Friday, July 3, 2009

Getting Your Readers' Attention: Do This (3 of 5)

The next question from Andy Stanley’s pod cast deals with application. In teaching a Bible study, preaching a sermon or just speaking to potential book buyers, application is very important. We want people to take some kind of action, either change something in their lives or write out a check to pay for a book. But that’s non-fiction. What about fiction?

What do they need to do?

Jesus often taught using stories. He told of a traveler who was attacked along the road. As he lay there dying, two men respected by the men Jesus was speaking to looked at him and went on, not wanting to be bothered, but then a man despised by the Jews came and helped the man, even going above and beyond what was required. Turn from being self-righteous and pursue true righteousness, was the application, but Jesus didn’t say that in so many words. Instead, he revealed the application through contrast. You think you are righteous, but you aren’t even as good as a Samaritan is what he implied. They were fighting words that would have incited them.

In our stories, we show people what they need to do by example or by elimination. Before we do that, we must know what they need to do. Our stories describe a situation that is somehow similar to one our readers have experienced or have seen. Previously, we addressed the questions of what they need to know and why they need to know it. Basically, we are telling our readers about a situation they may face and we are making recommendations on how they should handle that situation. To do that we have to have some idea of what they need to do. What action are we going to raise to a pinnacle and tell the reader that he should strive for that? What action are we going to imply the reader should avoid?

We do this by rewarding the good and punishing the bad. We might write a story about a vigilante, for example. If our theme is that we shouldn’t take the law into our own hands, we might show our character doing this, along with the problems it causes. We might also show a character who does the right thing and is rewarded in the end. We can’t just tell the reader what to do, but we can reveal it through the actions of our characters.

Next time, Why do they need to do it?