Assignment# 9

Plotting a beginning, middle, and ending

Scenario #1

The newly-ordained minister, a candidate for pastor at First Church, the evangelical church his grandfather founded, prepared two sermons for the Sunday service. Members of the selection committee in attendance were prepared to vote after the service on his suitability as their new pastor.

First Church had embraced New Age religion.

The first sermon written by the fledgling minister admonished the congregation to “Follow Jesus” and return to true Biblical precepts; the second sermon urged believers to “Seek the Self”.

The ministerial candidate though about the affluent congregation and made his choice.

Regret and remorse at his decision tore the minister’s soul. He drank secretly, used illicit drugs, and years later, was found face-down in the snow behind the tavern he secretly frequented.

Scenario #2

“Too fundamental.” The Senior Deacon at First Church warned members of the ministerial selection committee against considering the candidacy of the grandson of the church’s founder.

First Church eschewed traditional Biblical views of sacrifice and sin and salvation; the new message–feeling good–increased membership and filled the coffers.

 The Deacon awaiting the ministerial selection committee to convene threw his cigar into the gutter. A man in ragged clothes he’d often seen standing outside the church snatched the cigar and ran.

The Deacon usually ignore the destitute man; but the minister’s words echoed: “What would Jesus do about the poor and needy?”

What had the church been doing?  The Deacon walked into the committee room prepared to vote “yes” on the minister’s candidacy.

Scenario #3

The sermon delivered by the candidate for the position of minister  wasn’t the usual “feel-good” rhetoric the young woman was accustomed to hearing from the pulpit of First Church. She walked to the bus stop clutching her purse. It held a crumpled hundred-dollar bill—all she had until payday in two weeks.

I should have dropped the  bill into the colletion plate, the woman thought. The minister had preached self-sacrifice, caring for the poor and needy. “Follow Jesus,” he had exhorted. But I need the money.  The soles of her shoes were worn, she was down to her last can of tomato soup, and the rent was over-due.

She passed a down-and-out individual holding a sign. “I’m hungry” was written on it.

The woman opened her purse. He’s more needy than I, she thought.

Instructor Response

Assignment# 9

Plotting a beginning, middle, and ending

Scenario #1

The newly-ordained minister, a candidate for pastor at First Church, the evangelical church his grandfather founded, prepared two sermons for the Sunday service. Members of the selection committee in attendance were prepared to vote after the service on his suitability as their new pastor.

First Church had embraced New Age religion.

 The first sermon written by the fledgling minister admonished the congregation to “Follow Jesus” and return to true Biblical precepts; the second sermon urged believers to “Seek the Self”.

The ministerial candidate though about the affluent congregation and made his choice.

Regret and remorse at his decision tore the minister’s soul. He drank secretly, used illicit drugs, and years later, was found face-down in the snow behind the tavern he secretly frequented.

Good! I suggest we know the choice, so we need to understand “regret and remorse.” Consider this withheld information revealed. It would keep story momentum moving. Not having it present doesn’t satisfy the nice tension you have from the beginning.

Scenario #2

“Too fundamental.” The Senior Deacon at First Church warned members of the ministerial selection committee against considering the candidacy of the grandson of the church’s founder.

The First Church eschewed traditional Biblical views of sacrifice and sin and salvation; the new message–feeling good–increased membership and filled the coffers. The selection committee deliberated. [In these two sentences you have a lot of information, some of which may not relate to your goals for an effective paragraph. Let’s say you want the reader to know about the ministerial committee meeting to make a decision to whether to hire Gabriel, Deacon’s son. The biblical views are not important.  You’re setting up a conflict. What will the committee do? And you’re introducing Deacon. Is the Deacon the one the committee is deliberating over? We need to know who and what about Deacon, so that when he makes the decision, it has weight. So you might come up with: Deacon, the major donor to the First Church, awaited the convening of the mistrial committee to vote on his minister friend to be hired. Or maybe the committee is discussing Deacon? Not clear.]

The Deacon awaiting the ministerial selection committee to convene  Deacon threw his cigar into the gutter outside the church. A man in ragged clothes he’d often seen standing snatched the cigar and ran.

The Deacon was not a kind man, but he remembered the candidate-minister’s words.usually ignore the destitute man; but the minister’s words echoed: “What would Jesus do about the poor and needy?”

What had the church been doing done?  The Deacon walked into the committee room prepared to vote “yes” on the minister’s candidacy.

Nice version. Think about POV, in-scene delivery, and rather “prepare” to actually make him present his choice. “How do you vote, Deacon?” “I vote yes.” OR maybe, “after sleepless consideration, I vote . . . yes!”

 

The idea of my comments is to prioritize information, and then think about it on a time line so it follows logically with the progression of the story.

Scenario #3

The sermon delivered by the candidate for the position of minister  wasn’t the usual “feel-good” rhetoric the young woman was accustomed to hearing from the pulpit of First Church. She walked to the bus stop clutching her purse. It held a crumpled hundred-dollar bill—all she had until payday in two weeks.

I should have dropped the  bill into the colletion plate, the woman thought. The minister had preached self-sacrifice, caring for the poor and needy. “Follow Jesus,” he had exhorted [this may be too judgmental and too strong]. But I need the money. [This is internalized but is telling, and would be more effective if shown in scene.] The soles of her shoes were worn, she was down to her last can of tomato soup, and the rent was over-due. [This should be told earlier to prepare for the action and her conflict. And then follow it with her memory of the preacher’s message on self-sacrifice before you then go on to your great conclusion.]

She passed a down-and-out individual holding a sign. “I’m hungry” was written on it.   

The woman opened her purse. He’s more needy than I, she thought.

Summary.

This exercise has two purposes. 1) To show that a core summary of what happens can really help story creation. It helps organize the progression of events to ensure mystery and suspense about the conclusion. But it can also help to identify what happens in the scene and how it would be best presented: narrative description, in scene, exposition (backstory). 2) To begin to think about what should be in scene and what is better narrated. For example, “her shoes were worn” is telling. I’m not suggesting it, but let me show you how this might be done with in-scene construction–and necessarily reverted to backstory that the telling indicates.  The woman kicked off her shoe, disgusted with the hole in the sole, crossed her leg over her knee, and rubbed the throbbing foot. Blood smeared her fingers.  Narrative telling requires fewer words; it usually is an abstraction, but, if indicated, in-scene construction may be more effective than telling.

 

Here are references that can help you understand:

https://www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/essays-on-writing/preparing-to-write-the-great-literary-story/

https://www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/essays-on-writing/writing-in-scene/

 

Cathryn, your progress is amazing. Enjoy seeing you improve so significantly.

Thanks for the submission.

WHC

  1. Dear Dr. Coles,
    Thanks to your instructive lessons and you detailed critiques, I am feeling more confident in my abilities as an emerging writer.

    Will rewrite this exercise after reading the links provided.

    Again, thanks,

    Cathryn

  2. Dear Dr. Coles,
    The article on Preparing to Write the Great Liteary Story was an advanced read on the art and craft of good literary storytelling. Thank you. I was watching PBS’s Victoria and one character said the Queen’s meaning was “pellucidly clear”. So it is with your article.

    In gratitude, I’ve sent a gratuity–or to be pellucidly clear, I’ve put my money where my mouth is!

    Cathryn

    • Cathryn,
      Thank you so much for your note, and your generosity. Very much appreciated.
      WHC

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