Your Novel’s Spiritual Arc

In my latest novel, Shadows on the Sand (Multnomah, 2012), my main spiritual arc early on deals with my main character forgiving her mom. But soon an unforeseen idea takes over.

Let your story surprise you
My protagonist, Carrie, is 33, owns a café, and is in love with Greg, an ex-cop with deep hurts who’s finally choosing to live beyond them. I didn’t foresee the way Ecclesiastes 3 and a couple of other verses about time would play into things.

Suddenly Greg is thinking, Have I reached the end of my time of weeping and am I ready to laugh again? “Yes!” the reader yells, but it takes Greg most of the book to get to that point.

Carrie, fighting her past, thinks, No more mourning; I’m dancing! But of course it’s not that easy.

Greg didn’t come in for breakfast, and I thought of him at home, eating cereal. I’d been right. He didn’t need me or the café anymore. He was never coming back.

There’s a time for every purpose under heaven.

…I thought Ecclesiastes and its writer very melancholy and pessimistic. You try your best, he wrote, and it’s all meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

I’d like to find out if being in love was meaningless, if being loved was chasing after the wind. Was it heartbreak, or could it be like the romance novels said, just not quite so over the top? Real life as moonlight and roses? It was broken wrists and missing girls that I knew. Maybe the writer of Ecclesiastes was right.

Three things to note:

  1. This passage comes on p. 230 of a 309-page book. It’s taken Carrie a while to get here, and she’s clearly got a ways to go.
  2. These thoughts are Carrie’s, not mine. They surprised me.
  3. There is no resolution.

The concept of God’s timing closes the book:

Greg swallowed his last bite and rose from his stool. He leaned over the counter and gave me a quick kiss. I watched him go, wrapped in the rosy glow of love given and received.

As I collected our dirty dishes, my wrist watch clanked against the pink marble counter…

I smiled. Oh, yes. There was a time for every purpose under heaven.

Be ready for your story’s spiritual arc to go where you hadn’t expected—and see what happens.

Photo: Gayle RoperGayle Roper, a Christian Writers Guild mentor, is the award-winning author of more than 45 books. She has been a Christy Award finalist three times for her novels Spring Rain, Summer Shadows, and Winter Winds. She enjoys reading, spending time at her family’s Canadian cottage, and gardening. Visit Gayle online.


  1. says

    Gayle,you are so right! I love it when the characters take over and have a mind of their own! A couple of minor characters in one of my historic romance novels took over and became such an integral part of the spiritual arc and of the main characters’ lives. Awesome when that happens!


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