Writing a Good Story
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve started taking an online video class in screenwriting taught by Aaron Sorkin, an Oscar and Emmy award winning screenwriter and producer. My writing efforts have, in the past, always been focused on essays, devotionals, articles, sermons, and blog posts. However, I’ve recently become fascinated with the particular skill set that enables one to tell stories and write dialogue, not merely for reading but for viewing
In one of the first lessons, he made the point that in any good play, movie, or TV series, there has to be a communication of intention and obstacle. The protagonist or hero has to have an intention—get to a place, achieve a goal, get the girl, or rob a casino. Additionally, he has to have an obstacle standing in his way—car trouble, a storm hits, he runs out of money or courage, the girl is locked in a castle by bad guys, or the casino has an unbeatable security system.
Only when you have established the intention and obstacle do you have a basic framework for the story. Otherwise, there is very little to grip the audience and make them want to continue to watch. Who really gets excited about watching a movie about an utterly uneventful road trip or a love story where the couple gets along perfectly with no dramatic tension from within their relationship or from the outside? Frankly, that’s kind of boring.
I’m telling you all this for a reason, by the way.
Plots & Subplots
God is Creator, Lawgiver, Redeemer, Comforter, to name a few. He is also the Master Storyteller. He has been telling the Great Story, from creation to the final judgment. In His one great story, He has numerous subplots and episodes that are driving and moving the story along. Each one has their own elements of intention and obstacle. Some are relatively small, some are huge, but in the tapestry of God’s grand story, each one is absolutely necessary.
In our own lives, we must first understand that God is telling a story to us, and He is telling a story through us. He has created us all (whether we realize it or not) with the intention to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever, as the Westminster Catechism says. He has placed other intentions in us as individuals, depending on our gifts and circumstances, as part of that bigger story. However, He has also placed obstacles in our story as well, beginning with Satan, the fallen world we live in, the sin of others, and the sin in our own hearts. All of these intentions and obstacles are used by God to tell His redemptive story to us, and to proclaim His redemptive story to others through us.
Conflict & Conclusion
If you are like me, you would prefer your life story to be one similar to the utterly uneventful road trip or the ridiculously smooth love story instead of the agonizing conflict or the pitched battle where the conclusion seems to be continuously in doubt. However, that’s not the way the story goes. To embrace our part in His story, we must live and walk by faith, trusting that He will one day bring His story to full resolution. He will achieve His full intention in creation and in us. The dragon will be destroyed, He will get the girl (His bride, the church), and we will see the New Jerusalem.
So, while we are still in the middle of the story with conflicts raging, bad guys all around, let’s embrace our own place in the story and trust the Storyteller to finish what He has started.