One of the must fruitful areas I've mined for help with preaching is the area of narrative writing/screenwriting. Books in this genre are focused on story and telling a tight, narratively driven story. In my opinion, the best sermons are those that follow a narrative "plot."
Many preaching books indicate that this approach is the best way to preach to postmoderns and millenials. One good example is John Wright's Telling God's Story.These books come from a theological perspective that is often heavy on theory but not always in praxis. So I turned to books about the writing process, specifically screenwriting, to learn how I might take a narrative idea and "plot" it out narratively.
I've learned much from this process, which I've been undergoing for the last 3-4 years. My preaching has improved. My sermons have a tighter focus. It's easier to write sermons, focusing on the classic narrative approach of problem, escalation, solution. For my sermons, I introduce conflict, escalate the conflict, introduce the gospel, and apply it. Eugene Lowry touches on some of this, but not to the extent that I have been helped by actual writers.
These are the top 3 books I recommend for you to read. These books will help you learn dramatic structure, pacing, and plot in practical ways, with which you can take your theology and speak a fresh word to your church.
- Robert McKee, Story. This book is one of the seminal books in the screenwriting field. Its reach is wide and McKee has influenced the storytelling of writers who have written for many popular shows and movies. He breaks down the essence of what makes a good story and even includes some ideas on how to write. I've tried his writing method and found it too time consuming for me for weekly preaching but the information in this book is outstanding.
- Christopher Vogler, The Writer's Journey. Joseph Campbell published an important book of mythology called The Hero With a Thousand Faces. This book was about the hero's journey, which is a common theme to much mythology, as well as many contemporary stories. Vogler took Campbell's book as a foundation and expanded on it for writers by breaking down the mythic structures that Campbell discussed in an academic way. This book provides a wealth of insight into understanding the structure of some of the Bible's stories but also in structuring stories. This book is most helpful when you have a clear application and can work backwards to find a suitable structure.
- Peter David, Writing for Comics & Graphic Novels. Peter David is comic book writer and a novelist. This book has excellent concise chapters about conflict and plot and story structure. When we approach sermons as more than lectures but as events that do something, then the importance of wrestling with the conflicts that everyday people wrestle with comes into focus.