Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Propelling Deep Into the Story

photo courtesy of
It takes a lot to pull me deep into a book, so deep a family member's voice in the room startles me into reality.

One of my favorite Bible stories, found in Jeremiah, has that affect on me. The events from this story continue to impact others today.

Jeremiah had the strength to speak, but others had the power to punish. The princes tired of Jeremiah's warnings of impending doom. They begged king Zedekiah to get rid of him. The wimp Zedekiah gave them open permission to do what they wanted. 

To hush Jeremiah's voice and let him have a taste of the torment he put them through "they lowered him down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. And Jeremiah sank in the mire." Jeremiah 38

The princes had a vague idea about the place where they put him. Without having been inside the dungeon, they'd smelled the stench rising to the surface and heard the horror stories, enough to rank this particular dungeon number one to torture Jeremiah.

The princes didn't want to kill him. Killing a prophet would not be wise. If Jeremiah tumbled into a well so deep the bottom couldn't be seen he might die. What torture would that bring?  No. Jeremiah needed to survive. He had to experience sinking hopelessly into the swampy mire. The mire had to be reasonably deep, perhaps as high as his neck to give the torture effect.

This dungeon was secluded, any cry for help would vanish in empty space. There were no prison cells nearby. He was alone.

An Ethiopian eunuch heard what the princes did. He ran to the king and said, "My lord, these men have done evil by casting Jeremiah into the dungeon. He is likely to die from hunger."

Zedekiah said, "Take thirty men with you and lift Jeremiah out of the dungeon before he dies." 

Seriously? It took thirty soldiers to get Jeremiah out? What did this dungeon look like?  

Take a minute with me. Pull your shoes off, close your eyes, and transport your mind to a swamp. Step away from the waist high grass on the shore into the squishy, muck. Your feet slip and slide, yet sink into the brownish-black sludge. It's thick. Gooey. You step again and feel yourself sucked down, uncomfortably deep. You didn't know about the hidden drop off covered by the mirky water. Reach out-try to grab water-grass, cattail, anything to hold your balance. Your arms flounder in the dark, it takes your breath. You're cold, yet sweat beads on your neck. 

The water rises against your skin, first to your knees then hips, waist, shoulders and settles at your neck.  Mosquitos pierce your eardrum with irritatingly high-pitched noises. You dare not move to swat them away else loose your balance and sink, down, further, closer into the sludge.  You cherish the next breath and pray for another.

Fear impulses send your heart into rapid rhythms, bah boom, bah boom, b-b-b bah boom. Cloud coverage blocks the sun. A wall of black covers the sky. Darker. Deeper. Your feet are pulled, no yanked with unbreakable power by a mucky suction. 

This resembles Jeremiah's situation. This deep well from which thirty soldiers were needed to rescue him.

Did you go with Jeremiah? Did you feel the dungeon? Did you leave the comfort of your chair, become soaked in his place of torment, and now feel the need to take a shower . . or a few deep breaths of air?

1. Like Jeremiah, we also have messages to convey. Not necessarily prophetic, or God breathed Scripture, but books with something to touch the life of each person God leads to our work. The story must be captivating, powerful, engaging. Stir a pot then offer resolution.

2. Don't laden your work with adjectives. Rather, embed your work with strong, descriptive nouns. Nouns that carry the effect of quality paint on a canvas. Thick. Rich. Colorful. Storyful.

3. Realistically let events play. Irritated with Jeremiah, the bullies, played by the princes, used physical force to convey their message. Back off Jeremiah. God made the eunuch aware of the situation and directed him to point out Jeremiah's lack of food, not the torture to the wimpy king . . . who probably would have let Jeremiah sit in the mire longer, just to please the princes.

4. Raise the dander of the locals. In a positive way :) A woman recently wrote a fictional book offering what might have happened to Princess Doe before she was murdered. Her book stirred the locals, revived the investigation, and advertised not only the missing woman but also the book on a television program. In our story today, the eunuch's dander flared causing him to tell the king and spark a change. Changing one person is not enough. What will they do with the felt change? Will they go and tell someone so they too can have an experience?

The book I read for this last reading challenge was Borders of the Heart by Chris Fabry. This masterfully-crafted book put dust on my tongue, sand on my shoes, and sticky-blazing heat against my skin. Each time I set the book down I grabbed a water bottle. 

I moved from the comfort of my living room chair into the pages and experienced several scorching hot day on an Arizona ranch located near the Mexican border. It wasn't setting only, or dialogue which sucked me deep into this story. It just felt so real. The phone startled me. Time move in accelerated motion. 

What can you add, take away, or sharpen in your story to cause a reader to loose track of time and be sucked into the story?


This blog post is by Mary Vee

Mary lives in Montana with her husband and loves to hear from her three college kids. She writes contemporary Christian fiction with a focus on the homeless population and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website
Step into Someone Else's World
Ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids


Jeanne T said...

Mary, I have read that story about Jeremiah many times. Never has it been as real to me as it was reading it here. Beautifully done.

Yes, you've given me much food for thought as I work through revisions on my story. I need to do lots of thinking. Thanks. I think. :)

Lindsay Harrel said...

I like reading biblical allegory because it makes me think of the Bible in different ways than I usually really put myself in the place of the ones I'm reading about and imagine what it must have been like for them.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Loved that Chris Fabry book, too. On my list to craft a review.

I think I need to shorten some sentences, remove some things to quicken the pace.

Lindsay, that is a great picture of you.

Ashley Clark said...

Loved this post, Mary! You are so wise. I really liked what you said about having a responsibility to create a story world that truly takes our readers into that deeper place God has put on our hearts to show. Great post!

Lindsay Harrel said...

Aw, thanks, Julia! Love yours too.

Mary Vee said...

Thanks. I have often been perplexed how pastors can construct the great sermons from small passages. I've prayed to God many times, help me understand the scripture with a today focus. God knew what I really meant and what I needed to help me understand, I needed to understanding the persons actual situation., like this Jeremiah one.
One by one He teaches me.:)

Mary Vee said...

Yeah, me too. I especially enjoy discovering the hidden meaning.

Mary Vee said...

Can't wait to read your review. I read your last review and it was great.

Mary Vee said...

I think one of the greatest joys for an author is to hear a reader made a connection with the story and opened another door for their relationship with God.

Karen Schravemade said...

I agree with Jeanne. Now I want to go read the story of Jeremiah again with fresh eyes. Love how you brought it to life.