Whenever I come up with an idea, I immediately start planning my next novel. With my latest project however, I have learned to practice the art of shorter stories, or in my case, parables.
A parable is “a simple story used to illustrate a moral or religious lesson.”
As you know, the Bible is full of parables in both the Old and New Testament. It probably goes without saying that though they are smaller in comparison to an entire book, parables can be just as or even more powerful. If you want to exercise concise and influential storytelling through parables, here are some basic elements you will want to include.
No big surprise there! A parable is a made-up story but with relatable characters and events.
Jesus could tell a parable in as little as a couple of sentences. Parables shouldn’t be long and drawn out. The plot points should come one after the other without a lot of filler information. Parables should be no more than a couple pages, so you don’t get into short story territory.
In the very least, a parable should be thought-provoking. Whether your focus is on feelings, actions, or events, parables should persuade the reader to act in some way. It might be to think from a different perspective or to make a change in behavior.
One of my favorite aspects of parables are the many symbols you can weave within the words. Symbols can be obvious or obscure, but either way, they help the reader unpack the deeper truth underneath.
Parables always have human characters. Having human characters allows readers to connect and apply the message to themselves. That’s what sets parables apart from other moral stories like fables.
In addition to the human characters, parables should be true-to-life to make them as relatable as possible. They can revolve around recognizable life events or a one-time moment to help paint a clear picture and build strong connections for the reader.
Illustrations play a big part in parables as you saw in the definition. But some parables focus strictly on illustrating an example like “The Good Samaritan” being an example of a neighbor. Though illustrative is a specific type of parable, you can be sure that you will find illustrations within the symbolism of many different parables.
These elements will help you get started on crafting your own parable. I have really enjoyed the process, and I think you would too!
Instead of tackling that novel-sized idea right now, try your hand at parables. You might just be amazed at what succinct storytelling will do to the depth and beauty of your writing.
What is your favorite parable? Let us know in the comments!
Leah Jordan Meahl writes to encourage both the rooted and the wandering Christian to go deeper. She’s a born and bred Jesus-follower hailing from Greenville, South Carolina. She’s a lover of devotional writing as well as fiction. Her newest book Pebbles: 31 days of faith enriching parables is set to release September 2020. Feel free to visit her blog and ‘like’ her on Facebook.