Creative writing/editing exercise
Adapting a prototype story
Can you summarize the biblical story in 800 words? That's what we have attempted, and we offer seven versions of the story (see "Story of the World" tab).
It is likely that some of our seven versions will connect with you better than others. But none of them will be a perfect fit.
For this creative exercise, choose the version that sounds clearest and best to you. Then improve it so it sounds more like it came from you. It's a great way to engage your mind with this fantastic story.
Once you have made the story your own, show or tell your version to family or friends, and make further improvements based on their feedback.
Go for it if you are ready, or see more detailed instructions below.
What is a "prototype story"?
Each "prototype story" is one way of summarizing the biblical "story of the world" in about 800 words.
A "mini-story" is a prototype story condensed to about 100 words.
A "story of the world" is a person's story of how things are, how they got that way, and what to do about it. Everybody has a story and lives by it, whether they can consciously tell their story or not. Often they can't. A fish is the last creature that could describe water.
The SYNC "prototype stories" get the biblical story up to the conscious level so that those of us who live by it can explain it easily and let other people get in on it if they want to. You might be able to use one of our prototypes as it is, but any of the prototypes would probably work better for you if you refined it a bit for your specific situation.
You know who you are talking to. We don't. So feel free to use your expertise to adjust the prototype, and then to keep adjusting it as you try it out. No copyright restrictions.
Who adapts the prototypes, and why?
If we believe that the biblical "story of the world" is a true picture of the world we live in, we believe that God is running a campaign to heal, bless, and connect the world. Jesus is the center of it all, the spearhead of the campaign. We live in SYNC with that story by letting him integrate us into his campaign team, sharing in its purpose and its benefits.
Many other people are missing out on the benefits we enjoy because they either don't know the story, they don't see how it connects with them, or they are living by some other story they don't want to give up. We who are in SYNC with the story adapt the prototype stories in order to help other people see what they are missing.
Who wants to be out of SYNC with healing, blessing, and connection? But people can't SYNC with a rhythm they can't hear. The prototypes help them hear the rhythm and fall in love with it.
Step 1: Focusing on your audience and its readiness
As in any presentation, the presenter needs to identify his/her audience. If we do not do that well, we tell the biblical story in whatever version moved us toward Christ even if that is not the version that is most likely to move our audience. It takes a conscious effort to put their preferences above our own, but that is the only way to succeed in our adaptation of the biblical story.
If your adapted prototype story is ready but your audience isn't, you probably won't get far. Watch for these signs that your audience is ready:
If they ask about how you handled a situation, or why you did a certain thing, the prototype story is a natural answer. That's why we call them "Who Are We?" stories. They all end with a statement about how we see ourselves in Christ.
If they ask a big question like, "What is Christianity anyway?" or "Do you really believe such and such?" the prototype story gives the big picture. Caution: watch them to make sure you are not giving more detail in your prototype than they were wanting.
If they make an unfair criticism of Christians like, "Christians are so judgmental," you can say, "Those are all Christians who don't realize that the biblical story is about connecting, healing, and blessing, not judging. Would you like to hear the story they don't know? It takes about 3 or 4 minutes for me to tell it."
If they describe a pain or problem of theirs that shows they are missing out on the benefits of God's campaign, you may say, "I'm sure God doesn't want you to be feeling that. He's actually on a campaign to end that kind of feeling. Do you want to hear about it?"
If the audience is not ready but the Spirit of Jesus nudges us to use the prototype story anyway, we go ahead. It may not seem like the smartest thing to do from a human point of view, but this is not our campaign. It's God's campaign, and sometimes he wants his story told whether people look ready to us or not.
Step 2: Choosing one prototype to adapt
With your audience in mind, ask yourself which of the seven mini-stories is most likely to connect with them, and why you think so. This is a great question to explore with a friend or two or with a team if you have one. It helps you deepen your understanding of your audience.
Note: if more than one mini-story seems likely to connect, choose one to start with. Later you might decide to blend a couple of the themes into one story, but it is simpler to start with one by itself.
Step 3: Adapting your prototype (no copyright restrictions)
Move from your chosen mini-story to the full prototype story that expands it. Your goal is to own the biblical story. Put the prototype ideas into your own words, perhaps by telling the story in front of a mirror or to a friend or two. Then work on a written version, taking out anything that does not sound like you.
As you do that, keep thinking of your audience, and keep remembering that you have lots of editorial freedom. Your adapted version might be half as long or twice as long as the prototype. It might emphasize something that is glossed over in the prototype, or it might gloss over something the prototype emphasized. It might have an introduction that is not there in the prototype at all.
Keep your adaptation faithful to the biblical story as you understand it; however, watch out for one very common danger for adapters. Since we all already have a favorite way of summarizing the gospel, we tend to put all that familiar content back into our adaptation so it sounds right to us. That kills the adaptation process! It changes the story from the prototype you chose to some other prototype you may have been treating as the one and only "real" version of the gospel.
Usually this old favorite is the "Mercy" version, but for many audiences, that happens to be the version least likely to connect. Convince yourself that the other versions are just as "biblical" as that version even though they don't sound like it to you. They are not watered down. They are actually beefed up with important biblical themes that the Mercy version skips lightly over.
Step 4: Testing and refining your prototype
The prototype stories on this web site are not final versions, and your adaptation won't be final either. Try it out and keep it flexible. You might tell your version to ten people without telling it twice in exactly the same way. You might also publish a version in print, which does make it seem final. However, even then it is good to think of a second edition.
While the story can be written and read, it is really meant to be remembered and told. It need not be memorized and quoted exactly. Good storytellers can do amazing things with stories that are as good as your adapted story will be.
Learning community of prototype adapters
These prototypes are new and experimental. If you would like to be put in contact with others who chose and edited the same prototype you did, request that via the "Contact us" form in the site header. Let us know 1) which version you are adapting and 2) who you are adapting it for.
You may send us your version if you wish. We will not publish it but we will read it with fascination, and we may or may not send comments. As we become aware of adapters with interests similar to yours, we will try to put you in touch.
Why the prototypes were created
SYNC believes that the biblical story of the world is a rich multi-layered story, and that we do not do it justice when we boil it all down to one familiar theme. There are so many other ways to describe the central role of Jesus in the story of the world, and so many other ways to see ourselves as we join him in his campaign to connect, heal, and bless the world.
If we are going to take the whole gospel to the whole world, we must get beyond the "one size fits all" approach. We hope the SYNC prototype stories will encourage you to attempt that, using your own gifts as a writer, editor, or storyteller.