Tips For Writing Bible Fiction – Tell Me The Old, Old Stories

My guest today is Bonnie Winters. Bonnie shared with me how she started writing Bible fiction. 

DOL“I didn’t choose the Bible fiction genre – it chose me. LOL! I was hurting and needed a Bible mentor so I went looking for a female character who had experienced abuse similar to my own and had come through it victoriously. When the Lord first challenged me to look at Ruth, I thought that was crazy because her story didn’t have anything like abuse in it. But as I began to dig into her family history and look at her interactions with others in her story, what I found amazed me and I felt compelled to tell her story.” 

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Bonnie: The Bible is filled with these “family” stories. Our spiritual ancestors suffered fear, persecution, abuse, grief and loss of relationships. Peel away the cultural differences and we find their stories were very much like ours; stories which God uses to teach us how to deal with our every-day problems or crisis situations and lead us into deeper relationships with him.  

Here are some tips to tell God’s family stories in a way to make them believable, relatable, and powerful for your readers through the genre of Bible fiction.

  1. Choose a Bible character that has ministered to you and make their story personal.
  • What do you have in common with your chosen character? What circumstances or events were going on in your life when you chose this character?
  • What emotions does the character feel in this story? How do those feelings/emotions mirror your own?
  • What specific life lessons does your character learn? How do those lessons apply to you?
  • If you are writing about a Bible time period with fictional characters, what makes this time period meaningful to you?

2010-08-09 18.53.00By understanding your personal relationship to a particular Biblical character, story or time period, you can write with more conviction, passion and purpose which will bring your character to life for your readers as well.

  1. Research the story or character extensively for insight into their lives and personalities.
  • Look for other Bible passages which mention your character.
  • Examine their family tree for insights into their personalities.
  • Research the cultural context of the story for ideas about what motivated them.
  • Explore reliable historical sources for family stories, traditions, or myths that were handed down outside the Scriptural accounts –like the Midrash, Josephus’s history or Fox’s Book of Martyrs.
  • Pray asking the Lord for insights into parts of the character’s story which are not defined in the Scriptures.
  1. To write convincing interactions between your character and God, use your own experiences as a pattern.
  • DOCCreate a timeline or map of how the Lord worked out a difficult life situation for you. Include things like: How did the Lord speak to you? How did the Lord use circumstances, events and people to orchestrate change in your life?
  • Explore the emotions you felt as you worked through that situation – chances are your character will have experienced similar emotions.
  • Incorporate your personal insights and emotional reactions to help your character come alive on the page.
  1. Determine to stay true to the Biblical account.
  • Always use the Scriptures as the main structure for your story.
  • Ask for wisdom and nurture a prayerful imagination as you explore the “what ifs” of fiction for your plot twists, lesser characters and dialog.

God shares his “family stories” with us for our discipline, correction, guidance and growth. Our goal in writing Bible fiction should always be to point our readers to Him and let His spirit do the rest. Who knows what lives will be touched and drawn into His kingdom as we tell those old, old stories from a fresh, prayerful perspective?

Tips to write authentic and gripping Bible fiction. Click to tweet.

51EOpbYgRwL__UX250_Bonnie Winters is a pastor’s wife with over 40 years of experience ministering to women and children. She is a 1973 graduate of Northpoint Bible College in Haverhill, MA. She returned to college in 1996, earning a bachelor’s degree in adult learning and mentoring at Empire State College in Binghamton, NY.

She began writing seriously when she and her husband moved to northern NY to pastor a small town church. She worked as a reporter for a weekly newspaper in their community, and later became the news editor. When they moved back to PA, she began writing Bible fiction after being challenged to delve deeper into the lives of Bible women and to share their stories with the many hurting women she saw around her.

Her first novel, Daughter of Lot which depicts the life of Ruth, was written to encourage and empower hurting women in today’s world to overcome their deeply hurts with God’s help. In response to the plight of women victims of human sex trafficking, Bonnie wrote Daughter of Scarlet, dedicating a portion of the profits to organizations which aide these victims. Her third novel, Daughter of Captivity, is the first of a trilogy depicting the struggles and deliverance of the Hebrew women while enslaved in Egypt.

Bonnie’s books are available in print and e-book form at:

Amazon.com

To connect with Bonnie, visit her website at

http://www.bonniewinters.com

or e-mail her at

bonniewinterslsc@gmail.com

6 Cases: How to Write Infrequent Phrases – Part 3

As long as readers know what I mean, does it really matter whether there’s a typo here and there, a comma in the wrong place, or a few words misspelled?’ Yeah. It does.”

Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, by Kathy Ide, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Used by permission.

image by seeka
image by seeka

We continue with Part 3 of a 3-part series, looking at acceptable ways to write some phrases that may have puzzled you. Your publisher may have a preference.

  1. You want to write a generic name for a sweet, fizzy drink.
Image courtesy of chayathonwong2000 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of chayathonwong2000 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here are some options. If your character is from a certain region, you might want to use what most people in that region say. Also for historical fiction, be careful as to when the term was introduced.

I give general locations. Search online for detailed maps that show individual states.

 

soft drink – (1880) Australia; New Orleans; east Texas

cola – (1920) similar to coke

pop – (1812) Midwest; Pacific Northwest; Mountain West (also soda pop); Canada; England

soda – (soda pop 1863) New England; East and West Coasts; Hawaii

coke – (1909) southern states; Europe

cold drink – southern Virginia and the Carolinas, New Orleans; east Texas

  1. You want to show two sides of something.

You can use a slash (/).

Their relationship was an on-again/off-again whirlwind.

The city stood in the middle of a Smith/Jones war.

More commonly, the / is used to show alternatives: he/she. (Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS))

  1. You want your character to interrupt her dialogue to give a thought or action that happens during the dialogue.
image by Romi
image by Romi

“This”—Deanna held up the cream puff—“is art.” (CMOS)

Note: is isn’t capitalized; no spaces around the em dashes.

 

 

  1. You want your character to finish another’s sentence.

Jenna stood with arms akimbo. “You know I love dancing and—”

“—chocolate,” John said.

  1. You want your character to tell that someone said yes or no.

“Mom said yes.” Anna smiled.

What was she going to do? Dad had said no.

(Based on CMOS.)

6.  You want your character to talk about a word.

image by Prawny
image by Prawny

When I looked this problem up in grammar books, the authors addressed cases like:

Using happy as an adjective here …

or

Using “happy” as an adjective here …

Both of the above cases with the word in italics or quotation marks is valid.

However, I searched five publishers to see what they did with the following cases in fiction:

I wanted to remove the word happy from the dictionary.

The word ladies seemed appropriate for the group.

Note: No italics or quotation marks (or commas) were used. And in the second case, although ladies is a plural, it is still one word.

Acceptable ways to write 6 infrequent phrases – Part 3. Click to tweet.

What is your favorite resource for grammar usage?

5 Cases: How to Write Infrequent Phrases – Part 2

“Although writing badly is like dressing in lime skorts and an orange plaid sweater—people notice—publicly correcting a stranger’s writing is as rude as asking someone with a fashion problem “Did you think that looked good when you got dressed this morning?” —Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl)

image by seeka
image by seeka

We continue with Part 2 of a 3-part series, looking at acceptable ways to write some phrases that might have puzzled you. Your publisher may have a preference.

  1. You want to write two or more adjectives to describe something (even though using more than one good adjective in fiction should be infrequent).

Here’s the hierarchy that shows which adjective should be first in the series.

  • Quantity – exact or general number (two, a few, several)
  • Opinion/Observation – (beautiful, honest, tasty)
  • Size – (small, short, large)
  • Temperature – (boiling, cold, tepid)
  • Age – (young, ten-year-old, new)
  • Shape – (octagonal, oval, square)
  • Color – (amber, burgundy, orange)
  • Origin – (American, French, Victorian)
  • Material – (brass, glass, tile)
  • Purpose – -ing words (sleeping bag or cooking pot)

Note: I saw in some lists Shape and Color were reversed.

image by jendalichy0080
image by jendalichy0080

Examples:

Three elderly French priests wandered into the garden.

Her beautiful auburn hair fell around her shoulders.

She bonked him on the head with a Teflon frying pan.

She flashed her oval green eyes.

It was a large hot furnace.

In all these cases, commas aren’t used because the last adjective and the noun are seen as a unit, e.g. auburn hair is a unit described as beautiful. Also, we wouldn’t write “beautiful and auburn hair,” so no comma. (Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS))

image by jendalichy0080
image by jendalichy0080
  1. You want your character to speak in a dialect and end his dialogue with darlin’.

Where do the quotation marks and the comma go?

“Come and find me, darlin’,” he said.

  1. You want your character to show his exasperation and bafflement.

What many writers have used from the 1960s is an interrobang. It’s the combination of a question mark and an exclamation mark:

 

To simulate an interrobang, type ?!. (Most resources preferred ?! over !?.) Your character isn’t really asking a question, but he wants to understand what’s going on. You may receive some flak for using an iterrobang.

What?! (internal)

“What?!” (dialogue)

“He did what?!” (dialogue)

Arrested?! (internal)

  1. You want your first-person character to say the peninsula belongs to Sarah and to him, using a form of my.

You can’t write:

Sarah’s and my peninsula. (My denotes singular possession, but the peninsula belongs jointly to both people.) A different word construction is needed.

image by CSalem
image by CSalem

“Our peninsula, Sarah’s and mine, isn’t for sale.”

I learned this from the Daily Writing Tips blog.

 

 

 

  1. You want to write the names of gearshifts in cars.

I searched several books published by different publishing houses. Here are acceptable ways to write them.

Alex put the car in park.

Alex put the car in Park.

More publishers preferred park.

Acceptable ways to write 5 infrequent phrases – Part 2. Click to tweet.

Would you tell us how to write an infrequent grammar phrase that you discovered?