Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A Phrase for the New Year

One day as I prayed for my adult children, my mind swirled with requests concerning their health and safety, their relationships, jobs, and finances, my daughter’s and her husband’s parenting of our grandson, their relationships with God the Father, the insulation of their hearts and minds against the world’s influence. My requests culminated in, “May they seek you above all else . . . ”

I paused pondering those last words, realizing that’s exactly what I wanted for my life.  “Oh, God, may I seek you above all else.”
Photo by Denise Karis on Unsplash

That phrase wafted about my brain the rest of the day. I’d been considering adopting a word or phrase to focus on for the year. What did I want to accomplish in the coming twelve months? A mental list of ambitious goals mixed with wishful thinking notions had bombarded my thoughts as the days of December wound down. I could think of no better focus for the year ahead than to seek GOD above the myriad of voices clamoring for both my attention and my allegiance.

As writers we can choose to seek fame and fortune. We can align ourselves with the trends that promise success. Fashion our writing content and publishing decisions around money and notoriety. Be less concerned about the opportunity to influence the world around us than on what’s in it for us. Or, we can pursue His will for our writing endeavors, above all other influences. Commit to write what, when, how, and why He desires.

As Christians, we have the opportunity to minister to others and to glorify the Lord with our writing. But that will only happen if and when we seek HIM above all else. If we try to imitate a favored author or charge ahead when His guidance says wait or fritter away time and energy that should be spent putting His words to paper, we squander opportunities to be His instrument, to bring hope and healing to a hurting world.

As the pages of a new year lay before us, waiting to be filled, I want my overall life goals and writing agenda to be aligned with the Creator’s. Will you join me in seeking HIM above all else in 2020?

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Monday, January 6, 2020

Cinematic Secrets: Part 2

In my post last month, I explained how early filmmakers devised effective storytelling techniques that can help us tell our stories, too. For example, an early movie by Thomas Edison was likely to use one fixed camera and one scene to tell an entire story—much like a stage play in one act. Here's how a story might unfold using the primitive single-camera method:

Caleb had had enough of Ernestine's indecision, so he growled that he would have to make the old woman's choice for her. He stormed out of her kitchen and she heard his car rip through the gravel of her driveway as he roared toward town. She wondered aloud why her son wouldn’t let her pray about this. Why did he expect her to leave the only home she'd ever known to live in a rest home somewhere, among ailing strangers? Tears trickled down Ernestine’s cheek.

Even if we strengthen this tableau with dialogue and description, the story will be rather superficial, either in print or on film. So let's try telling the story in a sequence of scenes. Flesh out the plan of each scene with a scene-building worksheet (Click Here). 

[Scene 1: Ernestine’s kitchen]

[Cut to Scene 2: Inside Caleb’s car.]

[Cut to Scene 3: Office of Ernestine’s doctor.]

[Cut to Scene 4: Office of hospital social worker.]

[Cut to Scene 5: Back in Ernestine’s kitchen, late in the day.]

These scenes tell the story in chronological fashion. They also reveal a good deal about each character's persona through self-talk and rehearsal, which they would conceal in the presence of others.

This is the dual purpose of well-executed cinematic scenes: They keep a story moving, while allowing us to see what each character learns through dealing with life's challenges. Scenes make cinematic stories dynamic and true-to-life. They can do the same in our short stories and novels.

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth and daughter Heather.