Sound Bites and Slogans

Authors are encouraged to “brand” themselves. (No, not get a tattoo! 🙄 ) Some develop taglines to identify their writing. One of the most successful, in my opinion, is Brandilyn Collins with her “Don’t forget to breathe” Seatbelt Suspense.

Then there are quotable lines. I read one this morning that I think is quotable (maybe you’ll disagree):

Christianity isn’t about being good enough, it is about being forgiven completely.

I don’t know about other writers, but I think having quotable lines, especially in fiction, would be fantastic—something like C. S. Lewis’s Aslan-isn’t-tame-but-he’s-good line. It cements a truth in our minds but also makes a story memorable.

All this seems to fit our contemporary culture. Possibly with the popularization of political slogans such as “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” in the 1840 Presidential election, we have become a society formed by sound bites.

TV commercials have raised sloganeering to a fine art! “It’s the real thing,” “Just do it,” “Where’s the beef?” probably evoke a product name in the minds of many long after the commercials have ceased to air.

Which, of course, is the point. We want people to remember. But here’s the question. Should thoughts about God be reduced to sound bites and slogans?

They are memorable, and people are apt to quote them. If they contain truth, then that seems like a good thing. Off the top of my head, I can think of two related to Christmas: Jesus is the reason for the season and Wisemen still seek Him (I even used the latter for a title of one of my Christmas bulletin boards when I was teaching).

But here’s the trap with sound bites in declaring something about God—inevitably they say far less than what is true, but people latch onto them as if the nugget said it all.

For example, Jesus is the Answer is another one of these Christian slogans. Well, yes, Jesus is the answer. But does that mean people shouldn’t work to discover how He is the answer to their particular question? Hardly, but some folks seem to think no other questions are necessary since we have the Answer.

I think the slogan might actually rob us of discovering more about Jesus—His character and plan and work that make Him the answer for me as much as for a first century Jew, an eighteenth century English slave trader, a twentieth century Auca Indian or middle-aged Dutch watchmaker.

In short, it seems to me God is too big for sound bites and slogans. Perhaps rather than campaigning for Christ, or advertising Him as if He’s a buy-now option we’re selling, we should look into some ideas Scripture brings up. Things like mediating on His word day and night.

Published in: on December 10, 2009 at 3:05 pm  Comments (4)  
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“Branding” is a buzz word in writing. To be honest, I’ve avoided a lot of the conversation about the subject because I didn’t want to be distracted by it. It seems to me that adopting a brand is like playing to what you think the audience wants. That’s another way of saying guess work. Guess work and people-pleasing.

I bring up the subject because of American Idol. Yes, three years ago, I caved and started watching the highly popular music show. And I’ve stayed with it, though I don’t vote and can’t seem to pick the winners.

But here’s the thing. The judges, who at this stage of the competition are actually critics or advisers, are constantly telling the performers they picked the wrong song. Or that they need to dress younger, sing younger.

One young thing who was eliminated early was the youngest of something like 7 or 8 in her family. She was 17, I think, so that meant her siblings were all adults. I thought, here’s a girl who spends most of her time with adults and probably has “an old soul,” but these judges want her to be who she is not.

Another contestant admittedly shifts between rock and R&B in his performances, because he wants fans to know he has a range. Another singer wanted to show her softer side and got harsh comments from the judges. But when one musician played the piano for the second week in a row, he was told he needed to not be one-dimensional.

So it goes. Brand, it seems, for these musicians is somewhat in the eye of the judges. They don’t want variety until they do. They want the musicians to be themselves until they don’t.

One contestant wore a dress with a big flower-type adornment and was ripped. Two weeks later she wore an unadorned floor-length gown and was told she was dressing too old.

But the mode-style girl with the spikey hair and very with-it attire was equally ridiculed. Not the mode-style guy with black fingernail polish.

So what do I learn about branding in all this, especially as it applies to books?

I learned I should be myself, because you can’t ever please everyone and maybe never please the ones you most are trying to please. For me as a Christian, being myself means being who God has made me, being who He has called me to be.

So I keep writing fantasy. Epic fantasy that is four books long. For good or ill, it’s my brand.

Published in: on April 2, 2009 at 1:55 pm  Comments (4)  
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