what makes a story good

It’s the part of my story I’ve often wished didn’t exist.

It’s the part of another’s story I’ve often wondered about.

It’s that part of our stories that most of us, at some time or another, would want to wish away.

A story has the following five elements: the setting, characters, plot, and theme.

Oops. That’s only 4. I forgot one.

It’s the one we’d usually like to forget. It’s called:

“Conflict”.

Yep. That’s it. A good story has a conflict.

Imagine a story without it.

What would be the point, for example, if Cinderella weren’t a maid in rags, treated indifferently, scorned and isolated by her family? Would the ending be as meaningful?

What if Frodo didn’t have to endure an arduous personal and external battle to fight the temptation of evil in the Lord of the Rings? Would there be a story?

Or, what about Charles Wallace against the “It” in A Wrinkle in Time?

Think about your own favorite story, and name it’s conflict. A good story has a conflict… and a character who overcomes.

That’s how the pastor began, by talking about a good story and the element of “conflict” in such a story.

And he went on to talk about a love that overcomes, based on 1 John and 2 John.

On the continuum from infancy to maturity–

infancy_________________________________________maturity

there is conflict in between.

I imagine myself as a dot somewhere on the above line, moving from infancy toward maturity. The conflicts help propel, push, me to maturity. It would be a slower ride without the conflict, without the odds that push me forward.

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The trials produce in us perseverance, and perseverance does a work in us: maturity, completeness. “Not lacking anything”. Not lacking anything. In other words… this conflict which I’d wish would stop, is going to result in me not lacking anything? 

That’s what scripture says. Truth is, I’d like to get there now. I’d like to skip the conflict and just get to the completeness. But I guess I can’t, I have to go through the conflict to get to the end result–no short-cuts; indeed the conflict itself *is* the short-cut, if you will.

It would be like Frodo skipping entire episodes of the journey.

Scripture also says:

16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. –Romans 8:16-18

The suffering and conflicts we endure can’t compare to the glory that is to be revealed. Can’t compare. Can’t compare!  The trials which can be so consuming, painful… can’t compare!

Oh, wow… sometimes, I just need to know that, be reminded… again. Of what is coming. Something incomparable, something beautiful is coming.

I love beautiful.

Don’t you?

We know the beginning of our stories, and we know there will be conflict, Jesus tells us we will have it:

33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

We are guaranteed trials, but also guaranteed the overcomer has won. We are offered both conflict and victory in one sentence. In the stories I read, I wait in suspense to see if and how the character will overcome his trials. But in this story, God’s story, Jesus tells us we’ll have trials, but that we can have peace with him and that he has overcome the world.

We are all stories in the making, with conflicts of varying kinds. We walk through seasons of conflict and struggle. We have an enemy that is always after us, trying to deceive and trap us, tempt us, taunt us.

But, we know the story begins, and how it ends. And as we walk through these trials, we  experience deep character development on the journey.

It doesn’t mean the story is easy. In fact, the story is often extremely difficult and painful, often excruciatingly so.

But, conflict?

It makes a story good.

And God said… all that He does and makes– it is all good.

***

What conflict are you experiencing, dear friends? What conflict? How deep? That’s how good your story is, friends, that’s how good, even better.

***

Sharing with the following friends:

Jen at Finding Heaven:

Laura at The Wellspring:

Michelle at Hear it on Sunday/Use it on Monday:

KD Sullivan at Painting Prose:

JourneyTowardsEpiphany

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11 thoughts on “what makes a story good

  1. This reminds me of the pain of childbirth. No one wants to go through that pain, but if we don’t, our beautiful baby won’t be born. Conflict certainly isn’t fun or easy, but with Christ–the “Author” of our Faith–we have a beautiful story to live. Great thoughts and post!

    1. I like the analogy you make to the pain of childbirth.
      We do indeed have a beautiful story to live… a beautiful perspective to maintain during trials.

  2. I love to learn other people’s stories…it makes me push myself to think about my own, which I often dismiss.

    As for the conflict, yikes where do we start? Most of the conflict I’m having these days seems to be with myself.

  3. I think I war with myself a lot, too, like Amy. And then there are the ones with my kids and my husband. But in a lot of ways, I feel like those conflicts make us all better and more well-known. I feel more pliable,more willing to surrender more of myself after God brings us through.

    1. I love what you share about conflicts making us more known, more pliable, more willing to surrender to God. Thank you, Jen, for sharing that insight, I find it helpful. :)

  4. You’ve highlighted two of my favorite stories here! I hate the conflict in my own life, but you are right! The beautiful ending can only come as a result of walking through the valley of conflict. What a wonderful perspective. This is one blog post I never want to forget! Thank you.

  5. I am struggling with the idea that suffering brings growth. I just love an easy life so much more! But slowly (oh so slowly) I am beginning to be open to the idea that HE is at work in the not so fun times – like the conflict times. Thanks for inspiring! Joy

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