I was supposed to go meet with the producer who optioned my book for film last weekend, but I had a plot twist of my own. If you haven’t heard yet, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Needless to say, this came as a bit of a shock, and you can read about it here if you want, but the truth is that we all have to go through a “hero’s journey” in life. That’s what makes fiction ring true.
We know life isn’t as simple as letting us face one problem at a time, so authors give stories plot layers.
We know people around us are on journeys of their own, so authors create subplots.
And I believe all this knowledge about how to be a good author can also teach me something about what I’m about to go through and why I can trust God as the Author of Life.
When I plot a book, I start out with life as normal. The character has a goal of wanting to go from Point A to Point B on a straight path, and they could…if nothing got in their way. But how boring would that be? Say Luke Skywalker’s aunt and uncle agreed to let him join the rebellion at the beginning of Star Wars. He would’ve just been another pilot.
Something has to happen in a story to veer the main character off an easy path or there’s no story. It’s called “a call to action” or the “inciting incident.” This is when the hero has to make a decision to keep pursuing their dream despite obstacles.
Author Bill Myers describes the writer’s job as putting a wall in the character’s way. The character climbs over the wall and thinks he’s back on the easy path toward his goal. Then the author puts an even bigger wall in front of him. The character’s progress looks kinda like this:
In real life, when we climb over one wall, we think God is answering our prayer. Then things get even worse, and we’re like, “What the heck, God?”
But good authors know the secret to God’s storytelling success. We know each of these obstacles are going to lead to a moment when all hope seems lost. That’s called the “climax” or the “black moment.” Here’s the secret: The darker the black moment, the more powerful the resolution.
Authors must craft these black moments. Not because we’re mean, but because we want our characters to grow. The nice thing is that we provide them with everything they need to survive.
I plot each one of my stories in a way that ONLY the hero I create can possibly overcome their black moment. I give them the exact gift they need for victory. Luke Skywalker has the Force. Lightning McQueen has his speed. In You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan’s character had a gift of writing that she never pursued until pushed out of her comfort zone, and it was actually her writing that brought her together with Tom Hanks.
I believe God does this for us too. We are each given the exact gifts we need to overcome dark moments in our lives. The trick is that we often don’t realize we have this gift because our greatest strength can also be our greatest weakness when used immaturely. The gift God has given us could very well be what got us into trouble in the first place, so we might be scared of using it. For example…
Think of Joseph in the Bible. He had the gift of dreams. Bragging about his dreams got him thrown into a pit and sold as a slave. But it was also his ability to understand dreams that made him, and only him, able to save his life, his family, and an entire nation.
I’ve been through a journey before. About ten years ago my first husband left me. It was very hard and very painful, but as I look back, I can see that I traveled this exact same road. There was even one specific moment where everything was going wrong THEN IT GOT WORSE. I shook my fist at heaven and said, “I’m ONTO you! You are giving me a black moment so one day I will have a powerful story of overcoming.”
And here I go again. Five months of chemotherapy start next Wednesday.
I don’t share this so you can feel sorry for me. Honestly, some of you are probably facing worse journeys than breast cancer right now.
Rather, I tell you this so you too can look at your journey with the perspective of an author and the confidence of knowing you are prepared to face your black moment.
My gift of writing helps me overcome, but the Bible tells us ALL to share our stories. “Tell your story—what the master did, how he had mercy on you” (Mark 5:18). I believe this is especially important during Thanksgiving. Let’s focus on the beauty of how God provided in the midst of trial.
So, here’s what I have for you. Share a snippet of your story with me below and be entered to win an audio download of my debut novel, Finding Love in Sun Valley. (Which incidentally talks about a character with cancer.)
Let’s give thanks by celebrating each other’s victories.
What’s your story of overcoming?
Author’s Note: For anyone interested in learning more about writing the hero’s journey, you can watch my video class here.