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Elements of Parable Writing

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.

  1. Fictional

No big surprise there! A parable is a made-up story but with relatable characters and events.

  1. Brief

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.

  1. Persuasive

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.

  1. Highly Symbolic

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.

  1. Human

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.

  1. True-to-Life

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.

  1. Illustrative

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.

 

 

Pebbles and the Importance of Illustrations

How would you explain the love of God? Or the grace of a savior? How would you describe life as a Christian to a believer vs. a non-believer?

I typically revert to storytelling. Why? Because of illustrations. That’s what I set out to do with my new book, Pebbles: 31 days of faith enriching parables.

The Bible is rich with principles, and for those who love Jesus, it provides a fulfilling course of action for everyone. Jesus, knowing that we could just barely fathom the depths of the Bible’s mysteries, taught people the truth through, you guessed it, parables.

What’s a parable? A story that illustrates a moral or spiritual lesson.

So, why did the Teacher of Teachers use such illustrations and why should we follow suit? Here are my top three reasons.

  1. Illustrations are provocative

Stories have images and these images make us feel as well as think. As humans, we tend to connect with feelings. Instructions have a set of directions, but stories have a set of symbols. The creative nature stirs up something within us which then has a greater impact in the long run.

 

  1. Illustrations last longer

Because illustrations provoke thoughts and feelings, they last longer in our brains. How many times do we remember stories over sermons? Illustrations capture our attention and establish a connection to the underlying message. That connection allows our minds to return to that story or lesson when we need it the most.

 

  1. Illustrations are engaging

Sometimes, we have to work at something to understand it. Jesus knew that. If He simply spelled it out for us, we wouldn’t have to challenge ourselves or seek out anything. His parables have many layers and they offer new discoveries every time we read them. Exercising our critical thinking skills gives us a better appreciation of the meaning once we figure it out.

 

I’ve written Pebbles as a devotional of illustrations for fellow believers. The 31 modern parables will encourage, engage, and challenge your faith as you seek out the Biblical principles hidden within its pages.

Pebbles: 31 days of faith-enriching parables releases September 25th, 2020 and it will be available on Amazon.

Which parable from Jesus is your favorite? Let me know!

 


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 here. And ‘like’ her on Facebook here.

How Dialogue Strengthens Your Manuscript

Writing dialogue is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. If done well, using dialogue can strengthen your manuscript and turn an average story into an engaging ride people will be talking about long after they read it.

Here are 3 examples of how your story benefits from good dialogue.

 

  1. Dialogue puts you into the action

I love starting my chapters off with dialogue because it helps get out of the need to introduce everything, but instead drops your reader into a specific moment. If you’re stuck on how to get your characters into a certain conversation, just begin a scene with the conversation and work from there.

 

  1. Dialogue establishes character dynamics

When writing dialogue, you not only get to write what people say, but you also get to include dialect, body language, and how characters think and feel about each other. All of which are opportunities for you to give your characters depth in each conversation.

 

  1. Dialogue advances the plot

Conversations are necessary to inform the reader on motivation and a means to get to the next step of the plot. If you have a limited narrator, you also need to hear from your other characters in order to get an idea of what they’re thinking. Advancements include: getting a significant question answered, interviewing a character in a mystery, or encouraging a different direction or goal.

 

Warning! It’s easy to write poor dialogue, so here are a few tips on how to avoid common mistakes.

  1. Don’t overuse dialogue tags (said, told, replied, exclaimed, etc)
  2. If you have more than 2 people talking, make sure your reader knows when you switch to a new speaker while also following tip number 1.
  3. Drop and indent each time a character speaks. This structure makes it easy for the reader to follow along.
  4. Read your dialogue to make sure your characters have a unique voice and that it sounds natural. Writing conversations don’t need perfect grammar.

 

Get to know your characters, drive your story, and have fun with it!

Do you find it easy or difficult to write dialogue? Let us know!

Don’t forget to check out Write2Ignite’s masterclass with Joyce Moyer Hostetter where you can learn even more about dialogue and other writing essentials. Click here to learn more.


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 August 2020. Feel free to visit her blog. And ‘like’ her on Facebook.

 

Writing Workshops and Why You Should be in One!

Presenting to a writing workshop or class always made me feel like I was about to ride a rollercoaster. Though I like rollercoasters,  my heart and stomach do a sickening tango due to exhilaration and fear. Writing workshops are well worth the nausea, however, and you should be in one to take full advantage. Just as a rollercoaster, you might discover you like the ride!

In high school, my teachers and peers praised my writing and I even earned some county awards. I was proud and thought that it was a good start to my writing journey. But when I got to my senior level writing courses in college, my writing took on a whole new life.

The Process

Most of my creative writing courses were in the form of a ‘roundtable.’ We’d discuss the basics of writing, dive into a particular style or subject, and come back the next week with a polished piece ready to be critiqued.

Critiquing is an intimidating word and so is the experience. We mustn’t forget though, with critiquing comes value. Up until then, people just kept telling me that my writing was great, which was awesome, but I didn’t know how to get better. Until these classes, that is.

Each member would take a turn in reading their piece and the rest would mark corrections and insights on each paper. At the end, we would discuss a variety of changes or enhancements to the writing.

Some of my favorite tips include:

  • Be careful of too many “I” statements when writing in 1st person
  • Break up large paragraphs for an easier read
  • Cut as many adverbs as possible
  • You don’t need to wrap up an ending like a perfect gift to your reader

The Result

With such help from my teachers and peers, I watched as my writing transformed from class to class. I became more action focused and recognized my weaknesses, which I stay more aware of in my current writing. Not only did I find that my writing had changed, but I also found that critiquing someone else’s writing helped me apply those critiques to my own.

Workshopping provided avenues to new and different styles and gave me the tools to go over my own writing with a fine-tooth comb. My professor gave the best piece of advice for someone who wanted to pursue writing. Her advice was to find a writing group. It took me awhile to realize just how right she was.

Now, I’m learning to rediscover the love I had for the groups, because of their ability to facilitate loving and supportive growth.

If you’re looking to give your writing a jumpstart, Write2Ignite’s master class with Joyce Moyer is a great place to start! Click here to learn more!

The format may be different this year, but Write2Ignite has been a great help to me. Check out my post here where I share about my first experience at Write2Ignite in 2017.

Have you been part of a critique group? What are some of your favorite tips from critiquing?

Happy writing!


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 August 2020. Feel free to visit her blog here, and ‘like’ her on Facebook.

Write Through the Pain: The Why, How, and Results

“All the best parts of art come from pain turned to celebration.”

-Natalia Kills

When life’s circumstances put you in a rut, a hole, or even a deep pit of despair and loss, we have a powerful tool at our disposal: our writing.

Pain is a universal aspect of life that visits all who dwell on the earth. I’m sure many of us wish pain didn’t exist, but it has a beautiful way of binding people together, revealing truth, and making us stronger.

If you’re going through a time of grief, depression, or frustration, I urge you to keep that pen handy.

Why?

Heart-wrenching seasons expose emotional nerves. It’s as if you feel everything at a deeper level. Emotions become as visceral as they’re ever going to get. Recording how these raw emotions affect you can help you describe them when they aren’t as fresh.

Every story needs conflict. No one likes to go through the conflict themselves, but if you’re a writer, you know that it’s essential for an engaging story. Everyone likes reading about triumph and victory over an enemy of some sort, even if it’s an emotional one. Without it, your story will be a bore.

When we come out on the other side of darkness, we tend to have more clarity, revelation, and inspiration. Keep track of what you’re learning and feeling during this time, so you can share the impact down the road if you have the desire to do so.

How?

You might be asking, “How can I even think about writing when I’m too hurt to even function?”

It’s possible that during your pain, you may be more numb than anything and even menial tasks become difficult. Nobody said you have to produce a masterpiece while you’re feeling this way. You don’t need that added pressure.

As a writer, I’ve found that I process things better when I write it down and articulate what’s been swirling in my head. It’s as if my thoughts and emotions find rest when they’re able to land on the page instead of floating around my soul with nothing to hold onto.

It could be as simply as making a few notes on how you feel or writing down a few prayers on index cards. Or, if you’re like me, spilling everything into my journal so I can get it out and visit it later.

The Result?

Now for the fun part! Once you’ve successfully come out of the shadows and into the sun, it’s time to really write.

Not every story has to be about you, but let’s face it, a little bit of you can be found in every one of your stories. You can bring everything you’ve ever faced in life and bring it to the table of ideas. Once there, you can sift through all the options of what to do with them: blog posts, short stories, poems, novels, you name it!

Hidden in our experiences, good and bad, are avenues for conflicts, character arcs, and powerful images that will one day turn into a beautiful, relatable, and helpful story for your readers.

When in pain, write on!

How does writing help you in your most difficult seasons?


Leah Jordan Meahl is an up and coming Christian author. She writes for both the rooted and the wandering faith through her blog www.meahltime.com. She recently published her first novella, The Threshold. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her singing in the car as if nobody’s watching. James 4:8

 

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