Friday, February 26, 2016

Does "Catholic" get in the way of "catholic" Storytelling

The Four Cardinal Virtues and their Contrary Elements
(copied from

Today a story client asked a good question that I've never breached on this blog. She asked if my deeply held Roman Catholic values would get in the way of helping her with a screenplay that had some elements that were contrary to Roman Catholic teaching.

While this possible conundrum may be on the minds of some that have not worked with me (yet), the question offers me an opportunity to expound, again, on a universal truth: All successful stories connect with audiences BECAUSE they are universal, or "catholic" -- notice the lower case "c."

Here's how I responded, which I've edited for clarity.
Dear C: 
I’m not bothered by story elements that run counter to Roman Catholic teaching (or counter to perceived Roman Catholic teaching, which is more often the case). 
Here’s my standard on such matters: 
In order to connect with mainstream audiences you’ll face something called Natural Law. What you must realize is that audiences subliminally recognize what is natural to the universe (and their lives) and what is not. That your story resonate with such natural elements is what helps your audience connect or "get" your story. When you try to legislate a reality that is not natural to your audience, you will distance yourself from them. One of my tasks in consulting is to help you connect with a target audience, and thus be aware of Natural Law and how you represent it in your story. 
Drama stems from the conflict between what is universally natural and what is not.  The “universe” of which I write is both physical and psychological, but I focus on the psychological because that is what motivates the physical.   
Long before there was a Roman Catholic Church (or any other religion's set of propositional statements), there was nature, and the rules of such are written on all human hearts and consciences. Now, it is true that many people (or story characters) can and do harden their consciences to those natural truths....but again that's one of the sources of drama. But generally and universally human conscience is very stable…and that’s the realm in which I work.  
In my work I refer to these natural forces as "virtues (or strengthens)."  And the rejection of those truths I refer to as "vices (or weaknesses)."  
Yes, there is an alignment between Roman Catholic teaching and "catholic" universal vices and virtues.  The Roman Church claims that it's teachings are not arbitrary but are a careful articulation of how the universe and nature work, and that the development of correct theology is the consequence of thousands of years of human observation about both the physical and the psychological universe in which the human condition lives
Thus, for proper dramatic conflict that general audiences will recognize there must be catholic vices/weaknesses and catholic virtues/strengths (contrary elements), or you will not have conflict and thus you will not have drama that anyone will connect with.
That last paragraph also reads correctly this way:

Thus, for proper dramatic conflict that general audiences will recognize there must be UNIVERSAL vices/weaknesses and UNIVERSAL virtues/strengths (contrary elements), or you will not have conflict and thus you will not have drama that anyone will connect with.

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