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.

 

 

writing resources

Writing Resources: Before and After the Book Deal

“Remember that ‘author’ is always a temporary job description . . . Your permanent job description is ‘writer’ and that’s what you are even when no one else is looking.” —Author Kristoper Jansma (quoted in Before and After the Book Deal, pp. 333)

Today’s publishing world offers a plethora of writing resources. A simple search for ‘writing’ on Amazon alone yields over 300,000 results, and that number doesn’t even begin to cover the host of blogs and magazines addressing the subject. However, even with the abundance of information that exists to help you land that first book deal, the question remains, what do you do when you get there? What is it really like publishing your first book? Courtney Maum’s Before and After the Book Deal gives writers an idea of what to expect during their first dive into the publishing world.

About the Book:

Before and After the Book Deal covers the publishing track almost step-by-step. As implied by the title, Courtney Maum walks her readers through concerns for prepublication all the way to life after their debuts. She gives a wide-range of both technical and personal advice.

For example, in the first section, you’ll find tips on the usual categories: developing voice, revision, and submissions. But you’ll also come across less-familiar topics. Tips for financial planning and questions about advances make an appearance, as well as a discussion of when it’s okay to call yourself a writer. Maum blends the nitty-gritty details about publishing with colorful advice from personal experience. She acknowledges the insecurities, jealousies, and bouts of ego that many authors face and gives tips to weather them.

Aside from Maum’s broad range of topics, her unique style makes the book special. Courtney Maum incorporates throughout interviews with editors, publishers, agents, and fellow authors. The balance of advice from experts in the field makes this book a treasure trove of helpful insight.

Unique in scope and style, Before and After the Book Deal is a gem in the world of writing resources.

My Three Main Take-Aways:

While this book provides a multitude of valuable insights, these are three general take-aways I found.

1: You’re not alone.

Writing, let alone publishing, can be isolating. It involves a lot of work, fears, and discouragement. There are days we feel insecure and fall victim to the comparison game. And sometimes, those struggles can make us doubt whether we’re cut out for this calling. But reading Maum’s book reminded me that many writers go through the same excitement and disappointments I face, and that’s encouraging. It’s encouraging to know that other people understand the doubts and stress that comes with writing, as well as the joys. As writers, we’re part of a community, even if we don’t always feel like it.

2: There’s a lot more to publishing than meets the eye.

Even though I’ve attended writing conferences, read books about publishing, and even helped produce a literary journal during college, this book was incredibly eye-opening for me. Maum talks about so many things I’ve never considered. How do audio-book rights work? How many copies do you have to sell for a publisher to consider it a success? What exactly is the criteria of a bestseller? Etc. Etc. I finished Before and After the Book Deal with a much greater appreciation for how much goes into publishing–and selling–a book.

3: At the end of the day, it’s the writing that matters.

Publishing involves so much non-writing activity. Interviews, social media platforms, book reviews, events–in all those extras, your identity as an author is incredibly public. But at the end of the day, that public face couldn’t exist without the quiet background writer. And that creative identity, that work that few people see, that place where we let our voice speak loudest, matters most. While others may have a million expectations for us as authors, we need to put our work as writers first. Before we ever consider publishing, we have to put the words on the page. And those words, the stories we have to tell, are where our core message resides.

 

Before the Book Deal by Courtney Maum is now one of my favorite writing resources. It’s informative, it’s relatable, and most of all, it helps me feel prepared to keep moving forward.

What are some of your favorite writing resources currently?

 

*************************************************************************************************

Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both. (You can connect with her on Instagram @karleyconklin )

 

 

 

Why I’m excited for the Writing Fiction Master Class (and why you should be too)!

Write2Ignite’s Writing Fiction Master Class is coming up Sept. 19! In just two weeks, author Joyce Moyer Hostetter will be presenting three sessions to help attendees learn more about fiction writing. Plus, the Write2Ignite team will be leading three workshops to help you apply the skills you learn during Hostetter’s sessions. 

Last year, I had the joy of attending the Write2Ignite Conference at North Greenville University with my mom. We loved meeting other writers and hearing from the lineup of speakers! While I’m sad that we aren’t able to meet in person this year, there are some benefits to this Master Class being on Zoom.

5 Tips for Using and Understanding Literal and Metaphorical Language, Part III

 

TIP #3 Don’t avoid tough literal situations by referring to them only as metaphors.

Taking literal language metaphorically is equally problematic.                        

Kids can be masters of metaphor. Ask “Didn’t I tell you not to play in the mud?” and they answer, “We weren’t playing, we were making a snack for the frogs.” One child, sent to the principal for throwing food in the cafeteria, protested, “I didn’t throw food. I catapulted it!”  Somehow, it sounds much better to use a word with visual and historical connections to ancient weaponry.

A lesson from children’s literature

Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine, a Caldecott winner by Evaline Ness, shows the danger of misrepresenting literal and metaphorical language. Sam, the opening line tells us, is a girl who is prone to lying. Instead of acknowledging her mother’s death, she says her mother is a “mermaid.” She tells everyone her cat, Bangs, can talk. But the cruelest, and most dangerous lie is the one she tells repeatedly to Tom, the little friend who believes everything she says. He longs to see the baby kangaroo she tells him she has, and each day she sends him on a wild goose chase to find it in a park or other location in their seaside town.

Tom’s problem is that he takes every word Sam says literally. Sam’s problem is that she prefers living in the metaphorical world she creates instead of in the literal world. Her father calls this “moonshine” (yes, a metaphor) and warns her that she needs to distinguish “real from moonshine.” Not until Sam’s lie nearly causes Tom’s death does she realize the importance of literal truth. This story is a great tool to help children recognize problems caused by lying.

Examples from Scripture

The Bible cautions that “the letter kills but the Spirit gives life “(2 Co. 3:6}. Yet God also confronted people who rationalized a way out of literally obeying His Word. The tithe (10% of earnings are God’s) is a practice people easily find reasons to question. (God can’t really expect 10% of my income, can He? I need to pay my bills . . . ).

Jesus called out the Pharisees’ method for circumventing the commandment to “Honor your father and mother.” If they “dedicated” a resource (even herbs like mint and rue) to God, they subtracted it from their income for tithing AND funds available to care for aging parents. They called this LITERALLY complying with the commandments for giving and caring but their METAPHORICAL interpretation  produced the opposite of honoring and tithing.

The Parable of the Talents illustrates another metaphorical spin on literal words and acts. The man entrusted with only one talent does not invest it, as those given ten or five did, and return it to the master with interest. Instead, he buries it and says he’s giving back exactly what he had received. Why is the employer displeased? This employee claims literal compliance, but he has actually evaded the real command. Denying his responsibility to manage the money responsibly, he metaphorically shifts the literal assignment to “take care” of the owner’s property and replaces it with hoarding, as though both are equivalent. The master recognizes this employee’s dishonesty and calls him a “wicked servant.”

The right mix of literal and metaphorical

Like Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, anyone can fall into this sin of metaphorical word-twisting. Hoarding resources (time, money, possessions, labor) isn’t the same as being frugal and careful.

Imagination is one of God’s wonderful gifts, exercised in all kinds of art: visual, musical, theatrical, and literary. But changing literal truth into rhetorical equivocation or metaphor is different from using metaphorical language to convey truth. Some deny biblical miracles by explaining them away as metaphors. God often uses natural phenomena to bring about His will. However, accepting God’s acts only when they fit literal “rules” observed in nature, substitutes human reason for God’s, and rejects His divine attributes.

Do adults or children ever misuse language in your stories? Do they encounter others who use words carelessly or deceptively? What consequences follow, and how do readers and characters discover the need to distinguish appropriate literal and metaphorical words? Comment below, on Write2Ignite social media, or email info.write2ignite@gmail.com

Have You Found Your Writer’s Voice? by Jarm Del Boccio

Vintage Typewriter found in Galena, ILOn one of my blog posts, where I shared a “Flash Fiction” piece, a commenter had mentioned that I had “a voice”.  I can’t tell you how thrilled I was with that revelation! I kept saying to myself, over and over: “I have a voice!  I have a voice!” as if I had received the greatest gift in the world.

Writer’s Voice, according to  ‘About.com’ is defined as: “the author’s style, the quality which makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality and character.”

Here is an excerpt of the piece from my flash fiction blog post:

Too Close for Comfort

“Hyperventilating because of my near death experience, I leaned against the rusty remains of a concrete bridge, thankful to be alive. Miraculously, I had only a cut on my leg. Becky, my best friend, had rescued me again. But this time. it wasn’t from a social faux pas. And she had only wet hair to show for the feat….”

I am just beginning to see what she meant, as I continue my writing career.  Here is the link to the post for the rest of the story.

These famous writers have a memorable voice.  Can you guess the author of each of these excerpts below (the answers are at the bottom of this post)?

A

Take these again; for to the noble mind 
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind. 

B

There was no time for play.
This was no time for fun.
This was no time for games.
There was work to be done. 

All that deep,
Deep, deep snow,
All that snow had to go.

C

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?   God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?


Jarm Del Boccio's Children's Lit Bookshelf

D

“Is he—quite safe?”
[…]
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver […] “Who said anything about safe? 
‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Here are some links to books and websites about Writer’s Voice:

A Writer’s Voice

What is Writer’s Voice?

Writer’s Voice: What it is and How to Find Yours

Answers:  
A Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”: Scene 3 Act 1
B “The Cat and the Hat Comes Back” by Dr. Seuss
C The Apostle Paul: Romans 6:1,2
D “The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis Ch. 8

Have you found your unique voice?  Can you give me another example of an author who has an obvious writer’s voice?

If you want to improve your writing skills, consider Write2Ignite’s Master Class in September — it’s online! You can take it from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection. Find out all you need to know HERE.

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