Fiction writing follows a rather rigid formula called the “story arc.” Here’s how Nancy Lynn McLane plots it:
1. Defining event: must be something the character cares about
2. Raise the stakes: the call to action; the character tries to resist
3. Rising action: pulls the character into the activities
4. No turning back: must resolve problem; can’t get around it
5. Exceptional event: character is over his/her head, although actions may appear successful
6. Dark moment: all seems lost or moral dilemma demands a choice; character must sacrifice
7. Climax/resolution: the final confrontation: problem/obstacle is overcome or resolved; loose ends tied up.
Real life often follows that very same pattern. We see it the life of Bible characters.
Moses’ “defining event” was seeing a fellow Israelite being abused by an Egyptian slave master. Joseph had an amazing dream. Jesus’ disciples were called to follow Him.
We see God “raise the stakes” with Moses as, forty years later, He confronts the exiled shepherd with the burning bush—to which Moses resists with a multitude of excuses. Joseph is over-powered and sold into slavery. The disciples leave their fishing nets and tax collecting business behind.
“Rising action” occurs as Moses finally agrees to go before the mighty Pharaoh and demand, “Set my people free.” Joseph is put to work in Potifer’s Egyptian household. Jesus commissions the disciples to share the good news of the coming kingdom.
Now there’s “no turning back.” Once you’ve stood before Pharaoh and thrown down the gauntlet—actually, the rod which turns into a snake—you’re committed. Joseph is thrown in jail with no hope of returning to his home. And the disciples, especially Peter, has vowed to die for Jesus.
The Nile turning to blood, along with nine other supernatural plagues, are certainly “exceptional” events—way beyond Moses’ abilities. God provides Joseph with additional dreams that he hopes will win his release. And Jesus’ miraculous transformation before Peter, James and John definitely qualifies!
Then comes the “dark moment”! Moses and the Israelites are released from captivity, only to find themselves between a rock and two hard places: a sea and the Egyptian army sent to destroy them. The released jail mate, doesn’t bother to tell the Pharaoh about Joseph’s prophetic powers and he remains in jail And, of course, Jesus is crucified and His disciples scattered.
But there’s always a dramatic “climax/resolution.” (God is such a drama king!) The Red Sea opens up. Joseph is released and appointed second in command of Egypt. And Jesus rises from the dead! Now that’s climatic!
So where are you in your life story’s story arc? Trust that the plot will play out with God’s climax/resolution.
Copyright © 2011 James N. Watkins