Plan your story

I was helping my neighbour build his home extension a while ago. It was the first time I was involved in a building project and it was interesting. I think we took as much time comparing the plans to the pieces of structure as we did measuring the placements and nailing them into place.

I was only involved in setting up the frame, but every part of the frame played a part in creating and supporting the floor plan. It wasn’t easy getting the picture of the final product then, but in these final days of construction, I can now see my neighbour’s vision.

Planning takes time. It takes us away from the fun part of writing – the writing. But planning is important as it gives our story structure. It helps us tell the complete story. We know what we’re working towards and what we’re working with.

Even from the very beginning, God had a plan and a purpose for man’s redemption (Gen 3:14-15). And the rest of the Bible serves to build upon that plan. Do a search on Jesus in the Old Testament and you’ll see what I mean.

So before you write, make a plan. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but you need to know what you’re working towards.

The meaningful writing

What is our purpose? Why are we here? What is the purpose of life, or the meaning of life? These are important questions that people have been asking for a very long time. When it comes to writing, we, the authors are in control of the purpose of the book and its characters.

We decide what we are writing about and who we are writing to. That’s how we start and base the structure upon that. Who is the writing for? What do we want it to achieve? These are the questions we have to ask ourselves before we start planning or writing.

Last week, we saw that the Bible has a structure of a story, a setup, the main body of the story and the conclusion. The Bible is a story, yes. But it is also an instructional book. It tells us the story of God, but also how God works in us and how He moves in us (in ways that simply blow our minds). So there is a different structure to the Bible as well. And when we compare the Old Testament and the original Hebrew Bible of the Old Testament, they are again structured differently. So what do the compilers of the Christian Old Testament want us to know?

The Hebrew Bible is separated into three parts – the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. The Christian Bible kept the Law as it is, the first five books, Genesis to Deuteronomy. We rearranged the rest into:

  • history books – Joshua to Esther
  • writings or poetry – Job to Song of Songs (Song of Solomon)
  • major prophets – Isaiah to Daniel
  • minor prophets – Hosea to Malachi
  • Gospels – Matthew to John
  • church history – Acts
  • Pauline Epistles – Romans to Philemon
  • other epistles – Hebrews to Jude
  • apocalyptic – Revelations

When we see the structure of the Bible, we can start to see where we can get a better understanding of its purpose.

So if you, like me, want to write a children’s story, we need to see what makes a good children’s story first. Do your homework, look at other children’s stories you like to read to your little ones. See the repetition and structure. That’s what you need to incorporate in your own writing. We the authors have to give our writing structure to help our readers get the message.

Hebrews 12:2 tell us that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. So if you want to understand the purpose and meaning of your life, look at how God has structured and guided you.

God structures things, therefore, we need too as well.

Structuring your story

We love structure. I love when there is structure to my day. Others love architecture, looking at building structure. Structure gives us a way to form incredible things.

Our homes have a structure. Kitchen is over on one side, living area is over there. Bedroom, bathroom, toilet, laundry, etc each have their own spots. And even when they seem to mix, there is still a separation.

Structure gives form and purpose, and helps us to see said form and purpose. The Bible has the same thing. It has a story structure – a beginning, a middle and an end. It tells us of the story of God moving amongst mankind. And the structure helps us to understand the story.

There is an introduction or a setup – the “fall of man” when sin came into the world when Adam sinned. That introduces us to the problem that the Bible highlights and addresses throughout the rest of the book.

Next comes the problems and God’s intervention that arise from sin. The story of Noah, the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), and the nation of Israel’s rise and fall all play a key role in the story of a Bible.

Jesus and his redemptive work is the ultimate solution in the Bible. And it goes on to build upon that in most of the New Testament letters. And the conclusion, the ultimate showdown and climax would be Revelations.

Stories requires the same thing. We need to provide an introduction – what’s started the whole thing off? What is the problem that the story seeks to address? What is the solution that fixes the problems? And finally what is the ultimate conclusion?

So when you write your story, remember the simple the three form structure – the setup, the problems and solutions that arise from the setup and the conclusion.

Make it last

So for the past few weeks, I have been talking about the Generosity Gospel. If you’re scratching your head, wondering what is the Generosity Gospel, go look at my past few posts.

I hope that in the last few posts, you noticed that I broke the big topic into many smaller items and stretched it out. Like all good things, we want to make them last. And a good, challenging topic is no different.

God, in the Bible talks about many different topics, but He doesn’t lay it all out in one go. He stretches it out and we can read about it throughout the Bible. We learn one aspect here and a few weeks or maybe even months later, we learn another.

Having the time between the different aspects allows us to process and internalise. We get to learn more when we ponder on a topic over time, much like cooking. Simmering over low heat over a long time turns tough sinew from something tough and chewy into something tender and falls apart in our mouths.

The description of God’s throne room in Revelations 4 is the most descriptive reveal of God in the Bible. It describes His surrounds and gives us an physical image to picture. But this isn’t complete. It is like a final reveal after the massive build up that starts in Genesis 1.

Just reading Revelations 4 might give us a description of God in His throne room, but it fails to tell us what God is like, His character, His attributes, etc. In a way, the description fails to fully describe His majesty, glory, holiness, and when taken without the context of all the other things we learn about God, fails miserably in describing God fully. I believe that’s why God doesn’t give us such a detailed description of Himself until the final book in the Bible.

There’s so much to Him that we need the time to process before we get a full idea of who He is. So when you write to discuss difficult topics, take your time, stretch it out a little and make it last.

Give it an appropriate title

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

When Shakespeare wrote that line, he was talking about the nature of the object/subject being more important than what we call it.

As I’ve been talking about in my past two posts, I agree that the nature of is more important than its name. However, the name given to something can cause people to have wrong ideas about it. The Prosperity Gospel (PG) is thought about as talking about God wanting people to be prosperous. Again, in this post, I am saying that’s a misdirection. It is talking about being generous.

The title “Prosperity Gospel” directs people in a wrong direction by giving them ideas about something it is not about. I suggest that we give it a different name to start pointing people in the right direction.

The Simpsons asked a good question when a character quoted the Shakespeare line, “What’s in a name?” Bart suggested calling roses, “Stink Blossoms”. The idea of calling a nice flower “stink blossoms” is a big turn off, no matter what the flower is really like. So we need to clearly label things as they are. As a web writer, I cannot misdirect people labelling links with the wrong name. That just wrong as it confuses people.

The same thing has happened to the PG. We have the name “Prosperity” in it, and people start talking about how God wants us to be rich. We can’t run away from the name. As I have shown, I believe it is about about generosity. I suggest that we rename the PG as the “Generosity Gospel”. That starts people off on the correct foot. We can see that in its title, and we are both on the correct foot.

As writers, we need to understand the topic before we give it a proper name. We can title a book “Trek through space” if we want to, but have it tell a story about a Russian family in history near the start of the Soviet Union. You can do that if you want to, but that would be deceptive. There is nothing to what we know as “space”.

One would have to put in a lot of creative thought to the story. “Trek through space” would be picked up by many Trekkies and sci-fi buffs. But once they look at the blurb at the back, they would drop it like a ton of rocks. Would history buffs even pick it up? Very unlikely.

So my tip for you this week is this. Give your writing an appropriate name. That’s how you get people to read your material.