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.

Finding a topic

“What to talk about? What can I write about?” Those questions, I’m sure, are questions many writers/bloggers face at some point in their careers. So what’s the best way to keep finding different topics?

I know I haven’t been blogging for a long time, but I know what it is like to not have a topic to write about. Thankfully, I haven’t had that issue for a while.

What I did was build a library of topics and stories that I can draw upon before I get to that stage. It’s been a blessing when I’m unable to write a blog before Mondays. Now, when I have time to write, I don’t have to spend any precious time thinking about the topic. As a newbie to blogging, I still have other jobs to do and can’t always make time to write.

But when there is time to think, I like to consider stories and topics to add to the library. Topics that will bring about good discussions are ones with controversy. In Christian circles, the most controversial is the “prosperity gospel”.

The “prosperity gospel” is the name given to the belief that God wants to bless us financially. And the key to unlocking this blessing is to give to various ministries. That’s a very short summary of the “prosperity gospel”.

Many people believe and support it. Many think it promotes greed and paints God as someone we can manipulate. It is so divisive that I cannot go past it.

For the next few weeks, I’m looking to discuss the prosperity gospel. So keep an eye on this blog and see how a topic can be pushed out for a number of weeks. In the meantime, do share with us what you do to find topics to write about.

Know your subject

One of my fondest memories growing up was the cartoons. And the favourite for a long time was “He-man: Masters of the Universe”. My brother and I had the action figures and even the castle, Castle Grayskull.

The show had a sister (literally) series called “She-Ra: Princess of Power”. As a boy growing up without sisters, that show wasn’t high on the family’s watch list. But now as an adult, imagine my surprise when I saw on Netflix, an updated series on She-Ra. She’s no He-Man, but because of the relationship between the two series, I felt drawn to it.

All in all, it was not a bad series, but the ending left a bad taste. The ending revealed a relationship between two characters. These two grew up together but ended up fighting for opposing sides for most of the series.

Why did that leave a bad taste you may ask. Simple. It felt forced and didn’t belong. It was the show forcing a political statement on viewers. The relationship spoilt what would have been a great series storyline. Storytellers are like florists. Florists take different flowers and foliage and making a beautiful bouquet. A storyteller brings together different bits and pieces to form a story. And the relationship was like having a prickly cactus in a bouquet of roses.

What happened along their journey wasn’t and could never be romantic love. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Ever wonder why siblings don’t get involved sexually with each other when they grow up together? Explanations about why siblings don’t breed include:

  1. Siblings tend to fight while growing up, and that makes them unattractive to one another.
  2. Siblings get so used to each other while growing up that they’re unattractive to each other.
  3. Westermarck effect.

Whatever the reason, siblings do not end up in a romantic relationships. Add to that, frequent fighting drives people apart. Couples who fight often and intensely as the two characters end up separating. In other words, the chances of the two characters ending up romantically involved is slim to none.

Whoever decided to have that relationship doesn’t understand what love actually is. Weird Al‘s If that isn’t love must be that person’s theme song. Writers need to understand of what they’re writing about. Stories falls apart when written without that understanding. And that’s what happened here with She-Ra. If you want a good movie that deals with love, watch My Best Friend’s wedding staring Julia Roberts. I won’t reveal too much as some readers may not have seen the film, and may wish to watch it for themselves. But Julia Robert’s character’s decision shows love.

As a writer, I have to understand the topic. If I fail to do so, people will pick my stories to pieces and I loose any credibility I have. So, be sure to have some understanding of your topic before you start writing.