The Bible is filled with stories of heroes, the greatest of whom being Jesus Christ. The hero’s plight connects us to one another; we can see both our own strengths and weaknesses simultaneously played out within the hero’s choices and shortcomings. Who doesn’t want to know that somewhere, someone has it all under control, and if we need help, help is on its way? It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s Superman! See any resemblance between the Man of Steel and the Son of Man? Both were sent from another place by their father to save humanity. Both loved mankind, even unto death. Both possessed super-human strength and powers greater than mortal man. Superman was modeled after Jesus’ life even down to his name: Kal-el meaning “voice of God” in Hebrew.
The first hero of the Bible is Noah, the guy who built the ark. But that’s not how it starts. Let’s bring in the back-story and set the scene first, so our hero’s journey will make sense. It was still a world where water sprung from the ground. Rain had not been “invented” yet. It was also a time when women fornicated with the sons of God, or the Nephilim – a crossbreed of men and fallen angels. They were monstrous and god-like. Giants. And through them, mankind grew evil.
The scene is set, be it Mordor or Gotham City, and it’s ripe for a hero.
God’s heart was grieved [Genesis 6:6] and he decided to destroy the Earth and everything that populated it. Hit delete. Crumple up the page. Back to the drawing board. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Verse 8)
Haven’t you written this story before? You are going along in the story world you’ve created with great characters and story twists, when suddenly you realize that the story has gone in its own direction as if its own entity without your assistance. What do you do? How can you fix it? Many times, you feel you can’t, and the delete button calls to you. Or if you write freehand, like I do, the paper shredder taunts of its insatiable hunger. You could drawer the book, but even then, you know the story is no longer your own, having been hijacked by your characters. And just when all seems lost, one character won’t stop talking to you, won’t get out of your head.
“I can fix this,” it whispers.
And you know at that moment, a hero has been born.
The corrupt world is an awesome opportunity to have a hero rise from the ashes. It’s what pushes Katniss Everdeen and Harry Potter and Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. Justice. The people are weak or sheltered or afraid of those who hold power over them. A dysfunctional homeostasis has been reached. Someone needs to tip the scales for the greater good.
What elements of oppression and despair have you built into your story world and characters? Can you kick it up a notch or layer it on a grander scale so it isn’t just about a boy who loses his parents but also about a city that has lost all hope?
In verse 14 of Genesis 4, God gives Noah “The Plan.” He forewarns of Earth’s imminent destruction and tells him to build an ark to save himself, his family, and the creatures God would send. Remember that foreshadow to rain? Here it is again, but coming to pass in story time. A flood is coming. A major calamity that will destroy almost everything but that which is carried in the ark.
Imagine the ridicule and isolation, the moments of self-doubt; the fear, from not only Noah but his family, who trusted him blindly with their lives. In Ender’s Game, Ender Wiggins commands a fleet to destroy an ‘evil’ alien planet by wiping it off the map. His crew follows his revolutionary orders, while Ender’s commanders watch in horror. They all trust him, both those who think it’s a game and those who know better.
The hero leads to victory. He doesn’t question his orders. He doesn’t try to please anyone but his own innate gut. And he never stops short of ultimate victory. Game over. The stakes are on the hero’s shoulders. All failures are ultimately his.
With the element of rain thrown into the mix, Noah had an even stronger faith than most. It had never rained before. Chicken Little, the sky is falling! What elements can you throw into your story to greaten the hero’s plight? Changing the rules is precarious, because there still needs to be a strong level of believability or else you risk losing your reader. But done correctly, the tension and stakes raise dramatically, drawing your character from the crowd to the hero’s circle.
The other story element God introduces with this chapter is the ticking time bomb. Time is set and will eventually run out. The first thriller. If you can utilize time as a threat, it always boosts the hero’s journey. She must make hard, split-second decisions. She must stay focused at all costs. She must reach the climax before time runs out. So many stories incorporate this device. Perhaps the most well-known is Cinderella. “You have till midnight.” Creating an environment and plot that go against the grain with a life or death outcome by a certain time will guarantee the rise of a hero. And like God showed through Genesis Chapter six, it just might save the world from final deletion.
(This is an excerpt from Writing Your Novel, Using the Bible as Your Guide, published by A Writer For Life, LLC, which you can purchase from Amazon as a paperback or ebook. For assistance with writing, editing, publishing and marketing your book, visit awriterforlife.com.)