Beth Fine

Educational Fiction Author – Serious Thinker – Child at Heart

Writing Semi-Secular Plays

As a Christian, I do not write to entertain the saved or to reiterate/confirm/stir up what they already know. Except for some Christmas pageants, Sunday school skits, and one long-researched church history play, I have no current inspiration in that direction but see the excellence of others who do religious productions admirably, in fact much better than I can or ever did.

Rather, I feel called to write for the unsaved though I do wrestle with staying within the bounds of the scripture, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6)

Since my own rebirth and reclamation, I see so many in the secular world who do not grasp the church’s teaching about the inarguable necessity of belief in Christ yet some do agree with the Judeo-Christian undergirding of our society. While those cannot see the emptiness of mere cultural Christianity, others dangerously follow the “be-good rationalization” of nominal Christians or embrace the  “works philosophy” of misguided denominations. Wayward churches, embarrassed by “sin talk,” purposely don’t mention it to please the congregation and then unwittingly or summarily preach a legalistic approach to please God. Damnable all!

Such errors provide me a mission field about which I can write because they present the opening need for conviction of our misinformation and misgivings. I have often asked the question why the LORD God would send His only Son to die on the Cross as a sufficient sacrifice for the sins of all the world. He answers from His Scripture. The Bible teaches that He hears the thoughts of lost people. His Word warns against the false security of obeying laws. He reveals to our hearts the requirement of admitting individual guilt, repenting of the past, and needing a Savior. He has provided the Cross as the perfect solution of incredible love, long suffering patience, and inviolable promise of our reconciliation with Himself. His non-elegant solution had to equal the ugliness of our sins – the proof of the only justifying, satisfying sacrifice to please the most Holy God.

Impetus for my vision is not from victimhood but observation. In our daily lives or livelihoods or lifestyles, we ignore the “log” in our own eye and concentrate on the “mote” in the someone else’s. (Matt 7: 1-6) Then in our daily parlance, we use scriptural type references but misquote the intent: e.g. “Everything works out for the best” instead of “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  We repeat, “God helps those who help themselves,” a distortion of “The gods help those that help themselves” from Aesops Fables. However, sometimes, accidentally, we feeble folk get it right:  “You reap what you sow; lie in the bed you made;  a thorn in the side; the devil made me do it.”

I often recognize that the world cannot absorb the idea of an ultimate judgment and refuses to believe the truth about an almighty God. “For I, the Lord, change not,” (Malachi 3:6) and “… my ways [are] higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9b) Although God’s nature is to love and forgive, he sees our heart’s intent/reason behind each action and delivers the just response accordingly: Uzzah died for trying to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling; Jezebel got eaten by dogs as fulfillment of prophecy; God struck Ananias and Sapphira dead for lying about how much they donated to the church. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Looking at my own past writing output, I find it comes from a wholesome background but a rather raw, rough adulthood. Right now I find it truthful to write that way out of respect for God who knows my reality and who created others with the talent to enliven lifelike stories. In other words, current signals compel me to write plays for performers – the actors!

Playwrights, restricted by the use of words for dialogue and directions, must design characters who can tell a story in a 2-3 hour framework and provide logical plot sequences that use actors efficiently:
* exposition of scene, situation, and characters
* development of plot with side issues allowing room for a sub-plot
* connections, obvious or hitherto unknown, between characters
* intersections (odd/unique/Kismetic) between characters
* interaction spawning conflicts and interrupting or canceling harmony
* complications in situations erupting tragically or comically

* complications in relationships preventing  reconciliations
* false or real realignments/reversals/renewals/recoveries/reunions
* restoration failing with best efforts                                                                        * tension that heightens, forcing explosions<climax>denouement

Such plot expectancies must possess characters that motivate, nay, inspire actors to use their voice and body as instruments in a tireless range of nuance and movement. So, admittedly, playwrights humbly depend on each actor’s skill, attention, imagination, dedication, and accuracy to bring our words alive and to keep each new audience engaged. 

In contrast to authors who can luxuriate in psychological description or mental musing because the reader holds a manuscript which he can review missed details, playwrights must stimulate the actor to do our bidding afresh for each performance. Therefore, we must provide enough raw meat, visibility, time, and dialogue in scenes for actors to stay actively engaged in translating our thoughts and action from the page to the stage.

The raw meat I choose comes from a life experience around mostly non-believers … for whom I now write until hearing a new assignment.


2 comments

  1. Paul Patton

    Compelling admonition and good guidance from an eloquent heart and mind. It makes me think also of Stan Williams’ The Moral Premise. Our canvas includes the struggling alcoholic who, on the roof replacing shingles, hits his thumb with his errant hammer.

  2. Thank you so much, Paul. You absolutely get me and know just how to encourage me to stretch beyond my comfort zone. I’m getting “Eve, the Justifier” ready to send fairly soon. I probably violate all my own tenets expressed in this blog post. But what’s wrong with arguing with yourself to find true motivation and purpose to bring forth faith-filled scripts.

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