Writers are asked all the time where they get ideas for their stories, or how do we come up with names for our characters. The answers to those questions vary from one author to the next. One time a lady asked me how I know what to title my stories. The truth is many times the publisher will change the title, so when authors are working on a story, we usually give it a working title, knowing there is a chance it might get changed.
For the past few years, I’ve taken a different approach to titling my stories. Once I have a basic idea for a story line, and I am acquainted with my characters, I need to understand where my characters are in their relationship with God. At that point, I like to study and develop the spiritual arc for my characters. Those people who are telling this story have challenges and goals, and they encounter conflicts along the way. But I don’t have a Christian story if my characters are not affected by scripture, and if they don’t experience spiritual growth. So very early in the development of any new story idea, a specific scripture will emerge from my studying and present itself as the basis for the spiritual theme of my story.
A few years back, I wrote Hope’s Dwelling Place (Sundays in Fredericksburg collection), and my characters were both on a quest to find a spiritual home as well as a physical one. So I centered on Ephesians 2:19-22, and focused on verse 22: “…in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Thus the title: Hope’s Dwelling Place.
Last year, my novella A Shadow In The Daytime (A Place of Refuge collection), was based on the theme from Isaiah 4:6. “And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge…” Both of my characters were dealing with the aftermath of the Great War in Europe (1917-1918) and longed for the peace and protection only God can give.
I just finished a novella entitled I Am The Clay (Unlikely Pursuits collection). My characters are struggling with whether or not God can use them. My hero feels unworthy, broken, and scarred. My heroine is determined to prove she has merit and value—but her focus is misplaced, as she is trying to prove herself to her earthly father instead of her heavenly Father. Both learn that …as the clay is in the potter’s hands, so am I in God’s hands (Jeremiah 18:1-6)
My current story has the working title My Soul Waits, a title I took from Psalm 62:5-6: “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.” My characters are at crossroads in their lives, searching for direction and wondering what lies around the bend in the road. The hero is embarking on a new chapter in his life, but wishes to do so without damaging his testimony—a goal that is in danger because of his father’s plans. My heroine finds herself in a predicament of accidental independence and seeks to pursue her own dreams—but circumstances give her reason to doubt those dreams.
I have another story proposal on the back burner entitled In Due Season. This story will spotlight a hero and heroine who parted years ago and come together again. But picking up where they left off isn’t easy after the passage of so much time and so many hurtful circumstances. The spiritual thread in this story comes from Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
Letting scripture supply a story title is a practice I’ve found both exciting and challenging. I love the way God speaks through His word, but I also believe I cannot incorporate that word into a title unless I endeavor to put into practice what the scripture teaches. So it’s not only a creative moment, it’s a time of learning and growing for the author as well.