Writing Your Novel: The Nemesis

Sarah has singlehandedly created a huge mess. Sure, Abraham went along with it and created a son with Sarah’s maidservant, but I seriously doubt he would have come to that decision on his own. (Sounds a bit like Eve and Adam, doesn’t it?) Now we throw Isaac in the mix and things go from bad to nemesis.

In Genesis 21:9, it says, “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.” If you remember back to the chapter when Sarah beat Hagar and sent her into the wilderness to die, she returned with Ishmael, a broken woman. I doubt she would be mocking Sarah here. Have you ever thought someone was talking about you when they weren’t? Or misinterpreted what they said or their motives? I’m thinking that’s more than likely what happened here.

Those are great idiosyncrasies to build into your characters. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, 93% of all communication is non-verbal (www.nonverbalgroup.com). That means 7% of communication comes from the actual dialogue. Your characters should be filled with gestures, facial expressions, sarcasm, vocal tones, posture, etc. Do your characters convey exactly what they feel at all time? Do they lie, stretch the truth, soften the blow, or constrict around certain characters and relax around others. These are real life physiological responses and choices. Whether on purpose or reactionary that must be in your books if you want your characters to move from two-dimensional to three-dimensional. The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisis is an excellent resource of mental and physical responses to emotions.

This is what I think is happening to Sarah at this moment. Her own impatience and distrust of God caused this whole ordeal to begin with. Now that the prophetic son has been born, (a foreshadow to many more to come, leading ultimately to the birth of Jesus) she tells Abraham to “Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.” (verse 10)

Sarah has basically become the evil stepmother because, like it or not, Ishmael is technically her step-son. And what a horrible burden to place on Abraham: kick out your bastard kid and his mother or I’m taking Isaac and moving in with my mother.

This is a great, often used plot line. Cinderella is the most obvious example, but variations of this plot can be seen even in the relationship between Harry Potter and the Dursleys or The Man in the Iron Mask.

Luckily, God intervenes and comforts Abraham by telling him not to grieve, but to listen to his wife “for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (verse 12) But that’s not all. Verse 13 continues: “And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation because he is thy seed.”

God keeps his promises, and both boys eventually grew into men who fathered great nations, and twelve tribes. Isaac fathered the Israelites, the Hebrew’s, today’s Jewish nation. Ishmael fathered his nations through an Egyptian wife, which today inhabit the nations of Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab-Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, and the pseudo-nation Palestine. (www.bibletools.org) These nations consist mainly of people who do not wish for Israel to exist.

I wonder if the root of Ishmael’s heart toward Isaac still feeds this hatred through his descendants toward God’s chosen people, according to the Scriptures. I wonder also if Sarah had only been patient and faithful, not intervening in God’s plans, would there be turmoil today in the Middle East. We will never know.

These are great tools to apply to your writing. Having deep, common bonds between the hero and the nemesis make their conflict that much greater. Using an outside force or character to force the separation makes the problem grow and the emotions deepen between the hero and the villain. Superman and Zod; Harry Potter and Voldemort; Thomas and WICKED. These relationships both attract and repel simultaneously because of the bonds between and similarities of the two characters, helping to highlight their differences and shape them into those figures we can’t forget, long after we’ve read “The End.”

(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.)

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Writing Your Novel: The Nemesis

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