Plotting 201. Faith Points.
by Christina Sinisi
I’ve been writing my whole life and am now in my 50s. While I only published my first novella last year, I’ve studied the craft for decades. In the early years of my writing fiction, I was a pantser—someone who wrote by the seat of her pants and let the muse take me where it would. Over the years, however, I found that I did much better at NOT getting stuck in the mire of the middle if I at least plotted the overall story line and created a GMC for each of my characters. For this blog, I’m going to focus on what I call faith points.
I especially love a story board and wanted to share that technique with aspiring writers. I am indebted to Alexandra Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks for Authors as well as many other workshop presenters whose words are imprinted on my brain even if some of their names are faded from my memory.
Start by gathering white, blank notecards and taping them onto a display board that you might buy for a child’s science project. On the left, in bold letters, post Act 1, in the middle Act 2 Parts 1 and 2, and on the right Act 3. I have a picture and more detail on my own blog found at www.christinasinisi.com. Using different colored post-it-notes to represent the different threads—pink for the heroine (yes, stereotypical, but easy), blue for the hero, red or black for the villain (if you have one, if not, the antagonist or source of conflict), yellow for plot points, rose for the romance, and if you’re writing inspirational, purple for the faith points.
Just as both the hero and heroine need to have a romance arc—where they start off not in love and work their way to a commitment of some form—each requires a struggle with their faith that goes from weaker to stronger by the end of the book. If you’re writing a novella, only one of the characters really has time for this development. The other main character should, in my opinion, be strong in the faith and help the other person reach a point of trust in the Lord.
If you’re writing a full-length of novel, however, in the inspirational market, both the hero and heroine could face a crisis of faith along with the main story and the romance. So, yes, writing this kind of novel is harder in a way. Not only do we need a story, but there needs to be a romance and faith growth. There are many ways we humans can struggle with our faith—I teach a Psychology of Religion class and the research discusses this in terms of conversion. A person can go from no faith to a faith. An individual could go from a lukewarm faith all her life to a passion for Jesus. An individual could go from a strong faith and then something terrible happens or maybe a lot of small challenges and loses his or her faith. The Long Dark Night of the Soul could, in truth, be the terrible thing that drives this person back to his faith because he can’t survive without the Lord. Then, he prays and/or reads his bible or talks to a spiritual leader or another person of strong faith and comes out on the other side. To experience the Joy of connecting with our Savior.
Authors need to intentionally put their characters in situations where their faith will be tested because we humans face situations where our faith is tested. We live through these characters for a short time, and hopefully strengthen our faith as they do theirs. Hopefully, we laugh and love along the way, but iron strengthens iron. If the best way to write a story is by purposefully planning the main points of the action, we cannot give the faith development less effort.
By Christina Sinisi
When Tiffany Marano’s high school sweetheart drove off to join the Marines and never looked back, she swore off men. Now, she’s content to teach at Summer Creek, South Carolina’s local elementary school, lead a Sunday school class, and spend weekends with her niece—until Nick Walsh suddenly reappears wearing a wedding ring and with a daughter in tow. Everything about Tiffany’s calm, quiet life is now one disordered mess.
Nick Walsh comes face to face with Tiffany after all these years, and sparks fly. But not the happy glittering kind, because each of them thinks the other responsible for their estrangement. Before they can work it out, though, Tiffany’s sister disappears. Left with custody of her niece and forced to work with new police detective Nick to find her sister, old feelings begin to resurface. As they start to unravel the truths that left them confused and apart for too long, Nick must learn to let go of his past. But can Tiffany let go of her fear and learn to trust that God isn’t the only one who won’t abandon her?
Want to read more?
You can find Christmas Confusion at Amazon.
About the Author
A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christina Sinisi writes stories about families, both the broken and blessed. Her works include a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and the American Title IV Contest where she appeared in the top ten in the Romantic Times magazine. American Title IV Contest where she appeared in the top ten in the Romantic Times magazine. Her published books include The Christmas Confusion and the upcoming Sweet Summer, the first two books in the Summer Creek Series. By day, she is a psychology professor and lives in the LowCountry of South Carolina with her husband and two children and loves a good cooking challenge.