A story isn’t a telling of what happened. That’s what we call news, which is boring. The most crucial element of a story is character change. The main character must know something in the end that he or she didn’t know at the beginning (the insight), and be changed by it (the transformation).
Begin with a Concept.
The Bible describes the healing of a man born blind (John 9:1–38). Show the blind man’s struggle against religious prejudice.
Choose the Main Character.
The main character must be the one who changes. Therefore, the story cannot be about Jesus because he doesn’t change. The story could be about one of the eyewitnesses who was changed by what he saw. The greatest change is the life of the blind man, so we want to give his experience to readers.
Identify the SCOOP IT UP Elements.
To be sure we have a compelling story, we must be sure we have the important elements:
|Situation: In first-century Israel, a blind man on city streets, having to beg for a living.
Character: Tuphlos, meaning blind
Objective: Relief from condemnation.
Obstacle: Faces Jewish prejudice that all afflictions are due to sin. His condition seems to prove the hypothesis.
Plight: Will go to his grave without answers, wishing he had never been born.
Insight: Since God’s word must be true, he must not be seeing something.
Unresolved Problem: Many in his religious society do not believe.
Choose a Title.
In school I learned to create titles that told what the story was about, but a little mystery is better. The title needs to grab interest, inviting readers to find out what the story is about. Later, the title may change to something better. For now, we’ll use, “Tuphos, Man of Vision.”
Write a SCOOP IT UP Summary.
A great summary will focus on actions and descriptions that are sure to make the story compelling. SCOOP is created in two sentences, first a statement of the Situation, Character, and Objective, followed by a question with the Obstacle and Plight, which puts the outcome in doubt.
Bitter because he is not like normal men, Tuphlos wants relief from condemnation and purpose for his plight. Facing Jewish prejudice that all afflictions are due to sin, with no ability to do anything but beg, will he go to his grave wishing he had never been born?
In respect of synagogue teaching, he decides there must be something about God’s greatness he can’t see. When Jesus arrives unannounced, anoints his eyes, and he returns home, seeing, will he still be a social misfit?
Only from the View of the Main Character, Guide Readers through the Experience.
Tuphlos, Man of Vision
Tuphlos looked toward the mumbling voices and lifted his cup, waiting for the sound of a coin. Nothing. “Alms,” he cried. “Alms!” He added a tone of feigned desperation.
“Here.” Clink. The sound of a denarius. A mature male voice said, “A token of my gratitude because I am not a sinner like you.”
“God be praised.” Amid the sound of feet shuffling down the street, the smell of bleating sheep brought for sacrifice, and the cry of merchants seeking business, Tuphlos sensed the man still standing there. “I did not ask God to be my enemy.”
“Well somebody did.” The gruff voice faded and was overcome by the sound of a passing cart.
Clink. The smell of perfume.
Tuphlos smiled at the woman he couldn’t see, imagining soft hair flowing over her shoulders, her smooth skin, and her tender lips. “God be praised,” he said. The smell of her presence drifted away with the wind.
After more than thirty years, Tuphlos knew how to act and what to say to bring sympathy and alms. He couldn’t explain his plight. The Sabbath was the most profitable day because of its increased traffic in and out of the Temple. Perhaps it was also a day in which more people were thankful they weren’t blind.
Footfalls gathered around him and stopped, so many that a mob could be forming, but the silence indicated something different, as if the crowd thought it was more important to listen than to speak.
Tuphlos held out his cup, smiling, inviting alms.
“Teacher, who sinned?” a young voice asked. “This man or his parents?”
Clink. Tuphlos paid no attention to the sound of a half-shekel coin, withholding his usual response, curious what answer might follow. He had considered all possibilities and liked none of them. Even if there had been sin, were Temple sacrifices of no value? Was not God full of mercy and grace? How then was he born blind? Of all that Tuphlos couldn’t see, this answer was the most impossible.
“Neither one.” A strong voice of a man, his tone like one who had great understanding and wisdom. “His blindness is not due to sin, but was given so the works of God could be revealed in him.”
A cold ointment touched the sockets where his eyes should have been.
“Go.” The same voice—stronger—like a command that should not be ignored. “Wash in the pool of Siloam.”
Like a passing shepherd leading his flock to greener pastures, the teacher and the crowd were gone. What now should he do? Siloam. He knew the pool. With no man to lead him, getting there was another matter, and for what purpose? Only an idiot could believe he could have eyes to see. No, but he would go and wash for the hope that God would somehow be glorified.
Finish the Story
When the event is familiar to most readers, the challenge is to include plausible details beyond what they know. In SCOOP IT UP, we have defined the insight, transformation, and unresolved problem. We must now decide what actions and feelings support that premise.