The Art of Mirriam Neal

//about acceso + writing the tough things

I’d wanted to do something light and fluffy on my blog today to make up for the emotional trainwreck of the last few days, but a chat with a friend this morning made me go ‘nah.’ (One of these days!) If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard me mention Acceso. It’s a WIP-novel of mine, currently undergoing its fourth (and hopefully final) draft. It has morphed so much since I first began it four years ago. Collectively I’ve probably written about 150,000 words in it, but each time the shape has changed and I’ve known it wasn’t ready yet. My last draft felt so very close, but not close enough. It was missing something. The characterization was right, the setting was right, but something was missing.

ACCESOcover

                A few months ago, someone posted an article from an anti-porn website called ‘Fight the New Drug.’ The article was the transcript of an email from a veteran porn producer to a newbie, giving him some ‘help.’ The author of the article posed the question – what is attractive about a porn ‘star’ curled up in the fetal position, sucking their thumb because they can’t wrap their mind around what they just did? The answer: nothing.

                That article made a heavy impression on me and it simmered in the back of my mind for several months, until I ran across another article from Fight the New Drug. It was a video by the most famous male porn star of all time (now ex-porn star) and the regrets he had. He shed light on what it was like to be in the industry, how easy it was to fall down the rabbit hole, and how hard it was to climb back out.

                I searched farther through the site (which is an incredibly eye-opening experience, done tactfully and with a Christian viewpoint – for anyone wondering). There were letters from porn stars describing the abuse they endured, the manipulation, the disease, the worthlessness. I kept that website and spent hours digging through it, growing more and more convicted.

                Still, I waited – I wasn’t sure. This was pretty heavy stuff, even for me (and I like to write heavy stuff). The very next day, my Mom posted a video on Facebook. It was the last interview with serial rapist and murderer, Ted Bundy, hours before his death. A handsome, ordinary-looking man with cultured speech and intelligence in his eyes told the interviewer the evils of porn. He said ask any man in any prison what started them on the path that led them there. It would be porn.

                I hadn’t felt a sign that large saying GO WRITE THIS since I wrote Monster four years ago. That was also a heavy subject – for a seventeen-year-old, tackling bioethics was daunting but felt very necessary. Whether the book was a hit or not, I think it touched the people it was supposed to touch – and I have letters and emails from people thanking me for it.

                While I cringe thinking of how much my writing has improved since then, I have always felt the most convicted when writing about heavier, darker subjects. And while I applaud Christian media for exposing the evils of porn consumption (i.e. Fireproof) I can’t think of a single Christian novel, movie, or even song that sheds light on the horrors of those trapped in the actual industry.

                Finally ready, I did some heavy praying and began to write the fourth draft of Acceso. The pieces fell together. While before it was about an exotic performer trapped in a slave contract, it went the last step and he became a porn ‘star’ trapped in an industry he hated. And for the first time, it felt completely right. It still feels completely write.

                It’s not easy, trying to write about something as graphic as the porn industry in a non-graphic way, but I’ve been told by the amazing team of readers I have that I’m doing a good job of it (and they’ll tell me if I’m not).

                When I sent out the first chapter, the reviews surprised me. Several people on my reading team told me that their responses would probably be short – because the novel was hitting close to home, bringing up emotional memories. I was told the novel was helping them tackle dark things in their past. That response was amazing, of course, but there was another kind of response – a response of shock.

                They weren’t shocked because I was writing about the porn industry (by this point, I’m fairly sure my readership is impossible to faze. ‘Oh, she’s writing about this now? Okie dokie!’) – they were shocked because they hadn’t known about anything that happened behind the scenes.

                “I always just thought they wanted to be there,” a good friend told me in surprise.

                The awful truth is that the percentage of porn ‘stars’ who want to be in the industry is tiny. Most Americans don’t realize this, because all we see are the famous porn stars, the ones who praise the industry and the money they make. The porn industry wants people to be ignorant of what goes on behind the scenes – of the drugs, rape, abuse, prostitution, disease, forced abortion, and other horrors that carry on. Because if everyone knew about that side of the coin (which just happens to be the much larger side) Americans would find porn much harder to stomach.

                It makes me angry. The fact that most Christians believe the most harm comes to those viewing porn, and not those acting it out, breaks my heart. It’s kept in the dark, and I wanted to write a novel that both exposed the industry while giving hope. I don’t like shying away from things, but I told the friend I was chatting with this morning, “I’ve probably only scratched the surface and I feel like I’m in deep.”

                She said, “I can see why. It looks deep – but you’re doing an exceptional job with it.” She also said she felt inspired to write about tough subjects herself, but she wasn’t sure where she would start. One thing I’ve realized over years of writing is that my writing is the most inspired, the most convicting, and the most difficult when I’m spiritually where I’m supposed to be. When I’m in tune with the still small voice speaking to me as I write.

                And at the moment, the still, small voice is pretty loud.

What about you? Have you ever felt convicted to write about something you aren’t sure you’re ready for? Is there a Christian work on this subject that I’m missing, or not? Did any of this surprise you?

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