Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Coming Up With A Story

One question people like to ask writers is this: How do you come up with a story?

For me, it's not that hard.  Most of my stories are describe one of two things:
Modern day people finding evidence relating to the New Testament narrative; or else I imagine the stories of the Bible we are familiar with through the eyes of someone mentioned in Scripture, but whose perspective has not been explored before.

I have three novels complete, and one more over half done.  Yet another is bouncing around in the back of my brain at the moment, waiting its opportunity to find its way to the printed page. Here is a brief description of how I came up with each of them:

THE TESTIMONIUM - a number of years back I did an Easter monologue, describing the Passion from the perspective of Pontius Pilate, who was skeptical yet unable to explain the events of the first Easter. Then, in my readings, I discovered that there was apparently a letter from Pilate to Rome at one point, describing the trial of Jesus.  Justin Martyr actually referred to it in a letter he addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius about a century after the crucifixion.  That got me thinking . . . what if a copy of that letter survived?  And what if a modern archeological dig uncovered it?  And thus THE TESTIMONIUM was born.

Several months after I completed THE TESTIMONIUM, I found myself increasingly obsessed with the character of Pilate.  Who was he?  How on earth did he anger Tiberius Caesar so badly as to be posted to Judea, despised by the Romans as the armpit of the Empire?  I had read the relevant passages in Philo and Josephus, as well as the Gospel accounts.  Suddenly Pilate's life story, interwoven with the career of Tiberius Caesar, sprang into my head - his military career, his political rise, his catastrophic encounter with young Caligula, and his exile to Judea.  Then I played it forward, imagining how the beginnings of the Christian movement must have appeared to him - and I wondered how he fared when his nemesis, Caligula, finally came to the throne.  Thus THE REDEMPTION OF PONTIUS PILATE came to be, and you will be able to read it in May.

Not long after I finished Pilate's life story, I found myself anxious to begin writing again - and also very curious as to what happened to "the Capri team" after the events of THE TESTIMONIUM.  I remembered a line from a New Testament commentary that I read - how the original manuscripts of each Gospel were referred to as the "Autographs," all of which were lost long ago.  Then I got to thinking - what if one of my friends from Capri were to discover the original manuscript of one of our Gospels - but it didn't match up to what we have today?  Hence, I wrote MATTHEW'S AUTOGRAPH.  It's due out in December.

That brings me to my current work - inspired by a commentary I read on the Gospel of Luke long ago.  The author of this commentary said that many people believe that Luke was written while Paul was awaiting trial in Rome, in order to explain the Christian movement to the Roman aristocracy who would hear his case before it went to Caesar.  The author referred to Luke and Acts as a "defense brief" for Paul, and said that perhaps "Theophilus", whom both books were dedicated to, was a high ranking Roman official who would be aiding  in Paul's defense.  That got me thinking - who was Theophilus?  And why would he defend the controversial leader of an obscure religious movement?  I gave him a name - Marcus Quintus Publius - and then began to write his story, which is entitled LOVER OF GOD. I hope to finish it by the end of this school year.

What does the future hold?  I intend to return to the adventures of the Capri team at least one more time - especially to my dear friend Father Duncan MacDonald, the Vatican archeologist, who is going to go to Egypt to excavate a newly discovered Gnostic library with a fellow scholar from England.  Unfortunately, the dig lies in territory threatened by an ISIS-like terror group.  What happens when a priest becomes a hostage?  I honestly have no idea where this one is going - but I know that I will be along for the ride!!!

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