The Issue of Hard Topics in Writing

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  • #86446
    Grace
    @h-jones

      So… I have a question about pain and bad things and what I should or should not include when writing. Please be cautious in reading this if you are part of a younger and/or more easily triggered audience. If there’s anyone younger, it may be safe to ask your parents to read it first. (:

       

      An idea for a story came to me after watching a show I like (“Bull,” by the way—a pretty darn good show 😀 but watch with discretion because there’s some hard topics in it—hence why it made me think of this story). In the show, there was this woman who’s eleven year old daughter was… raped and murdered. Really, the whole episode made me sick to my stomach. It made me think about how incredibly painful such an experience must be if it could make me feel so horrible just from watching, knowing that they are all actors and none of the people in the show were even real. I guess part of the heartache came from knowing things like that have actually happened before, and there are human beings out there who have really suffered like that. In horrible, excruciating ways. It’s enough to make me almost shake just sitting here and writing about it to some people I’ve never met before online, you know? And it’s just like… if it’s effecting me that badly, how could I possibly even imagine what people who have actually been through that are feeling?

      But anyway… to say all that, things like that really do happen in the world. It’s horrible, but they exist. So, what do I do about it as a writer?

      My story idea, that came from this episode, is about a mom who lost her daughter due to rape and murder—but the killer gets off clean somehow. But, instead killing the man (like the woman in the show did), she instead trains in law, criminology and psychology to figure out how to retry the case and bring her child’s murderer to justice. But, the real issue is, should I write it? Does the world need another story with darkness and death and horrible things? It seems like there’s enough of that in the world as it is.

      So, with that being said, I have an argument for why I shouldn’t even start at all.

      Observe:

      1. This is based off C. S. Lewis’ quote: “Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”

      Even though he’s referring to children, I feel like there is too much dark and yuck in the world for all of us. In fact, I’ve really kind of realized that when I read children’s books, life seems so much better in every way. 😂 But yeah, you know, they give me hope! Because people are braver and kinder and smarter than they are in most TV shows and movies and whatnot. It inspires me, rather than dejects me. So, maybe I should try to pursue something with a little less… trauma. It could arguably make more of an impact in the world?

       

      And then, there’s the issue of, if I do decide to give it a go, what do I do with it? I can’t write about darkness just to write about it, can I? I need to offer a solution.

      Also, should it be as traumatic? Instead of her young daughter being raped and murdered, maybe it could be an older (potentially adult) son involved in a hit-and-run car accident.

      Should it be a Christian novel, or do I need to offer hope and redemption in more subtle ways? I’ve always had a difficult time writing about God directly in fiction, but I do feel like I can elude to God’s presence without forcing it down the readers throats. I feel like I’m like, betraying God when I do that though??? Is that just a feeling, or is there actually some ground for that claim?

      Should I write about forgiveness? Redemption?

      What do you all think? Any insight would be helpful and appreciated.

       

      Also, take this all with a grain of salt. I have no idea if I’m actually going to write anything like this, but I did think it might be good for discussion.

      • This topic was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Grace.
      • This topic was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Grace.

      Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.

      #86450
      Cassandra Hamm
      @cassandraia

      *content warning: sexual abuse, etc*

      @h-jones I personally write about hard topics all the time. I’ve noticed a lot of my characters deal with sexual issues–abuse, bad choices–and mental disorders since those are two things I’m very passionate about (also prostitution–as in being trapped in prostitution because I’m very passionately anti-sex-slave-trafficking). I think my views on writing about this sort of thing tend to be different than most Christians–I don’t always have a happy ending. That’s not realistic. One of my characters tries to prosecute her rapist, and no one believes her. That may seem dark and depressing, but there are people who have gone through that, and they understand. They understand the victim blaming. They understand how difficult it is to be ignored and disrespected and accused when you’re the one who was victimized. My goal is more to show how victims are treated than to show a triumphant ending. I want there to be a change in the way people treat victims of rape. Maybe more people will speak up about their rapes, then. Life is full of suffering. When we suffer, we are united with Christ–He too suffered, much more than any of us ever will. And things don’t always turn out well. God doesn’t always heal or protect. There is darkness in the world–we shouldn’t ignore that. Sometimes Christians ignore that in their writing. We ignore the suffering and think everyone thinks like we do and goes through what we go through–but that’s simply not true. I think we should write about reality–where the good guys *don’t* always win, where people struggle and go through awful things. Anyway…not sure that’s where you wanted to go with it…but while I agree with C. S. Lewis, I think not every piece of writing needs to be like that. Some writing needs to call people to action. (I’m also more on the side of social justice, so there’s that.) As for your story, I think not showing her exact revenge on the man–at least not in killing him–would be powerful. She’s not following the way of the world in that. She is still bringing him to justice and protecting other children (and others) from him, but she isn’t compromising herself to do so. She has a deep wound, and because of it, she’s helping others. You can also do a lot with grief in that. <3 I hope that helps somehow. XP

      I crush readers' souls like grapes.

      #86459
      Ariel Ashira
      @ashira

      @

      • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Ariel Ashira.

      "No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how hard you fall, you are never out of the fight."

      #86461
      Selah CJW
      @selah-chelyah

      Oops, I just started to reply above while signed into my sister’s account. 🙂 Anyway…

      @cassandraia

      I agree with what you said. This world is not all peaches and cream, and we are going to have to either face reality or float along staying blind and doing nothing.

      I also believe that God is the only way any character can fully have their eyes opened, and be able to forgive and forget. If the goal of our writing is not to glorify Him and show others how He is the source of all ultimate good, what is it worth?

      Assistant Guildmaster of the Awesome Meraki
      ~ Created to create ~

      #86462
      Cassandra Hamm
      @cassandraia

      @selah-chelyah I do agree with you. He is the source of ultimate good–and sometimes that ultimate good doesn’t turn out the way that we want it to. I believe that helping people see the pain that others are in *does* give God glory because it may help someone realize that they need to change the way they’re treating others. It may alleviate someone’s suffering and convict them for their actions. And for someone who identifies with the pain, who didn’t have a happy ending, then they can see that they are seen, they are heard, they are understood.

      When I write with God in the story–and I do for a lot of my stories–I want the spiritual journeys to be authentic, full of real questions and real doubts. When I didn’t understand theology, I wrote a lot of weird stuff that really ended up hurting others more than it helped–like when you put trite explanations for difficult things. All that to say that I don’t necessarily think God has to be mentioned to be glorified. 🙂 yeah, it helps–but seeing the name of God can turn people off immediately. Yeah, some books I write are directed toward Christians, challenging them in their faith, but others aren’t. Why not examine difficult issues in a way that non-Christians can appreciate too? I don’t just want to preach at people. I want to identify with them in their suffering. That’s my view on it. I could be wrong. 🙂

      I crush readers' souls like grapes.

      #86577
      Grace
      @h-jones

        @cassandraia @ashira Thank you both so much for posting! 😀 I appreciate it lots.

        I’m gonna take a bit to chew on all that was said and return to reply to both of you probably tomorrow or so. (: This is some great discussion.

        Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.

        #86616
        Selah CJW
        @selah-chelyah

        @cassandraia

        I agree with most of what you said! 🙂 I do not think that you can help people with their problems without directly bringing God into it, though. I see what you mean, but I don’t agree there.

        You can give people a lot of really good answers to problems that seem super sound, and even are at a certain level, but unless they have Christ as their Saviour they are going to end up in the same place they would have. “Cleansing the outside of the cup”, as Jesus warned against in the Gospels, is not going to do anything but just that, ultimately. They cannot stand before God in judgement any more when outwardly appearing clean than they can when outwardly dirty! Even those who did “many righteous works in (His) name” will be told by the Lord that they did not know Him one Day (Matt. 7:22). There are a lot of examples throughout Scripture that prove that theme repeatedly.

        Why didn’t Paul, or Peter, or John, use easier methods of preaching than they did, so that their highly-pagan audience would not (naturally and typically!) be instantly be turned off? Paul said he not do so because he trusted to the power of God to turn their hearts to repentance, regardless of the offence of his message. “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:2-5)

        I also want to share this passage. I know it is long, but please read through it…so rich! 🙂  “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:18-31)

        The Bible teaches that the Gospel message simply is “a stumbling block, and a rock of offense”(vs. 23) to everyone who needs that very message! Christ knew that firsthand, and He gave us a clear picture of how to graciously share the truth with others. He did not ever mince words with anyone. The hypocrites, He exposed. To the needy people truly hungering for truth, He “spoke the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15, etc…) at all times. Always the focus, the central and elemental theme, was the inadequate sinner’s need for Christ alone. Without the only Source of life and truth, there simply was no life or truth or healing at any level, and telling them to find life-giving water apart from the living spring Himself would be false to what He taught was true.

        Compromise in the smallest area never reaps true fruit…never has, never will. If we desire to bless others by drawing them to the truth, we must share it in love as we’ve been commanded, and step back in prayer, asking God to bless our feeble efforts that are nothing apart from Him. We are only tools for His use, and He is the only one who can change the hearts of the hearers. He created them, He can certainly change them!  “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

         

        Assistant Guildmaster of the Awesome Meraki
        ~ Created to create ~

        #86645
        Grace
        @h-jones

          @cassandraia I really like what you said here, particularly what you said about how your goal is really to show how victims are treated as opposed to a triumphant ending. I didn’t think about that, though subconsciously I feel like that’s kind of the direction I wanted to go in—I didn’t have so much of a triumphant ending in mind (aside from the fact that she convicts the killer and sends him to prison in the end) so much as I wanted to show exactly what the mother went through. I suppose that if people took the time to step into her shoes and see the utter heartbreak that things like this cause, it could very well lead to change—like you said!! So, then, going back to the C. S. Lewis thing, maybe there are two different categories for Christians as writers: the stories that give you hope, and the stories that make you act. And depending on what we want to see happen/what we believe God wants us to do, we could utilize one of those two types (maybe even both???) to have a different series of cause and effect. Potentially. 🤔

          Also—“He is the source of of ultimate good, but sometimes the ultimate good doesn’t turn out the way we want it to.” Ironically, I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot lately! About God and the ultimate good. Oof. So much to think about that really doesn’t apply to this subject 😂 but yes, I wholeheartedly agree with that statement.

          @selah-chelyah I’m really glad you brought the issue of expressly calling out God in fiction because that is something I hugely struggle with. Oof. I’m like, the textbook definition of a people-pleaser hahaha so I always have this deep-set conviction to be really express about my faith, since I tend to be so shut-up about it by nature. That’s really why I brought up that little snippet in my first paragraph. What you wrote was also super convicting, because you’re totally right. Compromise in any area, big or small, never reaps real or lasting results.

          I suppose it makes it even harder, though, because the typical Christian trend is to write extremely shallow and kinda pathetic books 😂 Grrgh, it makes me so frustrated! 😂😂😂 But what other people do and how other people may initially see my work shouldn’t dictate what I feel like I should do, because—like you said—it’s not me. It’s God! And if He wants people to read my book, then it will happen.

          Man, I’m all, like, inspired now, hahaha 😂

           

          So what do you all think about the potential risks of writing something so potentially dark, though? Like, what about kids? What if they stumble upon this story? I think innocence is super important and that topics like this need to be introduced to younger audiences so, so, so carefully. Premature revelation to such dark topics really took a toll on me when I was younger, so that’s one reason why I’m extremely worried. What do you guys think?

          And, if I may ask, Selah, what is your thoughts on the story idea? I’d love to hear your opinion, if you’re open to giving it. (:

          (Also @ashira hahaha I keep accidentally using your tag instead of your sister’s… sorry! 😂😂)

          • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Grace.
          • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Grace.

          Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.

          #86705
          Selah CJW
          @selah-chelyah

          @h-jones

          Aw, but I know what you mean! It is frustrating seeing all the trash being written, even within “Christian” genres. And I can identify with the struggle of wanting to please everyone with your writing, as well. 🙂 The more I read + study the Word, though, the more that just seems to fade away, and I just want to be a humble tool for His use.

          Thanks for asking me! The first WIP I ever started on was a book in which the MC’s mother is raped when getting medicine for her sick mother out on a dark night, on a country road, by a drunk. She ends up in an asylum later on, then escapes after she gives birth (to the MC) in order to leave her daughter at a Catholic orphanage so it would be cared for. Fast forward several years, and you have an older girl searching for her past, her family, and wanting out of her current life. I still think the plot was pretty cool, and I want to write it.

          But I am just bringing that up since it seems pretty similar to your dilemma. I think as a story idea, yours is awesome. I also think considering what @cassandraia said about triumphant endings is true…in the end of this WIP, I had the family finding their ultimate hope in Christ, as they all still had problems even after they were united again. 🙂 The ultimate point was that apart from God, we are broken wretches. Showing the truth of that is powerful!

          Thus, I would say…yes! Write the story you have in mind. It is a reality in a broken world, a hard truth for many people. BUT…go a little farther, and bring some deeper themes into it. There are a lot of ways you could do this! What if the mother does just what you said, she trains in law and all, but maybe he comes to know the Lord before she can hunt him down, and turns himself in? She might be angry, because the revenge for her daughter she has been imagining for years has been torn from her grasp…and he is SORRY for what he did. Maybe SHE wanted to be the one to make him sorry, the one to bring him in. Then it is a forgiveness process for her, the one who is justly in the right but is inwardly fighting forgiveness and holding bitterness towards him.

          Lol, I do not want to take over your cool story idea, but this is an amazing theme, and my mind is flooding with ideas. 😀 She could be prosecuting him, and maybe he did something so bad he is going on death row, and she is the one holding the key to condemning him (and is more than ready to do so)! All the while, he is praying for her, that her heart would be changed, yet he realizes what he did was wrong and is ready to die for his sin and breach of the law. Perhaps right before the trial, or towards the end somewhere, she breaks and forgives him, and drops the charges as she sees the fact that he is a changed man, “a new creature”. You could do all sorts of things in the end.

          Ok, I just threw a lot of stuff out there, and that is a long ways from what  you said, so tell me that was not helpful if it wasn’t! 🙂 I just love taking themes like this, and throwing things apart…and then bringing the ultimate, life-changing gift of salvation into it. It seems so much more powerful than just bringing someone to justice, I guess because I like to go to the heart level of the characters. Whatever you do, just don’t scratch the surface; go the distance and dig up deep issues that we all deal with! Those are my thoughts…

          As far as younger audiences go, I would say that the way you write certain scenes is everything. When I wrote the initial scenes in the WIP I mentioned, I had her running, then tripping and falling, and he coming up behind her, his drunk-breath approaching…and then it fast-forwards to several months later, her in the asylum and pregnant. That leaves no doubt in the minds of your older audience as to what happened, but neither does it describe things that should not be imagined in the minds of younger people (or, for that matter, older people!). I have read a lot of things I wish I had not, either, over the years, and I do not want to do that for anyone else. Not describing certain things, though, but yet saying enough to make pretty clear what happened, seems like the best way to be real, yet not compromise anyone.

          Alright, that is probably more than you wanted, lol! You asked, I guess… 😛  I do really like your ideas!

           

          Assistant Guildmaster of the Awesome Meraki
          ~ Created to create ~

          #86711
          Grace
          @h-jones

            @selah-chelyah No, that is amazing!!!! Thank you!! There’s so much good stuff in there. I had thought about the criminal being sorry, but not the idea of getting saved! Oh my goodness!! So powerful! And what if, like, the mother comes to God because of the killer??? OH MY GOODNESS. What if he actually ends up getting the death penalty, and when she’s kind of triumphant because she finally avenged her daughter, he just kind of looks at her like “I don’t hold this against you” and she’s just like, “Why? How could such a horrible man who did unspeakable things behave like that?” so eventually she goes to talk to him maybe? and he leads her to salvation. Oh my word. There are so many ideas. Thank you so, so, so much!!! I’m still not sure how that will work out in the end, but that is a ton of inspiration and is remarkably helpful.

             

            Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.

            #86737
            Selah CJW
            @selah-chelyah

            @h-jones

            Aw, no problem! Thanks for letting me share so much with you. I love where you are taking this…sounds like something that would turn out a fav book of mine. 😀 I will be praying God will give you inspiration to keep going with this…and feel free to share more as it progresses. I would love to hear about it! Thanks for letting me in on this awesome topic. 🙂

            Assistant Guildmaster of the Awesome Meraki
            ~ Created to create ~

            #86846
            Ariel Ashira
            @ashira

            @selah-chelyah Why dont you tell me this stuff?  Do I have to wait until my sister talks to other people to hear her wisdom? XD This is great.

            @h-jones No worries 😀  And btw, I think your story idea is EPIC SAUCE.  (Then again I tend to go for writing about hard topics like rape, racism, slavery, etc because they are things that really do happen but you can show God’s love and power in the darkest situations.)

            "No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how hard you fall, you are never out of the fight."

            #86859
            Selah CJW
            @selah-chelyah

            @h-jones  @ashira

            Yes! Me too! I love showing the contrasts. 🙂

            @ashira

            There is one word that answers that… TIME.

            Assistant Guildmaster of the Awesome Meraki
            ~ Created to create ~

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