Why are we so dissatisfied when a plot does not reward virtue and penalize vice? Or when the ending has no resolution of issues but leaves the reader wondering what and who was reliable in the novel?
In college I read Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, which raised the expectations of my mystery-loving heart with its numerous clues and apparent trajectory toward a revealing. Instead, with all of its selfish postmodern heart, it refused to relinquish any surety, any certainty.
While novels written from the Christian worldview don’t and many times shouldn’t tie a denouement up with a pretty bow, they must 1) set up a scenario that has tension and promise and characters that evoke, at the very least, curiosity 2) a challenge or obstacle that puts something important in peril and 3) a concluding state that owes its nature to subsequencies or reactions to the peril.
(Hmm, Latayne says to herself: That’s the phases of faith, as exemplified by the life of Abraham and Sarah and all the heroes of faith.)
When Jesus told stories, He told them in this three-part structure, too. Most exemplary of this is the parable of the sower. There’s all the potential of a seed. And all the obstacles of the soils. And all the satisfaction – and inevitability – of the results.
Here’s an exercise to stimulate some plot creativity (and give you practice with a one-to-two-sentence “hook” that agents and editors expect you to craft.)
Choose a parable of Jesus. Write it as a three-part structure as described above, but using a modern scenario. Do it in one or two sentences at the most.