Boxes of Tools; Tangles of Yarn: Part 2 – Practical Tips

Jackyln Crooks is back with part two of her series on writing characters of the opposite gender. Check out these helpful tips on how to make your characters believable!

Tips for Writing Convincing Guys


Boxes of Tools Pt 2 Post Graphic

So you have this great story idea, right? It’s great, and you actually like it. There’s only one problem…the main character is a guy. Actually, that’s not the problem. The problem is that you’re a girl, and you don’t understand guys, so you’ve never successfully written one. Well, here are some tips that you may find helpful. First of all, when you’re thinking through an idea, that moment when you start to go, “No, that’s crazy, it’ll never work!” Yeah, that’s the moment when a guy decides it’s a good idea. No kidding. As girls, usually if it’s risky, we back off until we can come up with a better plan. When you’re writing a guy, remember that he’s going to take risks. But they’re going to make sense to him. In his mind, they’re not cray, or stupid, or wacked out. He’s going to justify the risks somehow. Be it for his girl, for his family, or for some personal benefit down the road. Whatever the reason, it’s gotta make sense. At the same time, it’s okay for your reader to sit there, shaking their head, wondering what’s gotten into him. 

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Boxes Of Tools; Tangles Of Yarn: Part 1 – Know Your Character

 How To Write Characters Of The Opposite Gender

by Jacklyn Crooks


Can’t he just listen? Why does he always have to try to fix me?”

I’ve taught her how to ____ at least a dozen times, why does she keep asking me to do it?”

Boxes of Tools Pt 1 Post Graphic

These are just a few of the questions that I’ve been asked in my years as a daughter, a friend, and a youth leader. They are questions that everyone has asked, at one time or another, about someone they love. Why? Because men and women are different. Bet you didn’t see that one coming! And that brings us to my point. I’ve had several friends ask me for advice on how to write a believable character of their opposite gender.

What is she, dude, IronWoman? Really?”

He feels…fake. Like a guy version of me. Shouldn’t he have his own personality?”


Girls write soft, mushy guys, and guys write detached, emotionless (sometimes crass) girls. Why? Because we write what we know. Girls know soft and mushy – we cry when we’re sad. We cry when we’re happy. We cry when someone else is sad or happy. Guys, on the other hand, not so much. As we all know. We’re sitting in front of a sappy movie, crying into our Kleenex, and there they sit, checking the NFL scores on their smartphone (Packers are up by ten, by the way). They like big guns, big explosions, big trucks. They couldn’t care less if their kitchen rug matches the curtains hanging above it, but they’ll buy three different scopes for the same rifle – one for morning, one for afternoon, and one for late evening. And they all match.

And this is why we all struggle to write characters of the opposite gender. But today I’m here to offer you some tips that I’ve learned for writing believable characters.

The best way to start is by spending time with the people you want to write. If you want to a convincing guy, spend time with guys. If you’re writing a Christian guy your age, observe the guys at church, youth group, school, while shopping – everywhere you go, there are people to watch. It’s the same for guys writing girls. It takes time; it takes patience. And it takes knowing what to look for.

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KP Spotlight Launched!

Calling all Kingdom Pen subscribers! KP Spotlight has been launched!

If you have been following our Roadmap, you will see that this month we wanted to launch “KP Spotlight”, and now we have!

What is your story? KP Broadcast Post Graphic

KP Spotlight is a feature which allows us to learn more about the great people we have in the Kingdom Pen community. We want to know what writing projects you are working on, and what unique experiences you have in your writer’s journey. Once a month (subject to change), we would like to interview a Kingdom Pen subscriber about their journey, and share it here on

If you are interested in sharing your writer’s story on Kingdom Pen, add your email below and we’ll add you to the list! But hurry! This is first-come-first-serve up to the first 5 to sign up, afterwards, the remaining subscribers who sign up will be chosen at random.

Sign up for the KP Spotlight!

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BYN Contest: Common Mistakes

Common mistakes from the BYN contest:

First of all, I just wanted to extend a hearty thanks to everyone who ended up submitting their work to the contest.  I was impressed by more of the entries than I expected, and thoroughly enjoyed reading through all the submissions.

BYN Common Mistakes Post GraphicThat being said, I did want to give some pointers to some of you who didn’t win, and perhaps even some who did win, on some common problems that I noticed among the submissions that you may want to look out for as you examine the openings of your novels.  Not all of the entries that didn’t win had these problems, but here are some common things that I noticed that you’ll want to watch out for:

1. Bland First Lines

A fair number of the entries didn’t fully utilize the first line as much as they could have.  The first line of your novel is going to be the first thing a prospective agent or publisher is going to read, so you’ll going to need to make it stand out.  A fair number of the entries just plunged right into the happenings story, which, while sometimes a valid tactic, also tends to give up a lot of potential greatness.  Most of the best lines in literature are those that are in a sense, self-contained, and are only used as a springboard to the opening of the story, instead of diving right into the action of the story.  If any of you are interested in reading more, feel free to check out a recent blog post I wrote on this topic here: “How Not To Write an Opening Line“. 

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Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.

Women In Combat: We Need More Strong Female Characters – Part 2

This post is a collaboration of thoughts from the KP Team, building off of part 1.

How should the Christian writer handle the prospect of female characters in combat? 

Strong Female Characters Part 2

Strength comes down to how well someone or something fulfills the purpose it was created for. Men and women were created to fulfill different roles, each reflecting one-half of God’s character. A woman doesn’t need to pick up the sword, or express military prowess to be strong.

Does this mean we can’t depict women in combat? Not at all!

As writers, we need to draw a careful distinction between aspects of the story that are there just because it reflects reality, and aspects that we’re trying to glorify.  In the context of whether not we should write stories with women in combat, this distinction can become pretty crucial.  There is nothing wrong with writing about “gung-ho, beat-’em-up female characters taking part in combat” necessarily. To the extent that our culture is moving in that direction, those sorts of people do exist in real life to some extent.  The real question then, is whether or not we present it in a positive light in our stories. Gender roles and gender callings are a tricky subject to wade through, especially in light of a culture that’s very hostile to drawing any distinction between men and women.  It therefore becomes imperative to focus on biblical commands to guide us through these discussions, and not on cultural standards.

The real question then becomes, “should we be glorifying women in combat?”

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We Need More Strong Female Characters – Part 1

“We need more strong female characters!”

I’m sure you’ve heard this battle cry before. Whether it be in books or movies, we hear the mainstream media and our peers clamoring for more “strong female characters”. And you know what? I agree with them; we do need more strong female protagonists in our stories.

Strong Female Characters Part 1

Of course, I disagree with the Feminists over what “strong” looks like for women and girls. For the Feminists, a “strong female character” is a woman who knows martial arts, and can beat up all the men with kicks and punches. She wears a sly, confident grin, and never needs any help, especially not from men. She is Independent and deadly.  She is equal, if not superior to, men in physical strength, and she curses just as crudely. This is a “strong” woman. In other words, an arrogant self-centered man…in female form. This is not strength, but brokenness and weakness.


 When “Strength” is Weakness

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BYN: First Place Winner!

Kingdom Pen is proud to announce the FIRST PLACE winner of our Begin Your Novel contest! 


Congratulations, Brenna Stross!

Her entry, Dying Dreams:

Score: 85

BYN 1st Place Post Graphic

The smallest coffins are the heaviest, always the heaviest. Nothing compares to carrying an innocent human being in a box, and then throwing them into a hole. And then—and this is the worst part—you throw dirt on top of them and seal them up inside the tiny hole, and watch their families cry—and boy do they cry—and you just stand there, feeling bad for them.

I sigh, leaning on my shovel, and the tears come. My God do they come! Twelve long years of digging graves, burying the innocent, and never once did I cry. But this time, this time it’s different. I wipe my face with my dirt-caked gloves. This time, it’s personal.

I sweep the remaining dirt onto the grave. “No worries, Son. I promise; they won’t go unpunished.” I finger my gun, a smile crosses my face and I leave, ready to avenge my son’s death. No one harms my boy. I always told him that I would never let harm come to him. And I broke my promise; I have to make it up to him. I have to. “It’ll all be ok, Bud. It’ll all be ok.”

What the Judges said…

“All three of the winning entries had fantastic first sentences. This one hits you in the gut from the start with an angsty, hopelessly helpless observation about coffins. It’s a terrific emotional hook, and it paves the way for the rest of the stark, well-crafted prose. I’m getting kind of a Stephen King, Dark Tower vibe. 

Then there’s the twist that further entangles the reader’s emotions; He’s buried children before, but now he’s burying his son. Who’s the murderer? How will the main character implement his revenge? These are the questions that will keep me turning the pages.” – Braden Russell

“The first six words tell an entire story all on their own. The first line of this entry almost makes you want to stop and ponder for a while, but the dread in the sentence pushes you forward. The voice of the narrator is distinct, and this short opening reveals much about his worldview–foreshadowing dark days are ahead, and compelling me to read on.

Throughout, questions loom, who is the killer? Why did he kill this man’s young son? Who killed the others? Where they killed by the same person? How many more graves will have to be dug?” – Reagan Ramm  

As the first place winner, Brenna will receive our grand prize of $100, provided by our sponsor, the soon-to-be-launched, Intentional Living for Cultivating the Family Enterprise. 

BYN: 2nd Place Winner

Kingdom Pen is proud to announce the second place winner of our Begin Your Novel contest! 

Congratulations, J. Tobias Buller!

BYN 2nd place Post Graphic


His entry, Chromeheads:

Score: 81


The first time I met Stelle deBlothe, she was dead.

No, I’m serious.  Here I was, the first day of my internship, and something like that exploded in my face.  And I threw up.  How immature is that?

It happened like this — I showed up for my internship, dressed in my best slacks and Dad’s hand-me-down vest.  I walked in the massive front doors of the Society building, trying not to look like the ratty downtown kid that I was.  The gold-and-silver polish made the sunlight blaze on it like the building was wet — the sweeping arches and artistic twirls looked gorgeous, as always, accentuating the curvy font of the building title: THE SOCIETY OF TIME TRAVELERS.

Coming in the door, the secretary at the polished front desk barely glanced at me as she waved me in, sending me down to the nearest conference room.

There were three of us interns, and one personal assistant — Perso — who had been assigned to oversee us.  When I came in, he snagged me with his dark, bird-like eyes and watched me till I sat down.  Creeper.


What the Judges said…

“Juxtaposing the weirdness of meeting a dead person (How does that happen? I seriously want to read this.) with the character’s horror at his own immaturity in throwing up made for a killer first sentence. More points for the expertly-crafted description; a few unique, concise details that give the reader a very clear mental picture of this speculative setting. Also loved the funny, slightly neurotic narrator voice.” – Braden Russell


“I’m intrigued right from the start. Who is Stelle deBlothe and why/how is she dead? A clue comes later with the mention of the Society of Time Travelers building. Immediately, I know I’m in a strange new world, yet the descriptive details and distinctive voice of the narrator keep me grounded. I definitely want to read more!” – Reagan Ramm 


As the second place winner, Tobias will receive a $50 prize, provided by our sponsor, the soon-to-be-launched, Intentional Living for Cultivating the Family Enterprise.

BYN Contest: 3rd Place Winner!


Kingdom Pen is proud to announce the third place winner of our Begin Your Novel contest! 


Congratulations, Aimee Meester!

Her entry, untitled:

Score: 79

Sachi Tagaskri had exactly one more day to live, and she was decidedly unhappy about it.

Dying wouldn’t be pleasant, she knew, not like this. Even lying there on the cot that smelled strongly of whoever had been there last, she could feel the thick rope around her neck. Feel the sudden loss of footing, the snap, the blackness. Sachi had seen it a thousand times before in the square. She just hadn’t thought it could be her there, instead of some poor bloke who’d been caught nicking a bite to eat.

The fact that she hardly even knew of the man she was supposed to have murdered added insult to injury.

“Rubbish,” she muttered, not for the first time. “Absolute rubbish. Hang it all.”

BYN 3rd place Post Graphic

What the Judges said…

“Okay, so I love snarky understatements. The fact that the main character is “decidedly unhappy” about her execution made me chuckle, and endeared me to her right away. The tidbit about her barely knowing the man she was supposed to have murdered told me that there’s a lot more to what’s going on than meets the eye, and snags my interest.

Another thing I love: Puns. Sachi’s irritated ‘Hang it all’ was perfect and made me way happier than I should probably admit.” – Braden Russell 


“I want to read more! Not just because of the threat of death the protagonist faces, but because I want to get to know this character more. In this limited space, the voice of  Sachi is very clear and distinct, punctuated by her understating sense of humor, and ability to find a pun in the middle of distress.

Also, what is going on in this story world? Has Sachi really seen a thousand hangings, or is she just exaggerating? Why was she falsely convicted? Was it just an accident or is someone out to get her? In just 125 words, this story has me interested in the character, the plot, and the world outside of the main character’s prison cell.” – Reagan Ramm

As the third place winner, Aimee will receive a $25 prize, provided by our sponsor, the soon-to-be-launched, Intentional Living for Cultivating the Family Enterprise.

KP Announces: BYN Contest Second Round Finalists!

At last, the results are in, and we have our finalists and winners!

BYN Finalists Post GraphicOver the course of the week, we will be counting down to our first place finisher. Tonight, however, we are sharing the names of those who finished in the top 10 through 4.

I personally want to thank each and everyone who submitted their novel opening to our contest. Sharing your work with others is never easy. I enjoyed reading your submissions, and while you may not have had your name listed, I thought there were many entries which had potential. With tweaking, I think many openings sounded like they could have been the beginning of a fascinating novel! Keep writing, and keep submitting!

Next week, once the winners are announced, we will also share a couple of posts giving our final thoughts on the contest, what people did well, and where points were missed.

Congratulations to our second round finalists! Without further ado, here are finalists 10-4.


10. Untitled by Anna Baber – 69

09. Untitled by Anna Ruefer – 69

08. Selena, Selena by Deborah Rocheleau – 71

07. North Wind by Garret Robinson – 72

06. Untitled by Phia Colette – 72

05. The New Society by Natalie Hocker – 74

04. Untitled by Lowri Gowing – 75


Tied scores in the second round were broken by comparing first round scores. The higher scoring entry in the first round broke the tie.