Ever told a great joke you just heard, only to find it’s not quite as funny when it leaves your lips?
Telling Bible stories feels a lot like that. The Bible is the Greatest Story Ever Told– it’s the most influential story in Western culture– it’s the bestselling story each year, every year. And it’s the divinely inspired story that’s changed the lives of millions of people.
How do you tell a story like that?
The short answer is, with a generous dose of humility. It’s a challenge that keeps us on our feet. But it’s a thrilling challenge, because we believe that mobile devices like the iPad and iPhone provide exciting opportunities to present the Bible to children in new and interactive ways.
When writing stories, our most important concern is remaining faithful to the Bible. We want to make the Bible exciting and accessible to children, but never at the cost of straying from the Bible’s truth.
In this post, I’m going to give you a peek at our story writing process. Before we set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), there are several questions we ask ourselves:
- How long should this story be?
- What’s the story’s central theme?
- Are there parts of this story that will be difficult for children?
User testing has shown us that 20 to 24 pages is a sweet spot for our target audience. But some Bible stories are more action-packed than others, and sometimes, 24 pages aren’t enough to tell everything that happened.
For instance, our upcoming adventure, Bible Heroes: Esther has too many details to comfortably fit into an app of 24 pages. Rather than cram in every last plot point, we identified the central theme of the story that we wanted to emphasize: that God had a purpose for making Esther queen, and that Esther had to trust in His plan, despite her fears. Once we clarified the theme, it was easy to see that cutting Mordecai’s subplot (where he foils an assassination attempt on King Xerxes and how he is subsequently honored by King Xerxes at the expense of Haman’s dignity) would strengthen Esther’s story.
Next we pore over the story, identifying details that may be unsuitable for young children. Do we mention that Haman and his ten sons were impaled on poles? Or how do we deal with Potiphar’s wife attempting to seduce Joseph? Answers don’t always come easily, but we avoid explicit illustrations and descriptions, while remaining faithful to the Bible and all its glorious dramas and truths.
Finally, we begin the actual writing. Our process is iterative and collaborative. Our writer is responsible for each draft and for the final wording decisions, but everyone on the team is encouraged to offer their perspective and help ensure that the story is accurate and engaging.
I hope you enjoyed this peek into our writing process. Next up, we’ll look at the illustration and narration process!
This is the 2nd part in our Development Cycle series. For the first part, click here.