Five Helps to Writing a Modern-Day Telling of a Biblical Story

by Fay Lamb

I am a writer who can never pass up the opportunity to read a modern-day retelling of a Bible story. I’d like to share what I learned while writing Storms in Serenity.

  1. An author must know the Biblical account they are seeking to bring to the reader in a retelling. From my earliest days as a young Christian, King David has always been my hero. I never get tired of reading about his victories and his losses, his greatest moments and his worst actions. His Psalms of repentance and renewal are some of the most heart-touching words in the Bible. David’s trust in the Lord is well-known, but there were times when his attention was somewhere else, and he failed. Storms in Serenity brings the aftermath of David’s sin to a story of a modern-day man named David. My familiarity with the life of David saturated my brain, and as writers often do, I subconsciously built the story around David’s failure and God’s unfailing love for him. When I say subconsciously, I don’t mean that God didn’t have a hand in it. I believe He gave me that love of reading about King David’s life. God had everything to do with why this story was written.
  2. An author must look for truths that should be shared elsewhere in the Scriptures and not simply within the story that is being retold. For instance, the consequences of David’s sin were not placed upon David because God hated him. There are consequences for our sin, and a loving God chastises His children in order to bring about good in our life. A child who is never reprimanded is one who isn’t taught what is right from wrong. There are Scriptures throughout the Bible that back up that truth.
  3. God’s word is alive. A passage of Scripture can have more than one lesson. Which other messages does your modern-day retelling provide? An author should pray and ask God to direct him or her to the message or messages He would have for the story. Whenever I read the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba, the sword that was wielded over David’s family because of his actions enthralled me: one of David’s sons raped his half-sister. The sister’s brother killed his half-brother to revenge that rape; the same son who killed his brother retaliated against David and overthrew his father’s reign; David’s own cousin was privy to his sin, and thus David was chained to an evil man for life; after his sin, David’s life was unsettled. Besides the fact that God’s chastisement of David’s sin was at the hands of a loving Father, I also learned that sins, no matter how seemingly private, can always have a far-reaching effect on ourselves and others. That is what Storms in Serenity is all about.
  4. Modern-day retellings can have some latitude so long as they do not skew Scripture. The story does not have to read or follow the exact story that God has presented to us in His word. In Storms, my “Absalom” is Seth, who begins to rebel when he learns the truth about his father’s sin. But Seth’s journey is not Absalom’s.
  5. The best modern-day retellings are those in which the reader can easily ascertain the story that is being presented. While our creativity has latitude, the story should not be so far from the original that a reader cannot connect with it. In Marie Wells Coutu’s retelling, For Such a Moment, and Betty Thomason Owens’, Annabelle’s Ruth, one can clearly determine the original story from the titles of these excellent novels, and they are easily recognizable within the pages.

Are you thinking of bringing Scriptures to a modern-day story? [Click to Tweet]

David’s son, Solomon once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” A modern-day author, Francine Rivers, who brought the Book of Hosea to life in her story Redeeming Love, once taught me and proved before my very eyes, that you can give  a hundred different people a plot from the Bible and no two people will have the same story.

What’s keeping you from bringing your modern-day retelling to life?

Writing Prompt: Besides making you hungry, the photograph below should remind you of a famous Bible story. Write a good opening sentence for the story. Share it with us, if you like!

New from Fay Lamb—Storms in Serenity

How can one man save the town he loves when he’s the reason for the destruction?

Serenity Key, Florida, has seen its share of hurricanes, but this time, one foul weather system is about to collide with another storm, and this one has nothing to do with atmospheric pressure.

David New has guarded his secrets for years, but when two brothers, John and Andy Ryan, arrive in town and he gets news that the daughter he’s never told anyone about has disappeared, possibly the victim of a heinous crime, and the lives of many of the town residents begin to unravel in the gale force consequences of Jake’s past, he has nowhere else to turn.
God is the only one Who can calm the storms, but can David and the good folks of Serenity Key survive until He does?
A tempest has been brewing for thirty years, with only one island town in its path.

7 thoughts on “Five Helps to Writing a Modern-Day Telling of a Biblical Story

  1. Great post, Fay! And thanks for your gracious comments about For Such a Moment. I really enjoyed bringing the story of Esther to modern-day life (as well as the Samaritan woman and Bathsheba). I also love reading the retellings of biblical stories and look forward to reading Storms in Serenity.

    Here’s my quick effort for the picture:
    The piece of fruit looked perfect, but it didn’t take long for her to discover the worms hiding inside.

  2. I appreciate your focus on keeping Scriptural re-tellings true to the Source 🙂
    Hmmmmm, here’s my try…
    Eva chewed the apple slowly, savoring the sweetness. “This is what I’ve always wanted!” she told herself as she swallowed, trying to ignore the sharp, bitter aftertaste on her tongue.

  3. Pingback: Is it Possible for a Writer to Organize Their Research? | Inspired Prompt

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