[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to The Storyteller's Mission with Zena Dell Lowe. A podcast for artists and storytellers about changing the world for the better through story.
[00:00:11] Today I want to address something I've mentioned in earlier episodes, but I think it's relevant here. And that is that not everything needs to have a happy ending. We're still caught up on this idea. We still think that things need to be positive. By God, they just need to be positive. Happy endings, happy endings. So many of us want a happy ending.
[00:00:38] But I want to challenge you and say you don't need a happy ending. You need a believable ending. Your ending must ring true given what's transpired over the course of the telling of that story.
[00:00:56] This means you have to justify each step your character makes towards a positive change. Because sometimes we might have a positive outcome or we might redeem a character or the character might grow. Because they should over the course of the telling, but we have to justify also their evolution, right? We have to justify how they came to grow. What happened? What changed their minds?
[00:01:25] Because growth ultimately is a mind change. It is a shift in the way you view the world. We do not grow unless we have a paradigm shift in terms of how we view what's happening around us or how we view ourselves. Right? It's always a change of mind. It starts with the mind. So we have to justify those things. There's nothing worse than a character who changes but for no apparent reason.
[00:01:56] And by the way, this actually undermines Christianity. God was the one who put the laws of the universe into play. Cause and effect. Cause and effect. So that means we need to appropriately present cause and effect for the internal emotional changes of our character. We have to justify it.
[00:02:20] Okay. Now, changing the world for the better through story is the tagline of this podcast. But that does not necessarily mean that your story has to be positive in order to do that. It doesn't have to have a positive ending or message. And it certainly doesn't have to feel good to your audience.
[00:02:41] Sometimes we have to damn our characters in order to redeem our audience. And I've given this example before, but Romeo and Juliet. We, the audience, were meant to learn the lesson that the tragic ending of Romeo and Juliet illuminated.
[00:02:59] We need to get over this idea that everything needs to be feel good or positive. It just doesn't, and sometimes it actually undermines the depth, the weight, the power of what we're really trying to say. Being nice and being kind. are two totally different things. We need to start understanding the difference.
[00:03:30] Being nice is about being socially acceptable and polite. But it might not be kind to be nice. Being kind is to be authentic and genuine. To tell the truth. Even if it's uncomfortable and see being nice is about avoiding discomfort at the end of the day, that is what being nice is. It's about avoiding the discomfort, the uncomfortable feelings of honesty, of authenticity.
[00:04:05] Wrap your brain around that for a second. What I'm telling you and I really mean it is your desire to be nice might be cruel..
[00:04:19] It might be cruel. It might be the opposite of what that person needs. And yet you are so committed to being nice that you're actually aiding them in their own destruction or yourself.
[00:04:34] Fun fact for you here. Years ago I saw a documentary on male predators who were all in jail for committing some sort of crime against women.
[00:04:48] Rape, murder, real atrocities, right? They all were guilty of it. They were all in prison and they were all interviewed to ask how did you choose your victims? That was really the issue of the documentary. How did you choose your victims? How did you find them? What did you do?
[00:05:06] You know, what can we avoid, the rest of us? You know, is it dark places? Like, you shouldn't park in the parking lot unless it's under a light. Is that it? You know, what were the common factors? And you know what the most surprising outcome of this documentary was? That it didn't have anything to do with those types of issues. It came down to niceness.
[00:05:30] In their own way, these different men from different areas, different predators, in their own way, they all seem to agree on this. All the women knew, somehow, instinctively, that we were unsafe, but they were too polite. They were too nice to do anything. It was their niceness that made them victims.
[00:05:58] Wow! Isn't that fascinating? Isn't that fascinating? We are trained to be polite. We're trained to actually let our abusers feel good about it because, by God, we're polite. Abuse me and I'll thank you for it. Right?
[00:06:16] Instead of honestly being like, you're disgusting, you pig! That is truth. It's not nice. But it's kind. And I'll tell you why it's kind. Because until somebody says that truth, then that guy is going to keep on going, doing what he's doing, abusing others and ultimately condemning his own soul. So, what is kind? Kind is telling the truth.
[00:06:44] Kind is telling the truth. Even though it's uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable for us to do that. It is uncomfortable for us to be honest rather than polite. But we need to be. Niceness is not in fact a spiritual attribute. Kindness is.
[00:07:05] Now, we also have a tendency to want to downplay the bad, to smooth over the rough edges, to ignore anything that isn't positive. But that can cause more damage in the end. I would rather see an R rated truth than a G rated lie.
[00:07:24] Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth.
[00:07:26] I remember Jeremy Irons was once asked in an interview because he often played very evil men and he was once asked, why do you think you always play such evil men? Now, of course, they were, they were trying to get to some sort of actor technique craft issue. They wanted some explanation.
[00:07:46] Why do you think you get picked to do these? You know, what do you, what do you tap into as you're doing the craft? But he very soberly looked at the interviewer and said, " The world needs to know what evil looks like."
[00:07:57] He wanted to play evil characters, so the world knew what evil looked like. Because guess what. Evil often looks pretty good.
[00:08:09] So making people feel good cannot be the objective. Having a happy ending cannot be the objective. Having a truthful ending is the objective.
[00:08:21] And that means writing from a Christian worldview, where we can show honest consequences, cause and effect. Right?
[00:08:28] A bad outcome cannot be inevitable, or now we're in nihilism. There have to be choices that we can make to prevent a particular outcome from happening.
[00:08:38] If we can't impact or influence our own destiny, then we are just cogs in the wheel. We are just stuck. We are just going round and round and we are powerless to do anything.
[00:08:51] But that's not what we're taught in Christianity. We're taught that we have choice. We have free will. So our characters must also have the ability to make choices.
[00:09:04] Now, again, doesn't mean that the choices are always going to lead to a positive outcome. But, they're going to lead to an outcome that represents the kind of characteristics that we actually most admire.
[00:09:21] Noble, heroic, good. Kindness, beauty, love, all of the beautiful ingredients that we should be seeking to manifest in our own lives. All of the fruits of the spirit that we should have.
[00:09:39] What do I mean by that? Well, I've given the example of A Man For All Seasons, where he was not willing to compromise his belief and lie for the king, so he died. But in that, he elevated the idea of goodness, sacrifice, nobility. Those are the things, the fruits of the spirit. And they can only be possible when people have to make hard choices.
[00:10:09] Okay. I hope that this has been helpful for you . I would love to be of service to you in your journey as a storyteller.