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Sarah
Welcome, friend! Relax & rest awhile, if you please. I'm an ordinary girl, a follower of Christ, mama to Gabriel, & wife to Evan. Here in this little space of the online world, I share all manner of bookish things, including full content reviews, writerly snippets, encouragement for everyday life, and a whole collection of names & their meanings.

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7 Deadly Sins of Writing | CONTENT

What is acceptable content to put in a novel?  
And what is NOT?

What content is tolerable to you in the books you read?  What do you let slip regarding language or sensuality? 

This world is not perfect.  EVERYONE knows that.  Therefore, your story will not be perfect in the sense your characters will make mistakes and there is such things as evil and deception and murder.  But as a writer, how do you know what situations, language, issues, and/or other content is acceptable in a novel or WIP (work-in-progress)?  Could any of these be a stumbling block for your readers?  Mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually?

In this post, I will share with you my honest opinions regarding this particular topic, and coming from a Biblical perspective.  Why?  Because I believe this to be extremely important.  Books shape the lives of those who read them - especially that of the younger readers.  If you are anything like me, there are many books that simply inspire you, motivate you, make you daydream, or just leave a sweet feeling of a story well read.  You put your whole self into the novel - you imagine yourself as the main character, or at least that you are present with the characters through all their wild adventures.  Right?


So, what is acceptable?

1)  ALCOHOL
            Did you know drinking alcohol or any fermented drinks is not a sin?  *GASPS* You may be thinking, "OH MY GOSH, is she one of them??" Believe it or not, m'dears, drinking alcoholic beverages is not a sin.  That is, unless one takes it too far.  There is nowhere in Scripture that states consumption of strong drink as "forbidden."  Through the Proverbs, and scattered all in the Old & New Testament, you will find numerous verses warning against drunkenness (among other things).  But our Lord doesn't forbid it.  Even Solomon says to give it to "him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter.  Let him drink and forget his poverty and remember his trouble no more." (Proverbs 31:6-7)  However, this does not apply to one who chooses a lifestyle of poverty and will not help him/herself - that, is sin.
            {Unfortunately, this is an extremely touchy subject.  While I am not one to drink any form of alcoholic beverages, I do not condemn anyone who does.  (I do rather like kombucha, though - a healthful, fermented drink. :] )}

2)  VIOLENCE
            How far is too far?  How do you determine what level of violence, torture, and gore to put into your story?  I believe it all depends on your focus group, a.k.a. the ages to which you wish to present your book (middle grades, young adults, adults, etc.).  And, of course, it depends on your readers.  Most can read a shoot-'em-up thriller and not think twice about all the blood and descriptive wounds, whereas to others it could be a complete turn-off,  a whoops-time-to-close-this-book-forevah thing.  Some kids are far more sheltered than others (and some have been exposed to far too much).  Some are your fluffy, romantic, period drama fiction lovers, and other are the hard-core Sci-Fi or all-out action thriller buffs.  As the writer of YOUR story, you have a choice.  I would only ask that you be conscious of which focus ages your story would "target."  Pun intended. 

3)  IDOLATRY
            Every culture is different.  Every religion is seeking something.  Every person, however intentionally or unintentionally, is yearning for their purpose in this crazy world.  Some think they find it in worshiping idols made by man.  And some simply ignore this need, and either worship themselves in a variety of ways, or they run through life without a care.
            While you and I know differently, your fantasy story may feature a whole race of people living deep in some enchanted mountain range, unaware that there's an Aslan, or a Wulder and Paladin, or Elôm, a Maker, an Eru (or Ilúvatar), an Allfather, or a God(Btw, double high-fives to anyone who can guess which novels these Representatives of our Lord God hail from!)
            I believe this "sin" is acceptable to add to the culture of a native people in your stories.  Unfortunately, it is true of this world and its vast history.  And perhaps it is a way to plant the seed of Christ, the Unknown God, in a people unintentionally/intentionally unaware of His presence.

4)  POLYGAMY
            Again, this is an [unfortunate] piece of many cultures, and is even a part of Biblical history.  However, I don't find this particular issue a "sin" in adding it into a story,  It is a sin Scripturally, of course! but there is no stumbling block that would cause the average person to question why marriage to one spouse, and one spouse alone (male + female), is really the only way - especially if they are grounded on the Right foundation.  If it was me adding this as an element to a race of people in my fantasy novel, I would definitely not elaborate.  

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What is UNACCEPTABLE?

5)  LANGUAGE
            Words hurt.  Words teach.  Words sting.  Words speak.  Words REMAIN.
            Scripture says one day we will be judged for our words.  {insert reference}  And not just those we speak, but for our thoughts as well.  Whoa.  That's an eye-opener, right?  Believe it or not, that includes any and all curse words.  So, should your story, your novel, contain such things?  In my firm opinion:  NO.  Why?  Truthfully, when I come across words even as "harmless" as 'd--n' or 'h--l,' I find that it takes away from the story (no matter how good) and is an unnecessary distraction.
            FOUL language is absolutely INTOLERABLE.  If your character is a rather rough n' tough kind of guy who curses as a part of his gruff personality, forego the actual words and simply put, "he cursed aloud," or "a few choice expletives escaped under his breath in an astonished mutter."  You get the idea.  Never should such words as (forgive me! but I'm making a point) 'f--k,' 'p--s,' 'a--,' or so on and worse.  Nor should any vulgar words be used to refer to the personal parts of the body.  
            It's unacceptable.  And besides, some of our [unfortunately] modern expletives were not even - what's the word: invented? discovered? - used until certain points in history.  And even then, they were not expletives, they were mere synonyms, but are now twisted in an ugly way to match the ugliness of this world.

6)  HOMOSEXUALITY
            Absolutely, most definitely, indescribably unacceptable in your novel.
            This a huge issue in our present culture.  And that is exactly why I make such a big deal about it right now.  I wish to stress the Biblical perspective as much as I can, whenever I can - it is a great weight on my heart and the cause of much sorrow that I feel for our world today.

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." 
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (emphasis added) -

            Wow.  That's in our Bible.  The Manual of LIFE that our merciful God has graciously given to us.  Think about it.  Our Lord created both Man & Woman to be One.  When He made Adam, He didn't give him a George or John, He gave him an Eve.  There is nothing more beautiful than the oneness of a man and woman under the authority of marriage and Christ.  Your novel's love interests should be nothing more or less than 
boy + girl =

          People are so very blinded by this so-called "desire" of the flesh.  Because of this, they do not need anything more that seems to encourage such a deadly sin - even so much as a mention of said couples at the local high school or in some futuristic tale.  This pertains to thoughts as well.  Particularly with young readers.  Introducing this suggestion at an early age is especially damaging.  {As writers, we have the power to be guardians in a sense and to produce beautiful stories of bravery, love, mystery, and adventure!}

7)  SENSUAL SCENES
          While immorality is a very real thing, and it happens every single day, there is no need whatsoever to put steamy, sexy, EXTREMELY descriptive love scenes in your story.  If you have characters that "do the thing" outside of marriage, be discreet and vague in your storytelling.  Descriptions of said scenes are HUGE stumbling blocks for a majority of people, and frankly I find them disgusting.  There is nothing appealing about two people grappling and groping one another outside of marriage and. . . you know.
            The marriage bed is sacred.  But, as you know, no one treats it so.  Even though it's something "everyone does," give your stories strong characters that stick to God's Truths, especially if they are pressured by their peers to give in.  And if, for whatever reason, you allow your characters to mess up in such a way, let them find the repentance and forgiveness that comes from a gracious God who washes away the permanent stains.  But DON'T give a step-by-step description - however "vague" you may be - in explaining how they got there. 
            As mentioned in #6 above, this also applies to thoughts.  Young men, especially, have a much more difficult task of keeping their thoughts pure than most women.  Let's not make it any harder for them than what they already face.


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I applaud and bestow many, many bows and hugs to you if you persevered this far!  Thank you so much for reading this.  I truly hope it has accomplished its purpose in compelling you to think.  

One last thing I leave with you:

To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, and a book of rules;
And each must make, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.
- unknown - 


Sarah <3

Comments

  1. AAAAAHHHHH, SARAH! THIS WAS AMAZING!!! And something that NEEDED to be said. Oh my goodness, YES. I am soooooooooooo sick of picking up a secular book and finding language and sensuality and homosexuality littered all over the pages. And I read primary YA, so this is for impressionable teens! Whyyyy as an adult is it okay to write this junk for teens? I just...I don't understand.

    I agree with EVERYTHING you said! It's okay for characters to do bad things, obviously. We supposed to write human beings. But show the bad AS bad things. These days immorality is glorified in fiction and doesn't show the repercussions of sin.

    Stories are supposed to inspire us, to help us rise above our struggles and fight the good fight, to give us heroes, role models. When I read books about the protagonists living immorally as if it's a GOOD thing, I just get sickened.

    Just...THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!!!!! And thank you for being BRAVE and saying what needed to be said. Especially the homosexuality issue. There's always these big debates and such with that but...it's RIGHT THERE in the Bible, people. As clear as day!

    I could rant about ALL of this all day, but you said everything that needed to be said. Thank you so much for allowing God to use you in such beautiful ways! <333

    ReplyDelete

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To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, and a book of rules,
And each must make, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.
-Anonymous-

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