It’s not uncommon, when an author is writing a novel, or a filmmaker is preparing a movie, that the story will change before the final product hits the streets.

Sometimes it has something to do with the characters, sometimes it has something to do with the plot, but most of the time it has something to do with the ending. The creative forces behind the story take a second look and decide: This needs a better ending.

ROCKY

Rocky was Sylvester Stallone’s first big movie. He was not only the star, he wrote the script. However, his first version of the story was quite a bit different than the one that finally made its way into the theaters.

The biggest difference was that, in the original draft, Rocky didn’t just lose the fight to Apollo Creed, he threw the fight — for money — so that he could afford to purchase a pet shop for Adrian.

Stallone eventually realized that this is not something a noble character would do — and this particular twist doesn’t inspire a sequel — so the ending was changed.

STAR WARS

The Star Wars franchise has seen several changes along the way.

For example, Luke Skywalker’s name originally was Luke Starkiller. And the name of the third installment was originally Revenge of the Jedi, not Return of the Jedi.

There were even posters printed and a trailer prepared with that title, before it was officially changed. There are still “Revenge” posters floating around out there. You can buy an original on Ebay for a few thousand dollars, or you can buy a copy of the original at Wal-Mart for about ten dollars.

The biggest change in the third installment of the series is that George Lucas intended for Han Solo to die at the end. It’s been said that he changed the outcome because he was afraid that the death of Han Solo might negatively affect merchandising.

I don’t know about that, but it is true that the way the story ended — with the big Ewok gala — was more uplifting.

THE NEED FOR A REWRITE

I’m saying that sometimes the writer’s original idea for the story and the characters and the ending is not the same as the writer’s final idea. As it goes through edit upon edit, rewrite after rewrite, the story gets better, and stronger, and more meaningful.

This is why it could be said that great stories aren’t written, they’re rewritten. It takes more than one pass at a manuscript to get it right, to make it as good as it can be.

ONE SONG SAYS IT ALL

There’s an old Southern Gospel song that I love. The title says it all: Mercy Rewrote My Life. It tells about a man whose life was moving in the wrong direction, full of sin and confusion, heartache and despair, until he discovered God’s powerful grace, and “Mercy Rewrote My Life.”

It’s a song that everyone can sing, a story that each of us can tell.

This is the message of the Christmas season. It is the message of the gospel. God sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to change the story of humankind, to rewrite history one life at a time, through his mercy and his grace.