You learn new things all the time. Currently, I’m in the middle of an extended email discussion with one of the elders at my church about whether the Christian is by nature a sinner who has been saved by grace, by nature a saint who sometimes sins, or by nature both. I’m arguing for the ‘both’ idea, but I can’t come up with a short pithy phrase to express it like, ‘I’m a sinner saved by grace’ or ‘I’m a saint who sometimes sins.’ Somehow saying ‘I am both a saint and a sinner who is saved by grace and sometimes sins because my old nature keeps trying to come back to life’ just doesn’t quite cut it. Anyway, on a different subject entirely, I have a story challenge, and it’s time for my favorite story challenge. I’m going to give you a series of criteria including genre, theme, some character archetypes, etc. Your job is to write a story that includes all of the features required in the challenge. If you intend to post it here, please keep it short. However, the complexity of this challenge often requires a longer story.

Theme: Sin

Genre: Modern Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Surreal Fiction

Setting: Your choice of general genre, but this should be a realistic setting. Not necessarily ‘gritty’ or ‘dark’, but not ‘utopian’ either. Try to evoke the feel of a real, living world.

Character Archetypes:

1) The Sinner

2) The Saint

3) The Priest

4) The Addict


1) Holy Water

2) A Nightstick

3) A Brick


13 thoughts on “Story Challenge of the Week

  1. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” – sin is a condition that I cannot change as well as an act that I may or may not do. It is a choice made originally that I cannot change and the reason I need Christ. It is also a choice continually in front of me. Your answer is both, because it is both.

  2. The condemned man will be executed in the morning. Death Row has three men waiting and tension is high. The guard has called in for the priest in the middle of the night at the request of the subject of the morning’s execution, not because he is causing trouble but because he requests prayers and last rights.

    When the priest arrives the two other men begin to take turns making fun of him being there and the condemned man. One of the men who has been a heroine addict all his life and is still coming down, reaches through the bars and grabs the priest by the neck in a choke-hold. The condemned man pleads with him to let the priest go. The addict whispers obscenities in the priest’s ear. The guard intervenes with his nightstick and releases the priest. He picks up a brick from the floor and orders the addict to move to back of his cell. The addict does so, laughing and cursing.

    The priest moves on to the next cell where the condemned man is waiting. The guard unlocks the door and the priest goes in. While the man and the priest are praying aloud from the last rights saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall never die but have life eternal,” the priest then anoints the condemned mans head with Holy Water. The condemned man speaks words back to the priest of peace, faith and submission to his fate. The priest pronounces forgiveness to him of his sins. All is quite in the cell of condemned man.

    The man in the next cell has been listening. He is a man full of hatred for mankind, himself, God, a self-proclaimed Satan-Worshipper and child molester and murderer. He has always believed secretly that the condemned man in the next cell was innocent or at least not worthy of a death sentence. He wondered how it would feel to talk to a priest. He doubted the guard would allow it. How could he be forgiven? He had turned his back on God.

    The Satan-Worshipper calls the guard and asks if he may speak to the priest. The guard tells the priest and that this man is violent and will be executed in two days. The priest agrees. The guard agrees, but handcuffs and foot cuffs the man, offering the priest the brick in case anything goes wrong. The guard tells both the man and the priest he will be in the hall right outside the cell.

    The priest and the “Sinner” talk for quite a while. The man has many questions. The priest does his best to answer. The guard looks in once in a while. He sees the man on his knees. The priest is anointing him with Holy water. They are praying quietly. The priest asks the guard to remove the man’s restraints. The priest hands the brick to the condemned man. The man hands the brick through the bars of the cell to the guard. The man’s face looks different: peaceful, no anxiety, at rest.

    As the priest moves back down the hall past the addict’s cell, the addict tries again to lash out at the priest. The guard once more uses his nightstick.

    There is less tension on Death Row tonight.

    1. Myra, I like the themes in this piece. However, it lacks feeling and emotion. There’s a phrase that has been repeated to me many times, and I think it’s the key here: “show, don’t tell.” Throughout this piece you tell me what happens, and the piece reads that way: ‘this happens, and then this happens. This happens, and then this happens, then this happens. Etc.” Instead of telling me what happens, focus on presenting the piece from the perspective of one character, and get inside that person’s head. What does he feel? Why does he feel that way? How do those feelings direct his actions? What does he see in the other characters? How do their words, actions, and expressions show their own feelings?
      I’m also going to suggest writing in first person past tense rather than in third person present tense. Especially early on writing in first person is generally a lot easier than writing in third person. The first person is limiting in some ways, but it tends to be more naturally emotive and expressive. Past tense also tends to work better for fiction simply because it gives the sense of hearing a story.
      Using the present tense can potentially give your reader the sense of being part of the story, but it’s very difficult to do well, and even when done well it doesn’t always have the desired effect.
      Just some ideas :). As I said, I really like the themes and the overall idea and story that you’re trying to present!

      1. Thomas, thanks for the feedback. I understand what you are saying. I am going to try a new, longer piece in a post. Let me know what you think after you see it. I value your opinion.

          1. So sorry Tobias! I also HATE when people spell or call my name wrong! Please forgive me! I just posted a story-Three Condemned Men… please take a look: thanks

  3. Myra, I actually just need you to copy the URL of the post your story was in and put it in a comment on this thread. Sorry if I wasn’t clear about what I needed.

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