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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.

Why You Should Write Your Book Proposal Now

If you are gung ho on getting a book published, be it your first or 20th, one essential component you’ll need is a book proposal. Whether you’re in the brainstorming process or just about to type “the end,” I suggest that writing the proposal sooner rather than later will help sharpen your manuscript in the long run.

A book proposal is a packet of information about you and your book. Once you’ve pitched or queried your idea to a publisher or literary agent and they responded with interest, you will send your best representation of your book which will be the proposal.

If you’d like to know how to write a proposal, check out this article

With your proposal, you’ll ask these five questions which will ultimately help you write your book.

  1. What’s my message?

Understand the point you’re trying to make to your readers. Do you want them to know what true love looks like? Do you want them to know that though life can get rough, they are never alone? These messages come across through your themes. If you can articulate it, you will write with a clearer purpose.

  1. What’s my story about?

Many writers hate that question because it means we have to boil hours of thinking and writing into one or two sentences. A proposal is no different. You will need to not only communicate your plot in one sentence, but also again as a paragraph. Each step allows you figure out your hook, your conflict, and your stakes involved. What is going to grab and keep the reader’s attention for the whole story?

  1. What’s my plot?

Now that you have a concise picture of your story, you can write a synopsis. A synopsis is like a play-by-play of your plot. In a handful of pages, you must go through the whole book’s diagram: exposition, inciting incident, rising tension, climax, and resolution. Writing the synopsis will help you as the author understand where you want your story to go and how you’ll get there. At this stage, you might begin to see what does and what doesn’t make sense in your original idea.

  1. What’s my character’s arc?

Everyone knows that a good character needs to have a good character arc, a journey of change that takes place throughout the story. One example is a protagonist who learns to make peace with his/her past. Your plot might be solid, but if your characters have no journey, they become unrelatable and flat. Publishers are looking for that specific arc, and they don’t have time to read the whole manuscript to find it, so you must know it and know how you’re going to achieve it.

  1. What’s my market/audience?

We all like to believe that we write for whoever will read our books, but while we might have truth for readers from all walks of life, we do have a specific audience. In order to understand who you’re writing for, you need to understand what you write. Do you write cozy mysteries? Children’s books? Fantasy? Science Fiction?

When you understand your genre, you have a better idea of the people who read that genre. Do you write for ladies looking for light reads, parents looking for sweet and fun books to read for their kids, or teenagers looking for adventure?

If you get to know your audience, you find what’s already out there in your genre, and you get to know the needs of your readers and market in general. These elements will not only show a publisher that you’ve researched the market, but it will also reflect in your writing.

 

A book proposal is a challenging task, but it comes with its rewards as well. By the time you finish that manuscript, you will be one step closer to sending it out and drumming up interest. A bonus will be that you’ll have a coherent answer to those who ask what you’re working on right now.

What are your favorite proposal elements to think about?

Happy Writing!


Leah Jordan Meahl is an up and coming Christian author who writes for both the rooted and the wandering faith. She recently published her first novella titled The Threshold,and you can check out more of her work at her blog  James 4:8

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