Using the Bible for Writing Ideas
Dwayne Phillips commented on my post How to Generate Hundreds of Writing Ideas to say:
I find lots of short story ideas in the Bible. As someone once said, “The copyright has expired, so you are in no danger.”
I agree that the Bible can be a very rich source of ideas. This doesn’t just apply to fiction writers – a blogger could adapt a Biblical parable as an anecdotal-style part of a blog post, for instance.
Christian Fiction is a big market, with expanded versions of Bible stories and novels based on Christian themes, but that’s not what I’m focusing on here. This article is about finding inspiration from the Bible for your own writing, whether or not you’re a Christian.
Ideas from Bible characters
The Bible is full of fascinating characters. Some are heroic, others are villains, and many occupy the intriguing grey area in between – good men who do something awful (Moses, who kills a man; Peter, who denies knowing Jesus) or cowards whose find courage (Jonah, who tries to run away from God).
If you struggle to come up with characters for your fiction, why not pick one of the people in the Bible? Here are some to start you off:
Peter (one of the disciples) – hot-headed and impulsive but truly loved Jesus
Judas (the disciple who betrayed Jesus) – interesting for any story about a traitor within a close-knit group
Paul (wrote many of the letters in the New Testament) – radical conversion to a cause he’d formerly hated
Daniel & friends (Book of Daniel, in the Old Testament) – sticking to what they believe despite persecution and death threats
One interesting fiction idea would be to use some of these characters in a modern day setting. I loved this article on If Bible Characters kept blogs… You could also try writing Facebook profiles for different characters.
There’s a list of famous Bible characters here.
Ideas From Parables
In the Gospels, Jesus tells lots of parables to His disciples and to various crowds. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “Parable” as “a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle”.
You can find a list of Jesus’s parables here.
So how could you use them?
Rewrite a parable in a modern-day setting
If you have a Christian background, you’ll probably have seen a few sketches in Church which involve a parable updated to a modern-day setting (The Good Samaritan is a popular one for this).
Try taking one of the parables and setting it in a modern inner city, or a high-tech office.
A twist on this is to update the parable and also change the ending – this can be very effective if your readers will be familiar with the parable and will think they know what’s coming.
Use a parable’s plot as the basis of a longer story
Some parables could easily be expanded and developed into full-length short stories – even novels. Ones I think would work well for this are:
- The Unmerciful Servant (a servant is forgiven a lot of debt, but then demands repayment from a fellow servant who only owes him a little). You could try writing this as a tale-with-a-twist short story, perhaps leading the reader to expect that the servant would be merciful.
- The Prodigal Son (a young man demands his share of the inheritance, lives an extravagant life until the money runs out, ends up destitute and returns home to his father). This would be great for a coming-of-age story of character change.
- The Wicked Husbandmen (the people entrusted to take care of a vineyard kill the servants who’ve come to collect the harvested fruit, then kill the owner’s son). This could be a thriller or crime story.
If you’ve used the Bible for inspiration in your writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, tell us about it in the comments…