Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When Fiction Meets Fact


by Anita Mae Draper 

Now that I’m at the end of Emma’s Outlaw, my mind is buzzing with ideas for my next story. I know what I’m going to write about and where it’s set. I have a name for my hero, know his background, and his job. I’m having trouble picturing a suitable mate for him, though. And yes, it will be a historical romance. The plot is coming along, but I won’t get too hung up on details yet since my stories usually unfold as I write.

In my life, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading. And 80% of my reading appetite has been filled with romance. Sometimes I can’t tell why I loved a certain book, but I can usually tell you why I didn’t. To help you weed through all the available books, you can look almost anywhere on the internet and read reviews. Sometimes they’ll tell you the good and the bad. And sometimes just the good. Or just the bad. It depends on how the reader perceived the story.

But what makes a good story? Or better yet . . . what makes a great story? This has been on my mind this past year as I’ve done almost a total overhaul of Emma’s story. You see, I liked it well enough before, but others didn’t so I had to employ elements to make it more entertaining. I didn’t want to make the same mistake with this upcoming novel.

In my research to find the facts of a great story, I pulled out the Bible and re-read some of the stories I’ve loved forever. And amongst the stories of heroic valour and deep faith, the romantic ones topped my list.

In particular is the story of King David and Bathsheba. Complete books of the Bible focus on David and his life. Not so much Bathsheba, but I’ll talk about this later. defines a hero as ‘a man (or woman) of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities’. Well, that certainly describes David, both as a youngster and as a king.

A hero is also someone who does what needs to be done even when he or she doesn’t want to do it. Biblical heroes who fall into this category are:
  • Mary – who accepted carrying the Christ child although she knew it meant shame
  • Joseph – who didn’t want to take Mary as his wife once he found out she was pregnant, but married her on faith
  • Moses who didn’t want to leave his life of a shepherd in Midian to become a public speaker went to Egypt and demanded Pharaoh let the Hebrews leave.
  • Gideon is found hiding in a wine press and keeps making excuses and testing God before accepting the task. (Judges 6)
  • Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son, Isaac as proof of his obedience to God. In Gen 22:2 states Abraham loved Isaac. And yet, he willingly prepared to obey God.

Those are some truly inspiring heroes. But, heroes don’t need to have reluctance as an inner conflict before their story becomes great. Do they?

No, they don’t. It also makes an emotional story when they stumble. Let’s go back to the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 & 12 . . .

The Bible says David was tempted the moment he first saw Bathsheba bathing. That in itself was enough to put me in a tizzy when I first read it at the age of 12. Compound that with adultery and the story had my full attention. Add in the rest – the pregnancy, the murder and the lying – and it’s a bestseller in my eyes. We even have a happy ending because David marries her after she’s properly mourned the death of her husband. Awh, it’s so romantic.

Is it? David doesn't even admit he's sinned until the prophet Nathan stands before him in accusation. That's not very hero-like.

And the story isn’t complete at this point, because David’s sin wasn’t something personal between him, Bathsheba, Uriah and God. As a king, David’s people and his enemies knew about it. And although God is merciful and forgiving, He’s also a disciplinarian. The punishment meted out to David was that the son born of his affair with Bathsheba should die.

We can’t feel sorry for the child, because the Bible says children are in the kingdom of heaven. (Mark 10:14 NIV).

But, 2 Sam 12:24 says Bathsheba suffered. So what did David do? He comforted her by taking her to bed. *sigh* Which, of course, is practically where the story started. Bathsheba gets pregnant again – although this time it’s sanctified by God in holy wedlock. Their union is blessed and the child is Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. And yes, that’s the end of David and Bathsheba’s story as given in the Bible.

As a hero, David stumbles. Big time. I've heard that a hero isn't a hero because he doesn't get tempted, but because he overcomes temptation. I'd say David failed in that regard - at least this once. Other times, he passed the test. He was only human, after all.

If I was writing a book review on the story of David, Bathsheba and Uriah, I'd say it’s kind of one-sided. It reminds me of those old Harlequins where you only read the point of view (POV) of the heroine. You never knew what the hero was thinking and you'd have to guess from his expressions and tone of voice. And even then, the author would usually try to throw you off - at least that's the way I saw it.

Getting back to the Bible, here’s some things I’d like to know about this story :

What was Bathsheba's emotional state when she first realized why David requested her presence?

And what about love:
- Had she a crush on him from afar before he ever saw her?
- Did she fall in love with him the moment she appeared before him?
- Did she learn to love him over time?

During their night together, did Bathsheba mention:
- Anything about her feelings toward her husband?
- Uriah feelings for her?

Did Bathsheba love Uriah? We know she was upset when he died, but was it because:
- She’d lost the love of her life?
- She no longer had a protector? (Tantamount to a death certificate back then)
- Her children lost their father. (Did she even have children from Uriah?)

What was Bathsheba’s background?
- Was she lower, middle, upper class? Was she born that way or only since marrying Uriah?
- Was she a Hittite like Uriah? Where was she born?

How did Bathsheba feel when she realized she was carrying David’s child?
- Shame and regret?
- Sorrow that it wasn’t Uriah’s?
- Happy that she carried the king’s child in her womb?

We know what David did, but we don’t know what he thought. (His POV):
- Did he fall in love with Bathsheba or just lust after her?
- After their one-night-stand, did he pine for her?
- Would he have tried to kill Uriah if Bathsheba hadn’t been pregnant?

And what about David’s pre-meditated murder:
- Did he agonize over his plan to kill Uriah?
- Or was he stricken with panic?
- Did he kill Uriah because he wanted Bathsheba for himself?

After they married, was she just another wife in his harem?

I realize these answers are speculated upon elsewhere on the web, but like reviews, I'd like to read the story firsthand myself.

If you've noticed, I haven't judged David or Bathsheba's actions because that's not the point of this post. There are oodles of places on the web where that's already been done. This post is merely research into the entertainment value of a well-known story. And no, I don't believe every story should have adultery, cheating, lying and murder. But it sure spiced it up.

If you'd like to read more about Bathsheba, check out Inkwell's Dina Sleiman's post from last Dec on An Unusual Heroine: Bathsheba.

Do you think I'm asking too much to want to know more about David and Bathsheba's story? Instead of telling all the carnal details of this type of story, would my time be better spent dwelling on the repentance aspect of it?


  1. Ha ha. I was cited in a blog post. How cool. As I mentioned in that old post, I read several novels about David and Bathsheba as a teen. I'm guessing some must have been secular. But, Anita, you've really pointed to the fun of writing Biblical fiction here. You get to fill in all those details.

    Over the past few months I've gotten to watch Roseanna White's new Biblical fiction story unfold as I critiqued it. Makes me want to try my hand at it. I always wanted to write Delilah's story. I did two different versions of a short story about her while in college. I don't know why, but I always like the bad girls of the Bible, especially the ones who get redeemed like Rahad and the "adulterous woman." With Delilah, I could pick if she gets redeemed after Samson's death or not.

    I don't always get the whole "hero" "heroine" thing. I think that's mostly a romance convention. I read a lot of books with people who aren't so heroic, especially in the beginning. If they don't change, then that's the making of a perfect tragedy.

  2. I think it's natural to want more "detail" in the story of David and Bathsheba. in fact, you listed several of my questions. I can't WAIT to meet them someday - I hope we can have "campfire" stories and hear testimonies of what God brought His hero/heroines through!

  3. This is so awesome. I enjoyed this and got me to thinking about unlikely hero's.

  4. Hey Dina, I read Biblical stories of Ruth and Esther as a teen and still have them in my collection.

    A few months ago, I bought Francine Rivers' Lineage of Grace series. Book #4 is Unspoken which is the story of Bathsheba and David. I haven't read them yet, but I believe they're all written from the female POV. I'm hoping to start them as soon as I finish the research of my next story.

    btw - I really liked your post on this topic.

    Anita Mae.

  5. What an interesting idea, Jaime.

    I tell you, I have more questions for Bathsheba than I even listed, so that will be one exciting girl's night out. LOL

    Thanks for joining us today.

    Anita Mae.

  6. Hey Louise, sleep with any spiders lately? I hope you're all healed. (And yes, I really want to know.)

    When my 2 boys asked what I was blogging about today, I told them - in detail. The 12 yo's eyes were like saucers. The 15 yo just snorted. When I was done, the older one said, "David wasn't a hero. He was an idiot."


    Thank you, Louise.

    Anita Mae.

  7. I have two MORE questions for David and Bathsheba. First off, the beginning of the chapter that recounts the story says "it was in the spring, the time when kings go off to war" yet David was sitting at home (obviously bored). Which is a whole 'nother lesson on the importance of being in the right place at the right time. But WHY wasn't he off to war?

    And for Bathsheba, we see David repent and be disciplined, but not Bathsheba directly. Is that because she had no choice in the matter because David was the king?

    And just for another little bit of detail... That pesky Proverbs 31 woman? Guess who gave that description to Solomon? His momma. Interesting, no?

  8. Intriguing post, Anita! Love it! (I'm also excited for your new WIP, too, and can't wait to hear more about it.)

    I've always been curious about poor Uriah and Bathsheba's feelings...very interesting to discuss.

    Alas, I think I'm getting the flu so I'm going to do something I never do, and wrap up in a blanket now. Hope you all have a good day, and I'm glad I can't give you my germs through the Inkwell.

  9. Actually, Niki, I was thinking the same thing. In one of the accounts I read while surfing, someone said Bathsheba purposely bathed where King David could watch. The Bible doesn't say why she was bathing at that place and time, but you're right, it surely says he was at home during a time 'when kings go off to war'.

    And considering he walked 'around on the roof of the palace' (2 Sam 11:2), then he would've had a view of most of the city.

    What if Bathsheba did repent, but it wasn't deemed important enough to be included?

    Oh, I'm really itching to read Unspoken now.

    Anita Mae.

  10. Praying for you, Susie. Glad to read you're being sensible. :)

    I'm thinking the story of Uriah and Bathsheba would be right up the alley of someone like Nicholas Sparks who always writes tragedies. I liked his movies and others like Sommersby, but they're my second choice to watch now. Just too much heartache and no hope at the end.

    Uriah was a true hero if he loved Bathsheba because he would've been tempted to go home to her, but instead chose the discomfort his men were experiencing. Of course if he didn't love her, there wouldn't be much of a story in my eyes. Well, yes there would be a story, but nothing to get emotional about.

    Don't forget the hot lemon tea, Susie.

    Anita Mae.

  11. Thank you, Anita. I'm going to make myself a cup right now.

    I like your thoughts on Uriah and Bathsheba, and boy that would make a touching but sad movie. And I know what my husband would say, because when we see any movie with (spoiler alert) a tragic end, my husband calls it a "Sommersby." Sort of a stupid joke around here.


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