There’s a reason why Jesus told stories. He knew that a compelling story is so much more powerful than endless rules and regulations. So what can as writers and story tellers, learn from Jesus?
I want to use the Prodigal Son to give you some answers to this question. I’d encourage you to read the story first, you can find the story here
|The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt|
So what can we learn from this story? Here are just three lessons:
1. Authentic characters make the story.
We can also empathise with the older brother, as both he and his father choose their own words to reflect his feelings. To the brother the prodigal is “this son of yours”, to the father he is “this brother of yours”. We can imagine them saying these very words. So, we learn that it is the authenticity of the characters that give this story its power.
2. Show it, don't tell it.
It’s one of the first lessons we learn as creative writers. And this story is such a great example. You won’t find any overt reference to the lessons Jesus is trying to convey. We are never told how any of the characters feel, or what they think. Why? Because we don’t need to be told, it’s there in the story. We can infer everything we need to know from what is presented.
3. Use the senses.
Look at this story again in the context of the senses. The prodigal isn’t just poor he is hungry. The father doesn’t just wait for his son he sees him while he is still far off. Then there are some tactile images – the father throws his arms around his son and kisses him. When he arrives home, the Prodigal is not just given a meal, there is a feast. As the older brother approaches the house another sense comes into play, he hears music and dancing – Jesus is showing us that this is a celebration. This is all achieved with sensory language. It enlivens a story, and helps to make the images real and vibrant.
These are just three lessons from the great story teller. I hope to show you more of them in the months to come.
Andrew J Chamberlain is a writer, speaker, and creative writing tutor. He is the presenter of The Creative Writer's Toolbelt a podcast that offers practical, accessible advice on the craft. Andrew has worked on a number of ghost-writing collaborations for Authentic Media, including the bestselling 'Once an Addict' with Barry Woodward. He has also self-published a number of science fiction short stories. Andrew will be speaking at the First Page Writing Course this November.