenes where nudity felt required. If my story produced such dreams, think of what actors will put themselves through or be put through for the benefit of my film. I began to write “No nudity while filming this scene. Actors and actresses are to remain covered during filming” in my scripts. Though nudity was implied, I did not want any actor or actress to feel like they had to be nude to get the part. I didn’t want them to feel like they had to kiss a stranger in order to play a role.


In my horror film, I have to say that I do not want any demonic rituals or imagery to be represented in the wrong way. I know that we can’t control everything, as writers and directors, but I wanted to do my part in speaking up against putting people in vulnerable spots just to accomplish creating a good film or book.


I’m even stepping away from including cursing in my writing. There isn’t much, if there is any. I’ve never felt comfortable writing the words out. I didn’t want my dialogue to sound corny, but I just couldn’t agree to forcing people to say foul language just for me to come behind them and say, “Jesus Christ is even here!” What message am I sending if I force people to be naked, curse, and involve themselves in demonic rituals to follow up with “that’s wrong”?


Reading the Bible, there are gruesome stories that are told in clean verbiage. Though some words have become curse words over time, when it was originally written, it was a profanity-free story. I had to learn from the Bible and be more responsible with my writing. I could show the horrendous nature of the world without forcing actors, actresses, directors, readers, and viewers to see, read, or do uncomfortable things. Some may feel my writing will suffer, but I know it won’t.


The thing that makes us Christian is the ability to engage in the world without being consumed by it. We can sit at a table full of individuals cursing like sailors and never want to curse ourselves. We can receive invitations to see nudity, without feelings of disrespect, and not want to go see nude people. We can endure violence and not feel the need to retaliate with violence. We are in the world but not of it.


If my film shows a bunch of nudity like any other R-rated film, but I slap a “Jesus doesn’t like this” stamp on it, what have I really done? People will still go home and think about the woman or man who was naked. What good is it if people remember the one line with the curse word in it? Plenty of lines that say, “Jesus is Lord!” but the one people will remember is laced with profanity.


If I am to be as Christ, then I am going to have to present the world differently than the world presents itself. It is this difference that allows people to see differently once this book or film is enjoyed. I can easily write his profanity-laced tirade and still get the same message across had I written the profanities out. The difference is that the reader walks away with “profanity-laced” rather than curse words to remember.


An actor can appear naked and be clothed beneath or behind props. That way, viewers can walk away with the implication of nudity and not actually seeing it, and the actor can walk away having done a film without having to get naked for a role. The intentionality behind this way of creating is to prevent certain activities in my work. Yes, I can write a story about sex without having to make it a pornographic. I can write a violent encounter without describing the savagery. I can make an impactful movie without having to make it R-rated. It won’t make the story less real, and it won’t lose any viewership.


As a Christian, I have to be considerate of every stage my writing produces. From the inception and the impact on my own mind, body, and soul, to the impact the audience has after reflecting on what they just enjoyed with my name on it. While I can’t control everything, there is much I can prevent simply by not writing it. I could spare a young child from consuming something inappropriate if I write it correctly. I could spare a grown adult from interacting with something terrible as well. I am able.


No longer will I underestimate myself. My words have power. My words have a voice. My words will be heard. Every so often, I am told of the impact my writing has and I’m still shocked by it today. People read and say nothing, but walk away changed. That’s all I can hope for and all I am striving for. This is just a PSA stating: I understand, I see, and I will do better.


Blessings,


Dario

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