Secular advice of biblical proportions

Have visited Nazareth, Mt. Tabor, site of the Transfiguration and Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine (first public miracle) in Israel. I was also analyzing a book and realized there are some passages in the Bible that can help creative people. The primary one is in Genesis 1 when God creates the world. Look at the process of creation itself: separation, organization, naming. That process holds for the creation of any work of art.

Separate: this is the winnowing process when you decide what you’re going to write about, what you will include and what you will leave out. There are also the separations of character, of time and space, how you separate a novel into chapters…. Creation involves separation at many levels.

Organize: The same holds true for organization from the sentence level to the work as a whole. A sentence is an organization of word to make sense and for effect. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantster, there is a process of organizing from laying out the plot to choosing characters and when they appear, weaving in subplot(s), etc. For plotters, the organization process is more overt and deliberate; for pantsters, it’s intuitive, with decision-making integrated into the act of writing. How do you organize time in your story? Are your characters organized into families or tribes of associations? How in turn is that family organized – is it in cells where individuality is prized or are the individuals subservient to the larger structure (as in the Mafia, etc.)

Naming: most characters have names and names often hold power. They often provide a lot of information about a given character. There is the naming of the characters, places, perhaps other worlds. In science fiction and fantasy, the naming process can be quite intricate in order for things to make sense in an overtly created world, including the naming of new inventions, new tools, new species and so on. There’s also the naming of the novel itself, perhaps chapters or sections.

Sidebar: if you have an issue with literalists re the Bible, just ask how could it be an actual week when the sun and moon were created on the fourth “day.”

My other point regarding the Bible is the current level of ignorance about what it says as well as the context, and if you want a fuller appreciation of Western literature, you would do well to at least read it, but better to study it. It’s essential to understanding Shakespeare. Look at Melville from the very first sentence, “Call me Ishmael.” Do you know who the biblical Ishmael was and the significance of using that particular name? (Naming again!) Melville did, but no one in a graduate level seminar I attended earlier in the year knew and missed an entire layer of meaning in the story.

One response to “Secular advice of biblical proportions”

  1. […] Sherlock, good friend and my co-author of Write to Be Heard, posted an interesting article a few weeks ago. In it, she looks to Genesis for the biblical account of creation, and finds three […]

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