"So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat." - Genesis 37: 23-25
At a writing workshop at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, our teacher, Sands Hall, gave us exercises from her book, Tools of the Writers Craft. My favorites forced me to come up with a name, a setting, an outfit and an activity.
In other words, rather than saying: "Jane was a good mom and a spiffy dresser," you could come up with other details like: "Jane dusted off the seat on a crowded city bus before laying her cashmere sweater down for her daughter to sit on, and together they spelled out the letters on the street signs they passed, making a game out of learning to read."
It's the activities and the settings that make the scene come alive for the reader. Now I notice these details when they appear in Bible stories, like the story of Joseph from Genesis 37 whose father gave him a special coat that incurred the wrath of jealous brothers.
Next time you hear a familiar Bible story, ask questions of the writer like these: Why this name, the dreamer? Why this setting, a pit? Why this activity, stripping him of his robe? Why tell us that his father gave him, and only him, that robe?
God is the great artistic creator, whose handiwork is everywhere. But it's in the details that you really see the author's care. Someone really wanted these stories to come alive. Let them.
Thank you, Great Narrator, for all the care that goes into telling me a story that I can hear, see and feel. I don't know how you do it. Amen.
Lillian Daniel's new book Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don't Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Ranting is now available for purchase, but you can hear it all for free at 1st Congregational Church of Dubuque, Iowa.