How it All Began

Harriet E. Michael

Many authors and writers will tell you that they have wanted to become a writer since childhood.

That is not my story.

For me, it all began with a crisis in the life of someone I love. My friend faced the challenge of her life and I found myself walking beside her, praying and wanting to understand prayer better.

As I pondered the topic of prayer, I happened to be reading in the book of Psalms in my personal devotions. I noticed something about prayer. The petitions the various psalmists make to God are almost always centered on God, rather then their needs. If you look for this trend you will find it there, and throughout the Bible.

If someone prays: “Help me because ___,” or “Answer my prayer because ___,” the reason stated usually has something to do with God rather than the psalmist. (Because of one of God’s traits, like His love, or faithfulness, by His power, or for His glory.)

An example of this would be asking God to heal someone because He is the Great Physician, full of loving-kindness, or because He is faithful and answers His people when they call on Him, rather than because of whatever issue you may be dealing with, or pain you may be suffering.

This discovery was a “Wow!” moment for me which prompted me to conduct my own personal Bible study, from Genesis to Revelation, looking at all the instances of prayer I could find. I kept a journal as I did this.

Four years later, I had a book written.

The manuscript was named a finalist in a national contest, “The Women of Faith” (2011). The manuscript won me a writing contract with Pix-N-Pens Publishing (PIP), the nonfiction arm of Write Integrity Press. Once the book was published, my friend Shirley Crowder wrote a study guide for it, which won her a contract with PIP as well.

IMG_0487 prayer book and study guide

Shirley is a lifelong friend of mine. She lived across a dirt road from me in Nigeria. Now, she’s a Biblical counselor and also leads Bible studies with women’s groups. When she read one of the first copies of my book, she whipped up the study guide for it, fully intended for use only in her own personal ministry. She sent it to me for my approval and I loved it, so forwarded it to my publisher, who also loved it. She contracted with Shirley to publish it.

After that, Shirley and I decided to do some co-writing. To date, we have a four-book series on prayer—Prayer It’s Not About You, Study Guide to Prayer: It’s Not About You, Glimpses of Prayer (a devotional), and Prayer Warrior Confessions (an anthology compiled and partially written by us). We are also under contract for a 5-book devotional series, only one of which is currently out—Glimpses of the Savior.

Harriet with Shirley Crowder, signing a writing contract!

… and it all started with adversity—a crisis, pain, anguish as I stood by a hurting loved-one. God is in the business of turning ashes to beauty. That is exactly what He did when He turned my friend Shirley and me into authors.

Click to Tweet: “…it all started with adversity—a crisis, pain, anguish as I stood by a hurting loved-one. God is in the business of turning ashes to beauty. ” Harriet E. Michael via @InspiredPrompt #MarchMadness #amwriting #giveaway

Today, my loved one is doing well, and my book is blessing many. Since its publication in May 2016, several groups in various parts of the US have used this book and study guide for their Bible study. In fact, this month, a Sunday school class of around 30 people are just beginning a Bible study using it.

It can be used in a group setting or for individual study. Here is the link to my author page where you can purchase these books or any of the others that Shirley and I have collaborated on: Harriet’s author page.

The Layering Psalmist

By Gail Johnson

This month’s theme was a hard one! I really had to work to pin it down to just one. After a long process of elimination, I realized Psalms is my favorite. I believe it has to do with the musician and the writer in me. From the first to the last chapter you find characterization, plot, setting, description, conflict, goal, and motivation. Sounds like a writing series! Let’s take a quick look at David’s writing.

Characterization

I love characterization! It is one of my favorite things about writing. Like any relationship, characterization takes work. We learn a person by becoming familiar with them. The more we know about a person, the more we like or dislike them. And we definitely want our readers to like or dislike our characters. Right? When we offer a description of our character’s emotions, the reader is more likely to empathize with him.

desert-279862_1280In Psalm 63, David declares. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.”

Can you feel David’s anguish? I can.

But what if he’d said, “I’m thirsty.” Or what if he’d declared, “I long for you, Lord.”

Not much to see, is there? That’s the difference between showing and telling.

Now imagine your character is on the lam, thirsty, and unable to find water. How are you going to describe the scene to make me want to help him find a stream of clear running water? Think about that for a moment while we talk about the next technique.

Setting

Another way we get to know our characters is through their surroundings. The setting is just as important as characterization. Setting anchors the reader. Nothing jolts a reader from a story faster than trying to figure out where the characters are.

nature-2396309_1280In Psalm 23, David compares himself to a sheep and the Lord to a Shepherd. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

One word can make all the difference in the world! The word green thrusts me into a meadow. I can visualize the green fields with rolling hills and a beautiful lake. How about you?

Again, David could’ve said, “He makes me lie down?” Or “He makes me rest.”

The first thought that comes to mind is where. Lie down where? Rest where? As a reader, I’ve no place to put the sheep. It could be in a field, in the middle of a road, a pen, or even a barn. That poor sheep needs a place to rest!

Now that you’ve had time to think, where did your character find his sip of water? Where will he stay the night? Abandoned farmhouse? A ritzy hotel? Or a cave in the side of a mountain? Each setting will tell a different story.

How does he know that?

Have you ever asked that question while reading a story? I have.

David was a shepherd, a warrior, and a king. He drew from that well of experience when penning his psalms. One of the ways our characters come to life is through their understanding. Who are they? What is their profession? When does their story take place? Where do they live? How are they connected to those around them?

nature-1626479_1280These are simple questions that must be answered if our characters are to be believable. David’s knowledge of sheep and shepherds, warriors and battlefields, and kings and castles, give him credibility with his reader.

As a writer, David’s writing helps me to see the different ways I can layer a story to make my characters come to life.

Now it’s your turn.

Click to tweet: Characterization takes work but, for a writer, is necessary. #Psalms #amwriting

Writing Prompt

Imagine your character is a little boy trying to convince his mother of his thirst. What could he say to convince his mom to buy a coke?

 

 

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