I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Ultimate Storyteller

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the first annual Inland Northwest Christian Writers conference in Spokane, Washington. The general sessions, with keynote speaker Jim Rubart, were inspiring, and the workshops offered valuable information. Since sharing the 40+ pages of notes I took at the conference isn’t very practical, I decided to share some of the information from just one workshop.

Sitting with the Master” was presented by Mick Silva, former acquisitions editor for WaterBrook Multnomah and current freelance consultant and editor. Mr. Silva’s workshop gave me a new perspective on storytelling by reminding me about the Master Storyteller.

God could’ve focused on the mechanics of His creation and His plan, but instead he used story. The Bible isn’t just a bunch of utilitarian information, it is a beautiful love story, and like His father, Jesus valued beauty. He taught in stories. Parables actually; 46 of them. He was the ultimate storyteller.

Here are the 5 things we can learn from The Master Storyteller about writing:

1.) He made truth visible: “God came to dwell with His people because of His great love for them.” This was the message Jesus brought, and it was so important that He used storytelling to convey it.

2.) He deeply understood metaphor: A metaphor is a word picture that carries a deeper truth. Jesus used everyday items, common to the people, to teach them deeper spiritual truths using metaphorical illustrations.

3.) He was a true observer: Jesus watched and listened to people to reveal the deeper truth. He didn’t officially begin His ministry until well into adulthood, giving Him plenty of time to study human nature.

4.) He knew his audience: Jesus came to seek and save the lost. His audience was the lost, and His message was salvation.

5.) He knew God and Scripture: The foundation of all of his most compelling stories was Scripture. He often slipped away to pray. He looked to His father for strength and for direction.

As followers of Christ, we should seek to be like Him. As writers, we can seek to be like Him and write stories that further His message. As we hone our craft and tell our stories, we must follow His example, especially when it comes to our source for inspiration. We need to spend time listening to our Father. We must turn off distractions and “seek the source,” and He will show up.

And if we listen to Him, He will help us to know Him, to know our audience, and to make the truth visible to them. Thank you, Mr. Silva, for the awesome workshop!

By the way, next year’s conference is already on the books. It will be held on Saturday, March 17, and possibly some Friday night activities will be added as well. The keynote speaker will be Tracie Peterson, so get it on your calendar right now, and plan to be in Spokane, Washington in March, 2012!

~Heidi Larson Geis


  1. In one of my college courses, we studied Jesus as the Ultimate Teacher to help us learn how to teach. In reality, teaching is storytelling. One point which has stuck with me is to teach the unknown by starting with the known. The same can be applied to storytelling. Start with something familiar to explain something new.

    Thank you for these reminders. In all the do's and don'ts of writing, it is good focus on the Perfect Storyteller!

  2. What great insight! I'm sure I would have really enjoyed the whole presentation. But you are right - Jesus is the greatest storyteller.
    Thanks for sharing what you learned with us!

  3. Oh, Heidi, I wish I could have attended with you! I desire to write books that will give glory to God and point people to Jesus. Thanks for sharing a great message.

  4. Wow, Heidi--are you willing to condense what's left of the 40 pages of your notes? I learned so much from what you shared today!!

  5. Beautiful post, Heidi! Sounds like you had a terrific conference. I'm so glad you had the opportunity to go. God has big plans for you, my friend.

  6. What a great reminder of how Jesus related to those around him. He told stories that people could relate to and that applied to their situation. The good Samariton, the prodigal, the woman who lost a coin and searched and searched for it...thanks Heidi!

  7. Heidi, wow! I'm with Beth. What I would give for a copy of those notes. :) IT sounds like a super conference.
    I appreciated what you shared. As I ponder the truths my characters are really needing to learn, I also need to consider how to "make the truth visible" for my reader (by showing, not telling! :))
    Thanks for encouraging me to go deeper in writing the story God has given me!

  8. Christine~

    You make an excellent point! There are so many different opinions on the "right" way to write; it is easy to get overwhelmed. So in writings, as in everything else in our lives, we can look to Jesus for discernment. It never ceases to amaze me that He came to earth not only to give us life, but to show us how to live!

  9. Jennie~

    I would've enjoyed the whole presentation so much more if you had been sitting next to me!! =)

  10. Roxanne~

    I think we all know in our hearts that we want to write books that change people by pointing them to Jesus. That being said, I think in the madness of actually writing, it is easy for us to forget that goal. I tend to think Jesus had it easier because He was God AND man, not just man like me. But then I wonder if that fact might have actually made it harder for Him to reach the lost! I don't have to try and convince people I am their savior, I just have to point them to The One who Is. This workshop showed me that I can use the technique modeled by Jesus to point people to Jesus. (Oh, and I totally wish you'd been here!!)

  11. Beth~

    I'm so glad you learned a lot from this! I need to give full credit to Mick Silva; most of this is directly from the notes I took.

    And yes, I might be willing to share a few more pages in a future blog...

  12. Lisa~

    It was really fun. It was the first conference of its kind held in Spokane. We usually have to drive 4 hours to Seattle. It was just one day, and the whole thing was put together by two or three women. For their first attempt, they did a fantastic job of organizing it, as well as staffing the workshops.

    As you know, I was still stinging a bit from missing DT, and this was sort of my "consolation prize." I wasn't all that excited about it because it wasn't Susie and my MBT friends. Also, even though I attended ACFW not knowing a single soul, I kind of dreaded going by myself. But I got there, and it was great. I made some new friends, learned some great new information, and came away with new ideas and the inspiration to write. I think the most best part is that I'm actually getting involved in helping with next year's conference. I can see its potential and I am looking forward to being a part of it.

    And thank you, LJ, for your words of encouragement! =)

  13. Pat~

    Yes! He used the simplest things to illustrate some fairly complicated ideas. Some of those ideas are complicated for us today...can you imagine what it must've been like for the people listening to Him? Yikes! I love that we can look to Him and the simplicity of His technique for our own stories. I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to over think and complicate my stories, so this is especially helpful to me.

  14. Jeanne~

    You make an awesome point about showing -v- telling. I hadn't even thought of that. Jesus was also the Master Show-er. He couldn't just TELL the truths to the people listening, He HAD to show. And that's why He needed to understand metaphor...those word pictures that REVEAL the truth.

    As for the notes, as I told Beth, I will probably share from them again in a future post. One of the cool tools I learned about was Microsoft OneNote...a handy little program that I can use to store all those spiral bound notebooks full of conference notes. I can scan them in and then store and/or share them. If you have Microsoft Office, you probably have OneNote.

  15. I love this post. Sometimes I worry that my writing is so trivial, can my fictional stories really make a differance? Is it worth my time? Am I letting God down by not finding a more impactful way to share His message to the lost? I totally needed to hear this. I'm following a rich tradition started by Jesus Christ himself! Thank you for sharring!

  16. What a fabulous post, Heidi!! Sounds like you had a great weekend. hugs!

  17. I'm so glad you got to attend this, Heidi. Thanks for great, vivid, and fun insights! (It's almost as good as being there.

  18. Jesus was really the Master Storyteller, wasn't He?