Friday, March 28, 2014

Everyone is Connected

I recently watched God's Not Dead, a film inspired by the apologetic book by Dr. Rice Broocks. There is much to say about it, both for it and against it (here are two articles that might be of interest: Why God's Not Dead is going to fail and Why God’s Not Dead is Taking Movie Theatres by Storm.)
   First, there are some criticisms of the film which should be (if only slightly) addressed. All non-Christians in this film are either evil or headed quickly toward death. I am unsure if this was supposed to be an example of the consequences of sin; if so, it seems to be unrealistic compared the world around us. Though it is true that people do die or get diseases, it happens to Christians are readily as non-Christians.
   There is also the point that any professor behaving as Radison would most probably be thrown out of his position. And while most atheists are not atheistic because of emotions (like Radison is), I must concede that there are those who are more 'anti-theist' than 'atheist'.
   However, the big thing I found fascinating about this story was the theme of complete connection. Every single character was connected to another. Everyone single story line was connected in someway. And every character was affected by each other. The story lines were almost ridiculously intertwined. It was 'coincidences' in the realm of Once Upon a Time or Heroes. At the beginning I was thinking, "This is cool, but kind of silly. People's lives don't really coincide in this way." Then I thought a bit more. Many TV shows, movies, or books I read do not have such intertwined plots. When they do, it is either because of an 'ancient prophecy' or just happenstance. Yet, God's Not Dead rejects both of those ideas, choosing instead that a benevolent God is in charge of everything. And if God is seeking to draw everyone to him, then why would it seem ridiculous that a car won't start or that all the main protagonists just happen to have close seats at  Newsboys concert?

   What were your opinions of God's Not Dead? If you haven't watched it yet, are you intending to?

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Problem with Message-less Story

   Last week I wrote about Message-Fueled Stories. This week its about Message-less stories. Why is this necessary? Because sometimes it is easy to read something and agree with it and say, "Okay, from now on I'll have no message in my stories whatsoever." If that's what you're thinking... think a bit more.
   Really. Think. That's one of the main reasons of story in the first place: to make one think. I like stories. Sure, sometimes I want a fun story like a comic book (not that comic books don't make you think). Most of the time, however, I want something to dig my teeth into. Something that makes me stop reading and stare off into space for a few minutes. Something that makes me go "UGH!" when the main character has to make a tough choice. Those are the stories I remember, not the silly superhero cartoons or cute cat novels (not that there's something wrong with superheroes or cats, some stories containing such elements are quite good).
   Take an example: The Missing Kitten. There's no obvious moral. However, if I looks closer, I hope I'll recognize a story peppered with sacrifice, thoughts on friendship, perfection, and redemption. You might not find much on each topic, but it can be found if one looks hard enough.
   Why put messages into stories? For the simple reason that a reader likes to think when they read. And the best way to make a reader think is through a story. Yes, non-fiction helps people to think, but it is not as easy to immerse yourself in a collection of musings. This is why story is important. What about thoughtless story? Sure, those superhero cartoons are fun for a time. But who really wants to watch a man smash stuff all day long, seven days a week? If all there is is cool CGI (or artistry) and dumb jokes, then what's the point? There's no reason to make the reader, or viewer, return for more. At some point the reader must invest an interest in the story, and one of the best ways is to make the reader think.
   To sum up, put a message in your story, but don't be overt and preachy (because that is a parable, not a story).

   What are your thoughts? Do you like to think when you watch/read? Or would you rather watch/read something which requires little thought?

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Problem with Message-Fueled Story

   I recently read a blog post by Joel A. Parisi on Art, specifically writing. In the blog post, something he said struck me: "When Art is treated as a vehicle for a message, its beauty and effectiveness is lost." This made me think. Partly because I disagreed with him and partly because, deep inside, I found a sense of truth in his words. I don't like stories that preach at me; a story whose sole reason for existence is to proclaim a message. Not that stories with messages are bad (those are actually the best kind), but when a story is only a vehicle for a message something about it is lost.
   In the weeks since I read that blog, I have continued to ruminate on this topic. Why is there such dislike of preachiness? What is wrong with the message-fueled story? This idea moved to the forefront of my thoughts when I acted out the skit of The Wise and Foolish Builders in front of my church. Acting it out, I teasingly asked what my motivation was. Then, as I acted out the Bible verses, I realized that this story was severely lacking. There was little character development, the plot was exceedingly simple, yet it is revered as a good story. Many of Jesus' parables, in fact, are held in such esteem, despite their preachiness and lack of depth. What causes Jesus' stories to be so amazing and modern 'parables' to be so... blah?
   I propose that the problem nowadays is a marketing problem. Modern day parables are not presented as such. In fact, most stories which might make good parables are not because they are presented as stories. In a story, we want a character we can follow and a plot that interests us. However, with a parable we want to see an idea played out in a narrative. For example, many of Jesus' parables are presented like this: "The Kingdom of God is like..." and then he would proceed to describe the Kingdom through a narrative. 
   How are our 'parables' different? For one, we proclaim them as story rather than as a parable. And we do not give the reader the idea we are trying to describe (one might call it the thesis of the novel, which is to be presented at the beginning of the story and given closing remarks at the end). As such, the reader expects a compelling story and instead is turned away with merely a fleshing out of an idea. This causes the reader to dislike the story, rather than processing the idea which the story was supposed to have presented.
   So what is the problem with message-fueled story? The fact that it is interpreted as story, rather than parable. If it were understood as a parable, the audience would not be disappointed by expecting something which the story was never trying to achieve in the first place. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Rambo's Ramblings - Explanation

   Ahem. Yes, so, uh, hello. Again. You probably know me as Rambo, the amazingly awesome cat from The Missing Kitten and Trapped. What's that? You haven't read Trapped yet? That's funny, because it came out March 1st. Oh, it didn't? Right, that's why I'm here.
   Here's the lowdown. Jesse is busy. Busy, busy, busy. Busy as a cat trying to clean itself with only a quarter of a tongue. That is why he hasn't published Trapped yet. If I were in charge of this process, it would have been done weeks ago. However, I am a cat and cats and computer don't get along too well. Therefore, I leave such things up to Jesse.
   What exactly is Jesse so busy with? Well, when one writes a book, it is necessary to be the best it can be. If it is not the best it can be, then the book will not get published. That's technically not true, 'cause lots of horrible books get published all the time. However, Jesse's is dedicated to excellence. This is why his books will be renowned for their amazing quality. Plus, I'm in it, so how could anyone dislike it? Sure, Jesse's writing style might bug you and the plot might not make much sense and some of the characters are poorly developed, but when you see my amazing action sequences battling robots and saving the world, you'll fall in love. But please, no more fan-mail, Jesse will never get done writing books if he has to sort through fan mail. He has enough of mine to look through (did I mention he doubles as my secretary?) as it is.
   What was I talking about? Oh, right! Jesse is busy with such things as: correcting confusing plot points, plotting complicated character arcs, waiting for cover art to return from the undercover artist, comprehending squirrel mail, piloting flaming aeroplanes, and disposing of the leftover boiled cabbage. As well as doing minor things such as schoolwork, college work, farm work, cow work, and sleeping. If any of those things are beyond your comprehension, join the club. I have no idea why he's doing them, and I watch him do it for at least eight seconds every day.
   I hope that answer all your questions. Now, remember: be patient, skunks are not going to take over the world after all. At least, not until you've read Trapped and it will be at least two weeks before such a thing happens. With that said, I hope you have a delightful day and beware exploding pineapples that might land in your backyard. I'm positive Seabert had nothing to do with it.