Thursday, March 25, 2010

Story Ideas

After returning from my RWA chapter conference (Gulf Coast Chapter) on Sunday afternoon, I thought over what I'd learned and enjoyed the most. It was an exhilarating and exhausting weekend at Pensacola Beach, Florida. The conference, appropriately named Silken Sands, had all the ingredients necessary for a great experience--editors and agents, wonderful workshops given by knowledgeable speakers, good food, meeting old and new friends and a touch of magic--sugar-white sand and turquoise Gulf waters.

One of my favorite workshops was presented by Lenora Worth, a talented Steeple Hill writer. In "How to Write a Good Book based on the Good Book" she discussed how we can base our inspirational stories on the 10 Commandments or the fascinating stories in the Bible. They're all about flawed people and their relationships with God and with each other.

Like us, the 'characters' are real--not sugar coated--and damaged by their sins. They're all caught in the human condition just as we are--we're born, we live, we know our ultimate fate is death and then we face death itself. And then what? We have to ponder this reality, accept it and decide how to deal with it and how it effects our life. Of course with faith in God it's not as grim as it sounds. In fact, we have great hope. But still we're dealing with an unknown we have to grapple with and can't avoid.

How our characters respond to the human condition and their particular situation in life can be explored in depth in our stories. Our story people can be flawed by one of the 7 Deadly Sins: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. Or they might have one or more of the 7 Heavenly Virtues: prudence, temperance, courage (fortitude), justice, love, hope and faith. Think of all the tales you could develop from just these attributes.

Stories can also revolve around the 7 Corporate Virtues: feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, giving shelter to strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, ministering to prisoners, burying the dead.

Trust, forgiveness and redemption are common themes in Christian stories. Other themes might include respect, integrity, honor and dishonor, good versus evil, corruption versus justice, doing the right thing in the face of difficulty and cherishing relationships over material things.

So our story ideas can come from the Bible, not just from newspapers and fairy tales. Can you adapt a Bible story to your own writing? Francine Rivers certainly can!


  1. WOW! I'm the first to show up this morning even though you East Coasters are 3 hours ahead of me??? What gives?

    Guess I'd better pull out the breakfast goods -- it will be Arizona fare. Fresh fruit, scrambled eggs with salsa, seasoned tortillas, etc., etc., etc.

    Cara -- sounds like a great workshop and great ideas to launch a story. So much fun that each of us could pick the same "idea" and write totally different books from it!

    Best wishes to all the Seekers & Friends of Seekerville on the RITA and Golden Heart calls today!

  2. Good Morning, Cara.

    I've written comtempory Bible stories "retelling" for some of my children's short stories but haven't tried them in any of my romance novels.

    But now you have me thinking....

  3. Cara, I'm drooling over your conference experience!!! Lenora is a doll! Was she wearing great shoes? :-) She's known for them.

    Thanks for sharing her workshop with us. I've never taken my story ideas directly from the Bible. Yet God's Word is full of flawed characters that can trigger our imaginations.

    Speaking of Francine Rivers, it won't be long and she'll be right here in Seekerville!!!!

    The coffee and tea are made. I stopped for a variety of Crispy Kreme donuts.


  4. Well imagine retelling bible stories instead of my favorite movies. :)

    Happy Thursday.

    Here's a hello to all those nail biters waiting for a GH and RITA call.

    Let us know in Seekerville so we can celebrate with you!!!

    Coffee is on!!!!!!!

  5. What a wonderful conference experience you had, Cara! That is exactly what conferences are supposed to do--inform, connect, and provide enjoyment in doing so. And what great tools for writing characters!
    I discuss tools for doing so as well on my blog.
    I'm just glad you had such a great conference--that's what it's all about!

  6. Good Morning Cara,

    Wow, sugar white sand and turquoise gulf waters. I'm jealous. Oops one of those flaws we can write about.

    Thanks for sharing what you learned. We'll be heading for the Desert Dreams conference next month in Scottsdale and will get to hear Robin Lee Hatcher. Conferences are always such great fun and a wonderful way to network and meet editors and agents.

    Glynna the breakfast burritos are my favorite. Thanks.

  7. Good morning, Janet and Susan! It was such a great conference--the editor and agent appointments were held outside on the patio even though it was a little windy.

    I met so many nice, enthusiastic people including Diane Burke, a debut LI author, Connie Mann who is a boat captain and tour guide at Silver Springs, Florida and Barbara Vey who writes a column for Publlishers Weekly.

    Lenora wore the most beautiful shoes. I certainly noticed!!!

  8. Hi, Sandra! I'd love to go to Desert Dreams, but it's a matter of $ and going to conferences so close together. Sigh. But maybe someday...

    Susan, thanks for mentioning your blog.

  9. Good morning, Rose! Welcome to Seekerville.

    It would be interesting to take a story based on the Bible and try to change it from a children's story you've written to an adult novel. I've changed a manuscript from contemporary to historical. It was a whole new book!

  10. Very interesting thoughts, Cara! Thanks! I could use a few ideas right now. Or in a few days, when I finish these edits!

  11. Hello Cara,
    Pensacola Beach is a favorite vacation spots from my high school years, & I thought about going, but timing (& $$$) prevented it. Hopefully in the future-- (the far future, with an upcoming high school senior & college on the horizon!) Bet the water was cold, but the Gulf is beautiful any time of year.
    Spring Break before the hordes descend....
    Thanks for sharing Lenora's workshop here. The Bible is full of characters and life lessons to mine for inspiration.

  12. Glynna, you might have been the first person to show up this morning, but not on my computer. You just arrived! Very strange, but computers have really strange minds.

    Pamela, I'm sorry you couldn't come to Silken Sands, but maybe eventually you can. We hold the conference at the beach every 2 yrs. except when a hurricane destroys the beach. But I won't dwell on that.

    Melanie, I've never tried looking for fresh ideas in the Bible, but I'm going to take Lenora's advice.

    Tina, so now you can expand your horizons beyond movies!

  13. Very interesting stuff, Cara! And Lenora is a great speaker!

    This whole vice/virtue topic fits very well with The Moral Premise, by Stanley Williams. We've talked about his book before here in Seekerville--how you can play a vice against its opposite virtue as you develop your plot and character arc.

  14. Hi Cara:

    I can see how you were energized by the workshop on "How to Write a Good Book based on the Good Book." Somehow I think it would be hard for a Christian writer to not do this.

    I think a story or parable is just one way to express a given message. The same message can be conveyed in any number of different stories. In fiction I prefer the message to be invisible from its biblical roots.

    Mary’s books, for example, are full of biblical story messages. however, with all the comedy, kids, action and western historical elements, the reader is not reminded that similar messages are found in the bible.

    Your statement, “Like us, the 'characters' are real--not sugar coated--and damaged by their sins” made me think of “Winter’s End.”

    In “Winter’s End” I see a very strong resemblance to the Book of Job. The hero, heroine, and hero’s sister are each innocent of all the suffering that is brought down upon them. The suffering is not a result of any of their sins. Yet, through faith and Christian values, they survive these many travails and become even stronger believers by the story’s end. (Even the father and mother had mitigating circumstances and might not have morally caused their own problems.)

    Yet it was only after several days that it occurred to me how much like the Book of Job, “Winter’s End” really is. I’m not sure anyone else has seen the similarity.

    This makes me think that if an author is expressing authentic Christian values, analogous biblical stories will appear in her books -- whether she intends it or not.

    In any event, I like Christian fiction because it is always worth reading.


  15. Thanks Cara for your insight and sharing of the inspiration and lessons learned.

    I'd love to go to a multi-day event. Maybe later this year or next.

    When I finish (?) revising May on the Way, I'll start the 2nd book. It's been dancing around in my mind for awhile. Your post today has given me some things to latch on to as I consider how to approach it.

    Thanks again to the Seekers. Y'all are more valuable than you know!

    To God be the glory!! :)

    PS - YES to all who are waiting for a call. We're right here with you - let us know ASAP!!!

  16. I thought calls were tomorrow.

    Oh well.

    Looks like the list of RITA and GH finalists is UP!

  17. I just noticed this on the RWA announcement page:

    * Please note that finalists are added upon notification.

    So, maybe calls are not over yet.

  18. Hey Cara,

    LOVE historical/contemporary fiction based on Bible stories!! In fact, two of my favorites -- Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers and Liz Curtis Higgs Scottish trilogy are both based on Bible stories, so I would like to see more of that.

    Sounds like a fun conference, Cara, you lucky dog!!!


  19. GH....

    I crashed and burned the one time I tried to BUY a GH by entering four manuscripts. Two of which have since sold...

    Within a year of that infamous GH...

    Non-finalists, take heart. Paychecks are ALMOST as good as trophies. :)

    Super congrats to all finalists, though. Seriously. I'm a big fan of contests, even when I've been knocked around.

    Ummm, Mary, can you tell us about the infamous "1" again????? HUH???
    HUH???? Please????


    Cara, you have given me a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful idea with this post. Oh, so good!!! My mind is spinning, wrapping around it, twisting, finagling, eyeing the opportunity window you opened.

    You rock, woman!!!!

    Must jot down notes....


    I can't talk and think at the same time. I can talk and EAT at the same time. Rude, but doable.

  20. Cara,
    I know the conference was great!!! Weren't you the conference chair a few years ago?

    Lenora's a doll! Love her shoes, books and workshops. Thanks for giving us a bit of what she said.

    The 7 virtues would be a great series...each book focusing on one of the virtues. Hmmmm?

    I agree with Julie, Francine River's REDEEMING LOVE is the best example of a Biblical story retold. Can't wait to "chat" with her next Tuesday.

    Barbara Vey's a doll, isn't she?

    I know you saw the Grammar Divas: Darlene Buchholz and Annie Oortman. They want to guest on Seekerville as soon as their hectic conference and teaching schedule allows.

    Congrats to all the Golden Heart and RITA finalists!!!

  21. Great post, Cara, on themes and story ideas. I never come up with a theme first. It just sorta presents itself. Or I wait to see what Steeple Hill decides on for a title then morph the theme from there. LOL!


  22. Thanks, Cara, for posting about my workshop. I've often thought I'd like to do a series with the Deadly Sins and the Virtues. Hmmm.

    I only packed five pairs of shoes--for a three day conference. And only three purses! But I had to have beach walking shoes, flipflops, dress shoes and casual shoes. What's a girl to do! The ocean was so lovely. And I had such fun seeing old friends and making new ones.

  23. Sounds like you had a wonderful time and a great conference. I love Lenora! I haven't attempted to adapt a bible story to one of mine - yet. Have an idea though and worked with a lady who wrote one based on the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' garment and was healed. Wonderful story - stay on her to do something with it LOL ... maybe soon.

    As for Francine Rivers - she is the BEST. REDEEMING LOVE & THE ATONEMENT CHILD are 2 of my favorites of hers!

    Great post - thanks for sharing.

  24. I loved the post today it was so helpful!
    A lot of times I can't think of anything to write, and what character traits to use, and I don't why, but I just never thought of using my Bible to get those things that I need!
    Thank you you again for this post:)

  25. Finding the right idea for a story comes hard for a lot of us sometimes once in awhile, sometimes often. So thinking about the sins and virtues and Bible stories will prompt me to come up with different ideas.

  26. Hi Cara,
    Great post. Liz Curtis Higgs newest series is based on the book of Ruth. I just finished it and it's a very evocative book - no surprise there. It leaves you NEEDING to read the second.

    My YA fantasy is a series through various books of the Bible. It starts with Adam & Eve - but unless you know the original you wouldn't 'see' it in the story.
    The second book starts with Cain & Able and goes through Moses - but all under the guise of a fantasy.
    I figure is C.S. Lewis could try it, so could I ;-)

  27. Thank you for this post, Cara. It's been helpful once more. A big Congratulations to all the finalists for the Rita and GH.

  28. Lenora,
    You packed light! :)

    Thanks for stopping by Seekerville!

  29. What great suggestions!! Thanks for sharing, Cara!

    I really want to do that conference sometime. Do you need a roomie next year?? :)

  30. Cara so sorry to come to the party late! And you offered such wisdom today! (not that you don't at other times, it's just that this is particularly timely)

    Themes keep the book on track. I find if I get stuck and go back and review my course, I've found the characters have gone off the beaten path, so to speak. They've forgotten their mission; they deviatied from the cause.

    And heaven forbid, they dip into a different virtue or sin! Turns the whole book around.

    Gotta keep on track, right?

  31. I hope I am doing this right. Hello and good morning everyone. I love reading about everyone's ideas. I am writing two books well actually one is in the revision state and the other half way done. You can reach me at Feel free to write me directly.