Writing Your Story…By THE Book by Rebecca Waters
Last week I encouraged my readers to consider writing their own stories of hope and inspiration and submit them to Chicken Soup for the Soul. If you missed that post, click HERE.
Some of you may have a different sort of story in mind. When I decided to take my writing seriously in 2012, I had an idea for a story. A novel. Because I knew little about the process of crafting a novel, I began by journaling my way through the first draft. I continue to use this practice now as I work on my fifth book. I am convinced journaling helps writers identify and resolve problems as they write.
But this post isn’t about journaling. It is about a discovery I made through the journaling activity.
Journaling is part of my morning routine. I read my Bible, eat my breakfast, and spend five minutes or so journaling about my novel. As I journal each morning, I note where I am in the manuscript and where I hope to take my characters, I can’t help but weave my own life experiences into the journal entry. The journal is an intersection of my life and writing.
I recently completed crafting my first suspense novel. I complained several times in my journal of my struggle with structure throughout the writing. I’ve studied books on structure. I’ve examined blogs and articles on plot points. Many writing coaches speak in terms of fractions or percentages. “The first third of your books should…” or “This will happen about 60% of your way through the story.” It all seemed complicated to me.
Then one morning I discovered story structure in the Bible. I was reading the NIV translation. It comes from the book of Romans. You’ll find the full text in chapter five, starting with verse three. Here’s what I wrote in the journal that morning:
“… ‘suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.’ That’s it. That’s story structure by THE book.”
Let’s examine it more closely:
Suffering: the problem. That’s where the story starts. A good book always starts with the problem. It may be an event or conflict that jars our protagonist to the core or a simple disruption to the life our protagonist knows that he or she must address.
Perseverance- Perseverance is the act of pushing on, overcoming obstacles to solve the problem. The protagonist may want to throw it all in from time to time but presses forward. This is the largest portion of the book. And, as the Apostle Paul notes, perseverance produces character.
Character-The protagonist in the story discovers strengths he/she never knew existed. Our character grows; rises to the occasion. This is when we see transformation. That is the natural character arc and character produces hope.
Hope- Hope is victory in the final battle. The protagonist may still have a bit of growth ahead, but he/she is an overcomer and we as readers can see the path ahead more clearly now.
Hope Does Not Disappoint- This is the satisfying end. It’s where the loose ends are tied up or addressed. Good wins out over evil.
Who knew the Apostle Paul would turn out to be my writing coach?
Now it’s your turn. Time to grab a pen or open up your computer. Time to tell YOUR story.