Story Sunday #4: The Persecutor’s Sister

And… we’re diving right in!

First I want to apologize for the post that went up on Friday. That was not supposed to happen, so I’m very sorry about it popping up in your inboxes. So sorry for any confusion that may have caused; I accidentally scheduled it for the wrong day. Oops. Thank you for understanding!

Now, I know I probably say this every Story Sunday, but I am so excited for you all to see today’s diary entry. It was the most emotional for me to write so far, and I pray it affects you the way it affected me.

Let’s get into this Story Sunday! (Can you guys believe it is already the fourth week of this series? I really hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am!)

The Details on This Week’s Writing

Number of words written: I wrote 5,398 words this week. That beats last week’s word count by 973 words. So close to beating it by 1k! I’ve decided that should really become my goal – to just focus on achieving more words than I did the previous week.

What I did: Wrapped up edits of Chapter 4 of The Apostle’s Sister. I also went back and edited the whole Chapter 2, and got through edits of half of Chapter 3.

Highlights: Chapters 3 and 4 are honestly the toughest for me to write – Chapter 3 probably a little tougher, but 4 comes in at a close second. I think I’ve discussed this in previous Story Sundays. Chapter 3 is tough because there’s so much action, and I have to somehow fill that action with intense emotion – there’s an especially difficult scene in that chapter that leaves me gasping for breath after working on it! Chapter 4 is tough just because there’s so much emotion and not too much action; I have to keep things compelling and engaging. And keep readers on the edge of their seats, of course!

Any profound thoughts? I reflected on a couple things this week:

1. I am strongly convinced that I want my story to be for everyone; I want to reach as many as I can regardless of who they are. Through reaching as many as I can, I want people to know that in God’s world we are all one human race. (If that makes sense.) I want to share what I know about Jesus. It saddens me that there are harmful, untrue ideas of God out there, and many of them taught by Christians. Through my writing, I want people to know that God is not unkind or unmerciful, he is the most loving and tender face and voice and hand and complete being we could ever know.

2. I learned a something new about the craft of writing that I want to share with you guys. I have known it before, but scarcely put it to practice. I’m sure all you writers have experienced that feeling of hearing and even repeating advice but not understanding it, and then when you do understand it, it’s amazing! The new piece of writing advice I took to heart, and hope that you will too, is:

  • Don’t think of what you want your characters to do or think or say, think of what they in reality would do or think or say. If you focus on what you want to happen in order to make the plot advance, they will end up taking action that is contrary to their characters and development. This will not advance the plot like you want, but will slow it down. Instead, take time to think about what your characters would do that is in line with the arc and development and personality you’ve mapped out for them. If you force them to do things that don’t make sense for them, readers will notice.

And here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for! (I’m pretty sure I say that every Story Sunday, too.)

Paul’s horror and regret over his past caused him far more pain than his scourge-inflicted scars or thorn in the flesh or deadly starvation or any of that. His shame was overwhelming, and though he knew God had forgiven him, he was never able to forgive himself.

On Story Sunday Survey #3, the majority voted for a diary entry from Temira about Paul’s past persecuting the church. Great choice, everyone! For me, one of the most interesting parts of writing The Apostle’s Sister is exploring how Paul’s sister would have viewed and thought of his sinful, Christian-killing past. Was he degraded in her eyes because of it? Was she disappointed? Angry? Sad? Or did she recognize the pain of Paul’s guilt and grieve over that? I definitely believe she would not have been indifferent.

And as for Paul, I definitely believe the horror and regret over his past caused him far more pain than his scourge-inflicted scars or thorn in the flesh or deadly starvation or any of that. His shame was overwhelming, and though he knew God had forgiven him, he was never able to forgive himself. It’s so interesting and emotional to portray in the novel, especially through Temira’s eyes.

I really hope the following diary entry conveys that emotion.

Today I met another sister – a sister in the faith and a sister of another godly man.

In the late afternoon I came up the path to meet Paul – he had gone into the hills alone the previous day, as is his custom; I think he does it to reflect. Seth, contrary to his usual disposition, was very irritable this day due to a slight fever he had caught. Fever, even a tiny case, makes me afraid despite Luke’s practical advice. There are still many things for which a sister needs her brother; raising a child is one of them. Even carrying my disgruntled son turned out to be an ordeal. I set him on my hip and called to Paul in gratitude.

When he limped to us, I saw he was exhausted; his eyes were bloodshot. I, confused because it appeared he had not ascertained any of his usual peace, said he needn’t do anything about Seth. But he took the child’s weight laboriously and patted Seth to soothe him. It worked; Paul has a clever way with his nephew which I do not have.

I must admit I was quite alarmed when I noticed, not from afar, the woman watching us. When she realized I had noticed, she at first appeared on the verge of flight, but with a great effort she turned and cried out:

“My lord!”

Paul turned sharply, the color draining from his face. To lighten his burden, I took Seth, who did not take kindly to the change of arms. I stood and watched the exchange with a hint of wariness. I am not unused to people searching out my brother or calling him lord, but I admit again that I’m wary of their capabilities. I remember believing that slave girl’s masters desired to hear the Word, when in the end they were the cause of a flogging from the magistrates and a night contorted within stocks.

I don’t remember much from this incident I’m trying to make sense of, but I do remember how it made me feel.

The woman rushed forward and fell at Paul’s feet. He stepped away from her with an unreadable expression, and after a long moment she straightened.

She held a small boy by the hand. He did not appear much older than Seth, whom I set down when he pushed against my shoulder. The age of those lads ensured they made friends quickly. Paul watched them sadly, the stranger with an appearance of joy.

Paul and the woman spoke, he saying next to nothing, she saying everything. He had healed her son, Ezra, of epilepsy, but disappeared before she could thank him.

“My lord, you delivered him from death.”

“Do not call me your lord.” That was about the only thing I recall Paul saying during all of it.

“You knew who I was, didn’t you?” she whispered.

He closed his eyes and turned his back on her. Still he said nothing out loud, but I saw his lips form the words. Dear God, I did.

I realized I should not be watching and turned away, until the woman called me to her. I came, but was in a daze as she spoke to me. I caught only a few things.

“You are the sister of my lord; take care of your brother. That is what my brother would have wanted. He is a good man. Pray a blessing over him every day, and thank him.”

I stammered that I would, glancing toward Paul, who had turned his face.

I watched the other sister go, something choking my throat. She had watched her brother die – at the hands of my brother. God, I prayed, would that I could forgive like her! I have watched Paul through torturous hours, all the while cursing those who had pierced him.

Seth, disconsolate again, went to Paul for comfort and tugged at his arms; Paul did not respond. I didn’t need to say anything to him. He would not even look me in the face. His eyes were filled, and we watched as he left us.

Seth had forgotten his fever. That was the first time he has ever seen Paul weep. I took his hand and led him aside. He wanted to know who the woman was.

“Someday when you are older,” I said, “your Uncle Paul will tell you.”

In the evening I pulled aside the drapery and looked in on my brother, who was speaking softly to Seth while our child rested in his lap.

“Do not become like me. Promise me that.”

“Why?” came the inquiry.

“You are far too beloved to me for that. A child loves one he does not know,” Paul said with some bitterness in his voice. “You will know me, Seth, soon enough.”

In his innocence, Paul’s child nodded.

But I. I made a promise to her.

I really hope you guys enjoyed that. I was greatly moved while writing it. It made Paul’s past and the terrible effect it had on him so vivid.

I’m going to start adding a Discussion Question to each Story Sunday, and welcome you guys to answer it in the comments below. Of course, you are absolutely not obligated to, but I would love to hear your thoughts if you did want to answer it! I want you guys to be involved in this writing journey right alongside me.

Discussion Question for today: How do you think Seth will feel when he is finally told about his uncle’s past?

And HERE is Story Sunday Survey #4!

Make sure to let me know how you are all doing! I love hearing from y’all, whether it’s about writing or life in general.

You know the drill – eat, pray, write, repeat!

JC

12 thoughts on “Story Sunday #4: The Persecutor’s Sister

Add yours

  1. Hello Joy! Oh good job on all those words! That was an awesome and moving diary entry! It really gave an insight to not just Temira’s character, but Paul and Seth as well. That’s a great idea about the discussion questions, and to answer this one, I would say that Seth will look at Paul differently for a little while, and will never forget about it. But our past does not define us.
    As for life, pretty good. A lot of really good things happened to me last week, as well as some bad, but I’m looking forward to the days ahead. I have also been really striving to be more productive.
    The writing world has been kinda slow, but I only have maybe a weeks worth of plot work( if I’m productive enough) ahed before I can get back to actually writing. How about you?

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    1. Thank you, Trixie! I’m really glad you thought the diary entry was moving. Personally I think it was the most emotional Story Sunday so far.
      I agree with your thoughts. I mean, hearing that one of your parents has a violent past isn’t something that will just be touched on and then forgotten. And yes – amen! our past does not define us.
      Life is up-and-down for me too, but thankfully many more ups than downs. Ah, productivity is an awesome goal!
      I’m doing heavy edits on the first chapters of TAS and thinking through something in the plot that may need to be changed. The second draft has drastic changes to go through that will make it better than the first!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your welcome! Definitely!
        Thank you! Amen!
        That’s great about the ups! Productivity has been working out pretty well.
        Ok cool! Yeah same for my second draft too! Hope you can keep writing!

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  2. 5,398 words is amazing! Every word counts. That’s my goal, too. To write more than I did last week. I’m aiming to get in at least one thousand a night. Probably won’t happen, but it’s something to shoot for.

    Yes! We are all one race! I am so tired of hearing people with differing amounts of melanin called different races. Like a certain skin color makes you a different type of being. You don’t hear dogs being called different races because some are brown, black, or white, or longhaired or shorthaired.

    Your writing tip is excellent. We need to be in our characters’ minds (as much as we can be), instead of writing them from an “outside” perspective. If we don’t understand our characters, neither will the reader.

    Love the diary entry. So much emotional conflict, from Temira’s struggle with believing herself adequate in caring for Seth (least, that’s how it seems to me), to Paul’s obvious internal struggle and despair. Memories are dangerous, and can be used both as weapons and healing. Something I think Satan has quite the time of it with. Reminding us of things we’ve been forgiven for, encouraging us to ruminate on past failures and embrace the lie that what we’ve done could strip salvation from us, and that God’s love will eventually run out.

    For the Discussion Question… I think Seth would feel a myriad of emotions. Doubt, because he’ll practically have grown up seeing Paul as a godly role model. Shock and being stunned, because how could such a thing be possible? Anger, for when he discovers it is indeed real. And a sense of betrayal, because he’ll think he’s been lied to all this time.

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    1. Oh my goodness, so many excellent thoughts. You don’t know how many times I nodded or gasped while reading this comment!

      First of all, thanks for the encouragement! One of my friends is actually doing a “1k a day” challenge. It is pretty tough but always worth going for!

      Such a good analogy. Being biracial I’ve kind of seen both sides of the equation, and in the end I don’t see how it matters what color a person is. And thanks again! Writing from an “outside” perspective is a great way to put it.

      Yes, today’s entry was definitely packed with emotional conflict. I love reading your analysis! I didn’t know if anyone would notice that part, but yes, it was intentional that I slipped in how Temira still has doubts although it’s been quite a while since she pledged herself to Seth. So incredibly true. Throughout my novel, of course Paul is faithful, but his past is really inescapable to him. He can never stop thinking about it and wondering when revenge will come to him.

      True, true, so true on all accounts. Seth’s feelings would be just like we would feel if we were to find out that one of our caretakers was literally a serial killer at one point. (That sentence is worded kind of weird, sorry lol.) So intense. I definitely need to do some intense plotting on that part of the novel.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. VERY BEAUTIFUL diary entry!!!!! Like Allie said, it was very powerful!! Great writing tip! Sooooo true to stay in the character’s head. I actually had forgotten that tip, so thanks for bringing it back to mind. 😂 <33 I think Seth will probably be mostly shocked but I know in the end, he wouldn't let it change how much he loves Paul.

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  4. Awesome tip about sticking to what the characters would do and think!!!! I definitely needed that reminder!🙂 Thank you so much for sharing it!!!!!!!<3 Also, that diary entry was SO BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!💗💗💗 I LOVE IT!!!!!!! Truly!!!<333 It was sooo touching!!!!! Ooh, I really like the discussion questions!!! Hmm, I think that if Seth already has a high idea of Paul, then when he finds out about Paul's past he might go into shock. Ya know? 'Cause he's not expecting Paul to have a horrible past. Those are my thoughts anyway. 🙂 GREAT STORY, JC!!!!!!!<3<3

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    1. Thanks, Katherine! I continuously need that reminder.
      Oh, that means a lot to me. I was hoping it would be moving to read, since it was moving to write.
      YES. I concur. It is shocking (understandably) when you discover the worst-case scenario about an adult you’ve put on a pedestal your whole life. Great thoughts!

      Like

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