So I’ve been in Bali for three weeks, and in that time, I haven’t heard one Balinese voice raised in anger. I know Balinese people must get angry, ‘cuz they’re human, but there’s a noticeably different vibe here than in the US. There’s no snippiness, there’s no rudeness… Even on the roads, which are crazy with tons of scooters, everyone stays in their own invisible lane, and there’s a respect for the flow they keep with each other.
In spite of the fact that many of the residents of Ubud are barely scraping by, there’s a joyousness that permeates the place. Everyday they make offerings. Every day they express gratitude.
Let’s be honest. Not so much in the USA right now.
No matter which side of the fence you were on in the recent election, I think it’s clear that we all, as writers and artists, have the power and duty to make the world a better place.
Did you know that currently, 23% of the world’s women still don’t have the right to vote?
Did you know that approximately 20% of children in the US live below the poverty line?
Clearly, racism is still very much alive.
And were you aware that LGTBQ members of our communities are still being attacked and harassed and marginalized?
I’m not encouraging you to turn your book or movie into a political tract, but just to take a moment and consider the content you are putting out into the world. If you have a desire to enlighten through your storytelling, ask yourself the following questions…
What is the takeaway from my book or movie? Do we see people ultimately empowered, or do we leave them in darkness? And if we leave them in darkness, what does this ‘mean?’ We’re talking theme here. What message will the reader or viewer walk away with?
Are my characters stereotypical? Or do they break down stereotypes and in either a humorous, or dramatic way, reveal complicated authentic people worthy of our attention?
Do I use violence in a way that’s gratuitous? Or do I use it for a powerful thematic end?
How are women portrayed in my story? Does the story pass the Bechdel Test? Or are the female characters just there to serve the story needs of the more powerful men in the narrative? Here are the rules of the Bechdel test– 1. The story has to have at least two [named] women in it, 2. Who talk to each other, 3. About something besides a man.
How can I make my story, set in the past, relevant for today’s reader or audience? Why does this book or movie have to come out right now? Just as Arthur Miller’s play THE CRUCIBLE was about the Salem Witch Trials, it was also about the black list and McCarthyism. How can you create a moment of insight for your reader or viewer, where they see your historical story connect up with the present?
Are you writing about the real struggles of human beings who don’t often get a light shined on them? Or are you revealing something beautiful about humanity that will remind your reader to be a kinder, gentler person as they go about their day?
Am I inspiring my reader to take action? If you’re writing about a social justice topic, do you provide a link for the reader or viewer to connect with a group that is pursuing action along this topic? Could you become an activist yourself by donating some portion of the money you make from this writing project to a real life cause? Could you see your art as an extension of your being an agent of positive change in the world?
Take Action! Is your writing making the world a better place? If so, how? If not, think about how you are employing theme, portraying your characters, and if applicable, how you are connecting the past to the present. Even the darkest of works are best when they shed light on some aspect of the human condition.
It’s not that hard. Just making someone laugh, or think, or angry can be revolutionary.
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