Below I will give you the link to the book of fifteen short story parables the Presbyterian Writers Guild recently published from thirteen states, but first I thought I’d suggest how you might write your own parable.
NINE TIPS FOR YOUR EXPERIMENT IN MODERN PARABLES.
Let me suggest some easy steps to releasing the short story within you and letting it see the light of day. You are invited to write a modern parable. A parable, from the Greek parabole, signifies a story that is thrown alongside our experience of life and causes us to think more deeply about issues we experience.
FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES
Here are nine guidelines for writing a modern parable that can be thrown alongside the experiences we have in the church and society.
- Identify some issue or concern, especially as it relates to the church and/or society. Think about some area of life, either personal or in the larger society, that concerns you and others with whom you associate. Try to describe the essence of that issue in two to three sentences.
- Create two fictional characters—e.g., A DCE, a Pastor, an Elder, a CEO, a single mother–you choose. These will be the two main characters of your short story. Short stories are focused. They don’t have space for lots of subplots and side stories.
- Give each of them a fictional name and write a ¾ page bio for each – Include events in childhood, experiences in education, economic background, career thoughts & plans, painful events, etc. While your experience with real people will affect what you write, it is important that you write your story about fictional people. Writing these bios first will often surprise you and will enrich your story. Not everything in the bios will be directly in your story, but it will contribute behind the scenes.
- Choose and describe a setting for your story–a church meeting, protest rally, coffee shop, bank, park, etc. You don’t have to know how the setting will develop your story. Just pick a setting and try to describe it in some detail. While all five senses may not be used in your description, make sure that at least two or three of your senses are utilized. What are the noticeable smells, sounds, sights, etc? Again, these may not be directly addressed in your scene, but they may emerge from the background as your story unfolds.
- Bring the two main characters together in your setting. Others may be present, but these are the focus of your story. One or both of your two characters will take an action, say something that starts a dialogue, etc.
- There needs to be tension in your story. Frequently the tension is between your two main characters, but they may also be allied against another force or reality. For example, if a church has just been damaged by some homeless people who were sleeping in it, the pastor and the custodian might either be in tension with each other or allied in determining how they are going to respond to a negative reaction in the congregation.
- Watch the story unfold as you write. You may have already thought of how it will end, but don’t be tied to it. It is a short story, not everything will be resolved, but it should have a beginning, middle, and end. Since your goal is under 4,000 words, think of the beginning as around 1,000 to 1200 words. The middle will be 1,500 to 2,000 words, and then the climax will be 800 to 1,000 words. These are just guidelines, but they may help you frame your story.
- This is your modern parable. Its intent is to provide a mirror to life that will cause your reader (and likely you, the author) to think more deeply about the issues involved. Be surprised at what will unfold as you write. There is a therapeutic value in exploring different possibilities through writing. Don’t be afraid to alter radically as you edit.
And now the link for your reading pleasure and a possible resource for an adult class in a church or just among friends.
Enjoy, share, write, be fruitful
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