Saturday, September 6, 2014

Story Starters

Steven James is a prolific Christian author from East Tennessee who's won three Christy awards and high praise from secular review media such as Publishers Weekly. I wasn't familiar with his work because he has focused on the thriller genre in recent years (not my cup of tea), but a friend recently introduced me to a book he wrote for Standard in 2002, entitled The Creative Story Telling Guide for Children's Ministry. Though it's slanted to children's church leaders, the book has some very practical guidance for storytellers of any kind, including novelists like us.

I was especially interested in Appendix B of the book, headed "385 Story Starters." His directions are:
  1. Think about people, places and events that have shaped your life. Consider milestones, turning points, and times of transition. (He lists 42 suggestions.)
  2. Look at significant objects from your life... (He lists 9 suggestions; you could think of many more.)
  3. Use the story starter as a springboard to think about related biblical issues..Or, think of related biblical images...Or, think of related biblical incidents. (He lists 385 possibilities in these 3 categories.)
These 9 pages are a treasure trove of story ideas. Any one of us could use Steven's list to come up with hundreds of story ideas, all different.

I won't reproduce his list here, out of respect for Steven's work (not to mention respect for the copyright laws), but you can make your own lists of these 3 types of things. Use these Story Starters the next time your WIP flags a bit. It'll encourage you to realize that the well of inspiration still has plenty of ideas based on your own experiences and the insights of Scripture.

Joe Allison and his wife, Judy, live in Anderson IN, where Joe serves as Editorial Director of Discipleship Resources & Curriculum for Warner Press, Inc. Joe has several nonfiction books in print, including Swords and Whetstones: A Guide to Christian Bible Study Resources. He's currently writing a trilogy of Christian historical novels set in the Great Depression.
Visit Joe's blog at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the suggestions. Fortunately (or sometimes it feels like unfortunately), I have the opposite problem--so many ideas that I don't know which one to use next.