Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Archive for the tag “Why I Write”

A Friendly Letter from the Future

Dear Virginia Cooke,

I’m writing this from the future: from the year of our Lord 2017. I’m not much older than this century, so by the time I write this, your body will be long sown in the earth and watered with tears. I have not been alive in your lifetime.

But you are a writer, ma’am, and in late 1936 or early 1937, you were writing an audio drama that has long since gone off the air. You know it’s hard to write sometimes. It’s hard to write a sweeping story that covers 178 episodes and spans three continents. Even as a professional, it’s hard to find time and harder still to find inspiration. It’s difficult to come up with logical characters, linear plots, good villains. Sometimes it may seem too hard.

I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it.

I know your story is worth it because, eighty years later, your story is worth it to me.

One of the defining moments of my childhood was listening to your audio drama. I remember lying in the dark at ten, eleven, maybe twelve o’ clock at night – long after I was supposed to go to sleep, with the rest of the household asleep and the house silent and dark. If anyone else had been awake, they probably would have been able to hear the voices coming from my headphones, for I’m sure I had it at an unreasonable volume. I traveled to New York, to China, to Africa there.

I recall one scene with the characters alone in the jungles of Africa. There was fire on the beach and crocodiles in the water, and their plane line had been cut; their only way out drifted across the water away from them. Heedless of the danger and of his companion’s fear, one of your characters jumped in and swam after it through the black-as-pitch waters. Bullets ricocheted through the water around him, with crocodiles barely stopped by those bullets. I listened to those tense few moments with a thrill going through my whole body and realizing, ah, yes, this is what heroes look like. 

Back in 1936, did you think that there would be a little girl, rigid as a board with excitement and thrill, listening to your stories in 2007?

I can’t imagine that you did.

I’m listening to your stories again this year. In fact, I’m basing a major project off of them. As I listen, as I’m older, I can see some of the flaws I missed back then. The characters aren’t always consistent. The plot doesn’t always follow a logical course of events. The dialogue is sometimes stilted. Your stories are far from perfect, Virginia Cooke, and the format is such that few people would listen to them and enjoy them today. There is no music, minimal sound effects, and the acting sometimes leaves things to be desired.

And yet.

If it weren’t for your stories, I wouldn’t think of heroes the way I do now. I wouldn’t think of police and criminals the way I do now. I wouldn’t write the way I do now, nor view stories the way I do now. I certainly wouldn’t use some of the phrases I do now. You, with your imperfect story written half a century before I was born, have changed me.

I guess you know by this point that I’m not really writing this to you alone. Even if you did struggle with writer’s block back in the 1930s, I wouldn’t know, nor could I send this back to encourage you. So I say these same things to my writers of today.

In eighty years, do you know where your story will be? Will it be changing the life of another little girl, crouched on her bed at 11:43 with a flashlight illuminating the words of your story, and the words of your story illuminating the world’s darkness?

It’s hard to write a sweeping story. Logical characters. Linear plot. Well-done villain. You know that and I know that. You know what else you know?

It doesn’t have to be perfect, love. You know this, too. It just has to be written, and you never know how far your story will go. Maybe eighty years later, it will still be changing lives.

I, Athelas Hale, write this in July, the year of our Lord 2017. Thank you, Virginia Cooke, for your stories.

“Courage. Honor. Silence.”

 

The Obligatory Happily-Ever-After

You’ve heard me state that I write for hope. Some of you have, anyway; for those of you who missed it when I said it earlier— I write for hope.  That, I have found, is one driving force in all of my stories. Hope is not dead, and this world’s darkness is not all there is.

This makes endings massively important, and I’ve developed some very strong views about how endings should or should not work.

 

The Obligatory Happily Ever After

There’s a trend going around these days—beginning somewhere around Shakespeare’s time or earlier—encouraging depressing endings. “It’s more realistic,” they say. “There’s no happy endings in real life.

Indeed, being realistic in stories can be very good. These people assume one thing, though: that happy endings aren’t realistic. I know of many happy endings in real life, both in my life and in the lives of others. My savior died to rescue me, that I could live eternally, but He didn’t stay dead and evil didn’t conquer. My dad should have been in the building where a terrorist attacked several years ago, but a meeting he was in ran late so he didn’t get to work on time. There have been many happy endings to historical events, but most of you probably know those, so I shan’t go into them at the moment. Happy endings don’t necessarily mean the very end of a story. In most novels that you’ll read or write, the people will go on to live longer lives than the book shows, and yes, they’re most likely going to have troubles, but that doesn’t mean that their story hasn’t ended happily.

There are a million different kinds of happy endings, so to summarize, I simply define a happy ending as an ending that isn’t tragic. When I say I’m for happy endings, I’m in reality saying that I’m against tragic ones.

Let’s go back to the basics of tragic endings, folks. In short, what the writers is trying to make happen is this:

Step One: Make the reader fall in love with the character.

Step Two: Give the reader something to want for the character, something that the character desperately needs. (For example: a friend, salvation, survival, ect.)

Step Three: End the story with the opposite of what the reader wants. (For example: If your character needed a friend, have them betrayed by the one person they trusted and sink into lifelong depression. The End.)

Maybe that’s a little bit exaggerated; I don’t know. I’m not a huge fan of tragedies and so don’t read very many of them.

A little while ago, I accidentally came across one when watching a television show with the rest of my family. We had watched two seasons of the show with all of us, even the youngest, around. When a show came up about a man with an addiction to a medicine after he had hated himself for years when he ran from a battle, I wasn’t too concerned; in the past, they had done a show about a man who had an addiction to alcohol, and they had handled that fairly well.

The writer and director of the show very carefully made us like him before ending the episode with the man committing suicide. Thank you for the uplifting episode, writers.

When we end a story, there are two things our audience can take away from it. They can take away hope when the story made them smile and built them up, or they can go away feeling heavy and discouraged. 

What concerned me very much with that episode was what if someone who had that problem watched it?  The character had a problem which the writers, whether purposefully or not, told their viewers was hopeless. The television show was wide-spread, and there’s a large chance that someone who needed something to lift them up and tell them that there was hope in that situation watched the show and came away feeling shocked and altogether numb, asking themselves, “Is that the only way it can end?” 

It’s not the only way it can end. There is hope.

Whenever you publish something, someone will read it. Someone will be affected by it, and someone will come away changed.

Words change worlds.

When people go in to see a movie, or open a book and start reading, they let their guard down almost entirely. If you tell them something, they’ll believe it. If you tell them that this world is terrible and there’s not point to living, they’ll believe it; if you tell them that there is hope and death isn’t the end, they’ll believe it. They might not believe it immediately, but your words are going to change the way they look at life.

In particular, your endings will change people. What message are you sending?

I’m not saying to have your stories be all fluff and happiness. The world is broken. We are living in a terrible place and time, but there’s more. There’s more than tragedy and death; there’s life, too. At the end, when we draw everything together, it’s important to let your readers know that this world isn’t the end, the death isn’t the end, the hurt isn’t the end.

Words change worlds. And people. And hearts. How are your words affecting people? 

Why Do You Write?

I ran a thousand miles for you

Knowing you would break My heart

And I  would do it all again

Because I couldn’t stand to be apart…

~J.J Heller, “Red Against Your Black”

It’s not that He knew that we might, possibly, maybe turn away and spit on the face of the One who had come to save us. He knew we would.

“‘For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD;’ so turn, and live.”

Isaiah 18:32

While I may not know you
I bet I know you
Wonder sometimes, does it matter at all?
Well let me remind you, it all matters just as long
As you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you,
Cause he made you
To do

Every little thing that you do
To bring a smile to His face
Tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every thing you do

Steven Curtis Chapman, “Do Everything”

 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Peter 4:10, NIV

Go, tell it on the mountain,

Over the hills and everywhere

Go, tell it on the mountain,

That Jesus Christ is born.

John Wesley Work Jr, “Go Tell it on the Mountain.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

Romans 10:14, ESV

“Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That, after all, is the case.”

-Annie Dillard

 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Mark 16:15-16

I write for love.

 I write for those who are not forgotten.

For those who are looking for Truth.

For those who have closed their eyes.

Because hope is not dead, and there is still a God who changes lives.

Why do you write?

(For those wondering, this is like a super-condensed version of this post on my other blog.)

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