Pangs of Moralizing

As one who has his feet in both the world of writing and theworld of the church, I am often asked to create a piece of writing (play,screenplay, story) for faith based organizations.
I like doing so, as it gives me a chance to blatantly blendtwo important areas of my life – faith and art. (These two areas are blended ineverything I do, just not always so blatantly.)
But there are times when my producers try to push me to leanaway from story and focus solely on getting a message across – less art, morepropaganda.
It is tricky to try and explain why that iscounterproductive. Coming from a world where sermons can lead audiences indroves to the altar, the people from the church business can’t help but tothink of story as just another way to preach.
But story is a lousy preaching platform; and if you getthose same folk to honestly talk about the stories that impacted their lives,you’ll likely find them sermon-free. Preaching just isn’t a strength of the medium.
A story works emotionally first; if there is a message, itcomes through the experience, not by stating a moral.
My pastor last week talked about the difference between exposingpeople to truth, and experiencing truth. Unless someone experiences truth, itdoesn’t quite stick.
Storytelling is a way to get people to experience; at leastthat is what it does best.
Take a look at Jesus’ parables – while there may bepreaching and teaching around the stories, there isn’t much within the stories.
Even stories that contain great speeches – think On the Waterfront,or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, or Some More Recent Movie That IJust Can’t Think of Right Now, the monologues are earned by the speaker throughexperience, and are almost commentaries on the story rather than sermons.
So what does one do when they want to tackle a big issuewithin a story?  TheBitter Script Reader has a nice write up on the topic, examining a Buffythe Vampire Slayer episode written by Jane Espenson.
A captive audience…
Well worth the look, as an experienced script reader digsinto a work by one of the better writers in television.
The summary: serve the story first, and give all sidestheir due.
Favorite line from theblog post
“Even if Jane Espenson had a point she wanted to make, sheseems to be smart enough to know that simply preaching an idea that goesunchallenged isn’t the way to win converts to your side.”
So, if you want to hire me to write a piece that includes amessage, expect me to fight for the story first – only because I really careabout the message.
Just my thoughts,

2 responses to “Pangs of Moralizing”

  1. Rob Corley says :

    Excellent point Sean and love your view on the subject of telling a good story first.

  2. David Goulet says :

    There's a reason we refer to it as 'The Greatest Story Ever Told', and not 'The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached'.

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