Sunday, October 11, 2015

Dear Christian Writers

 The other day, I watched Dear White People. I loved it. It had a good story, explored a theme, and had characters that I could invest in. After I watched it, I realized this film was quite similar to God's Not Dead. Except good. So, as I thought over the similarities and differences between the two, I picked out a few lessons that Christian writers can take from Dear White People to tell better stories.

1. We shouldn't try to fit in too many story-lines.
   I appreciated the way God's Not Dead managed to weave so many story-lines together. The problem is that all the story-lines left hardly any time for character development. Dear White People fixes this flaw by presenting four characters with intertwining plots, yet still had time to present compelling characters instead of relying on stereotypes.

2. Christianity can be explicitly in the film.
   Sometimes, Christians think that critics don't like Christian movies because the Christianity is too apparent. Sometimes I wonder if the answer is to make Christianity less explicit and using a more allegorical approach. However, Dear White People presented a difficult theme (racism) and addressed it quite explicitly. It didn't use allegory, and it was still able to tell a good story. How did it do this? By exploring the theme through its characters, rather than preaching about it.

3. Do the work to make the characters believable.
   The villain in Christian movies tends to be absolutely evil. Especially in God's Not Dead, the antagonist is portrayed in a constantly negative light. A light so negative that he becomes a cardboard cutout rather than a real person. In comparison, the hero is shown as so perfect as to not be believable. Dear White People uses more nuance. The main thesis is presented clearly, but the characters react to that in their own way. In the same way, a Christian story can explicitly present Christianity, as long as its characters act like real humans. Some believe, some don't, and the story documents their choices and decisions. The story and characters should stand on their own. The beauty of Dear White People was that, while it clearly presented racism, it presented various responses and didn't come out and say which was right. It leaned in favor of some and against others, but it ultimately allowed the viewer to decide for themselves.
   This is how Christian stories could be: clearly showing Christianity, but allowing the characters to react to it differently, yet still as real human beings.

   I hope you found that helpful. I'm not trying to hate on Christian stories, I myself am susceptible to these problems. I simply want to learn from good stories and use that knowledge to better my craft. Did this better your craft? Have you seen either God's Not Dead or Dear White People? Comment below and tell me!

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