Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Screwtape Letters

Last night I was treated to a night at the theatre with my family. It's been ages since I went to a non-musical performance. I'd forgotten how much fun it is!

The show was a dramatized version of C.S. Lewis' short novel The Screwtape Letters. I say dramatized, but the producers were very faithful to the original source material. You know, faithful adaptations, that thing people can't get out of a movie (zing!).

The book tells the story about a senior demon in Hell named Screwtape. Through a series of letters, he is instructing his nephew, a junior Tempter, Wormwood, how to tempt a nameless man into sinning. The play's lead role was the spit and polish image of Vincent Price (he even had the laugh!) The secondary character was a young female demon who acted as his secretary. They presented a wonderful dynamic that is clearly illustrated in the Bible.

2 Corinthians 11:14 says that the Devil can appear as an angel of light, but 1 Peter 5:8 says he is a roaring lion seeking all whom he may devour.

The Screwtape Letters is my favorite novel by Lewis. Although it was published in 1942 and the world war is mentioned in several entries, none of the passages are lost on today's modern audience. I knew it was going to be good, but I knew it was going to be great within the first ten minutes.

Screwtape is giving a speech at the annual Tempter's College banquet. He raises his glass and proposes a toast to the continued prosperity of Hell. As the other demons roar with delight, the backlights come on, and with thunder raging in the background, the audience sees the backdrop: a wall of human bones made from the demons' previous feasts.

As a writer, I was very jealous. There are things you can do visually with a play, a movie, or animation that you simply can't do in a book. I'm also jealous of Lewis. The work is brief and truthful, yet ingenious. It hits hard with its exploration into human character, but still has enough wit to make you laugh.

Treating myself to experiences like this is one of the biggest tips Anne Rice had for young writers, refilling the proverbial tank in your mind. My current WIP isn't progressing like I'd hoped, but that's ok. I needed to relax more than I thought.

Power to the pen.

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