Three Ways to Use Death in Storytelling

Our theme for this month was death, which might seem like an odd theme to encourage young writers to focus on. Is it healthy for Christians to dwell on death? Isn’t the difference between us and the world that we don’t focus on death in the way that it does?

On the contrary, however, death is central to the Christian faith.death_in_storytelling-1

The cross obviously stands central in Christianity. But it isn’t just Christ’s death that is central to the Christian faith. It’s our own deaths as well. Our spiritual death in Genesis 3 sets the whole plan of salvation in motion. And the reality of our physical death urges us to make the most of our time on earth by winning others to Him.

I once heard a pastor say that his goal was to teach his congregation how to die well. Death is, after all, the final test in our lives and the point where we need to have either accepted or rejected the claims of Christ.

Death is central to the Christian faith. By extension, therefore, it ought to be central to our storytelling. Although not all stories that Christians write need to encompass death, it ought to still have a prominent role overall, and when we use death in our stories, here are three ways it can be done biblically. [Read more…]

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.

A Girl Named Avery

By Jess Hessler

I wasnt too excited about visiting Gramps. After his last stroke, the doctor decided to keep him for a couple weeks to monitor the after effects. Gramps couldnt talk or do much. He would just lay in the white bed while the various machines groaned and hissed periodically.a_girl_named_avery

Mom glanced at me from the drivers seat. Honey, I know you dont like hospitals, but Grandpa is all alone. You can at least visit him.

I shrugged and turned on the radio. Mom sighed, and we rode the rest of the way without conversation.

Grandma passed away a few months ago. The doctor said the stress and grief might have caused Gramps stroke. He missed her and had not gotten over his sorrow. Supposedly only time heals wounds like that. I wasn’t sure there was enough time in the world to get over the loss of a loved one. When Grandma died, I sobbed on my bed for hours, feeling cold and dreary like the icicles outside my window. After that day, something seemed to plug my emotions. I couldnt cry anymore. I went through the motionshigh school, homework, and sports. The funeral passed, and winter melted into spring. Then summer came. [Read more…]

Top 5 Myths to Avoid When Writing about Grief

Character death is everywhere. A classic favorite among authors, playwrights, and script writers alike, its uses are numerous. Killing off a character can add realism, advance the plot, provide motivation for other individuals, or satisfy the audience with a well-deserved end. Although the exact circumstances of a character’s death and the immediate impact on those who witness it are heavily covered in literature, a less commonly portrayed aspect of death is the long-term effects it has on those who experience it.top5mythspost

Mourning in literature is often seen as an obstacle to overcome. The assumption is that people in grief need to be cured, the melancholy mustn’t drag on too long, and the most important goal is to make sure the loved one’s death was not in vain. Sadly, these common themes in fiction are inherently wrong. As respected bereavement counselor Earl Grollman once said, “Grief is not a disorder, a disease, or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical, and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

Sooner or later in life, everyone is forced to experience a deep loss. And without the guidance of counselors or family, the only voice telling people how to grieve is our shallow, profoundly confused culture. As authors, we do a disservice to our readers if our heroes are praised for ignoring their grief, or if the main obstacle is that the character just needs to decide to “be happy” again. [Read more…]

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Sierra Ret is a homeschool student who spent nearly her entire childhood with her nose buried in a book, and consequently decided she wanted to write one of her own (preferably filled with dwarves and elves). Actually getting her thoughts down on paper regularly has proven to be a far greater challenge than she first thought, but Kingdom Pen was kind enough to step in and give her some much-needed deadlines by honouring her with a temporary spot on their writing team. When not hermiting behind a laptop screen, Sierra enjoys gallivanting across Canada and adventuring near her home in rural Ontario with her family. Currently her chief fantasies include making a living as a travel blogger and someday moving to New Zealand. But above all, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

Hold Me

By Mackenzie Long

Hold me tight; don’t let me go,

Savior, through my trials and woe

holdme

Give me hope and give me light

That I might see through this dark night. [Read more…]

KP Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

“In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes. Sophie Hatter was the eldest of three sisters. She was not even the child of a poor woodcutter, which might have given her some chance of success!”howlsmovingcastlepinteres

This is the marvelous beginning of Diana Wynne Jones’ work, Howl’s Moving Castle. Drawing heavily on different fairy tale tropes and delightfully subverting them, Jones relates the story of Sophie, the eldest of three sisters who gets into trouble when she angers a powerful witch and gets turned into an old woman. With little else to do, Sophie ends up working as a maid for the wizard Howl, who lives in a moving, trans-dimensional castle. There she discovers that her curse can be removed—but only if she manages to learn how to free Howl’s fire elemental from his contract to Howl so that it can release her from the curse.

Sounds simple, right? [Read more…]

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.

How to Avoid Freaking Out During NaNoWriMo

Ah, fall…my favorite season. It is around this time each year that I find myself participating in a few of the essential autumn activities—apple picking, pumpkin carving, and freaking out because I am not ready for NaNoWriMo! In all likelihood, you have also participated in one or more of these activities yourself, but today I’d like for us to focus our attention on freaking out, and why you don’t have to.nanoannouncement

First, Freaking Out

NaNoWriMo has become a staple event among writers, so I need not explain it to you here. An entire website has been dedicated to it (check it out). During the month of November (aka National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo) we all relinquish a hefty portion of our sanity in order that we might have the chance to maybe crank out a 50,000-word novel (if we’re lucky). Thankfully, the Kingdom Pen Community and Staff are here to help you eliminate the italicized words in the previous sentence and retain that robust sanity you’ve built up since the last NaNoWriMo. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Michael Stanton
Michael Stanton has had what he describes as a scatterbrained adventure of a life that has recently led him to working at Kingdom Pen. When he wasn’t teaching underprivileged children in Uganda and rafting on the White Nile, he was either in Canada’s capital city studying the history of Christianity or in Michigan learning how to make films. Originally from Banner Elk, North Carolina, Michael grew up homeschooled and surrounded by the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. Those mountains inspired Michael’s love of writing (and, let’s face it, the Lord of the Ringsmovies also helped). Many years and adventures later, Michael found himself getting a marketing degree, and low and behold, Kingdom Pen was in need of a Marketing Director. What are the odds that God didn’t see that coming? All divine providence allusions aside, Michael is super excited to get to work in an organization that so closely matches his desires to see more quality content streaming from the minds and hearts of his fellow Christians.

The Sun

By Madelyn Graves

The flickering lampshade beams against the dark.

Eyes sealed shut

The soft glow burns against my lids

As if it were the sun itself.

thesun

But the radiance fades

Dissolving into the vortex of night.

For bulbs go out

And sunlight sinks. [Read more…]

Questions to Consider Before Killing Off a Character

As writers, we are sometimes accused of gloating or chuckling evilly to ourselves in dark castles over the sorrow we cause readers when we kill favorite characters. I won’t confirm or deny that, but I will say that writers who reap tears from readers will feel the deep satisfaction of a job well done, because they’ve made readers care about the characters.deathquestions

But whether we weep over our characters’ deaths, rub our hands and grin over them, or indulge in both reactions by turn, several points must be considered when deciding if a character needs to die, how he should die, and the end result.

Does Your Character Really Need to Die?

Not everyone has to die. Otherwise no one would be left to mourn the deceased, and where’s the fun in that? Also, sequels tend to need living characters to fill the pages and bring readers back to your stories. In all seriousness though, depending on what you are writing, it’s likely that a character (or two, or ten) will die—but you must have a reason. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Hope Ann
Hope Ann is a speculative fiction writer who lives on a small farm in northern Indiana. She has self-published three Legends of Light novellas and is the Kingdom Pen Writing Team Captain. Reading since the age of five, and introducing herself to writing at age eight, she never had a question that the author’s life was the life for her. Her goal is to write thrilling Christian fantasy and futuristic fiction — stories she longed for while growing up. After graduating from homeschool, Hope now teaches writing to several of her eight younger siblings. She loves climbing trees, archery, photography, Lord of the Rings, chocolate, and collecting shiny things she claims are useful for story inspiration. You can claim one of her stories for free at: https://authorhopeann.com/rose-of-the-night/

The Sea

By Tessa Just

the_sea

Lapping,

Hissing softly,

Rising and falling.

The boats float on it safely,

Little white caps,

Blue; green,

Wet.

[Read more…]

KP Book Review: Shades of Milk and Honey

Jane is a woman living in Regency England who’s looking for marriage. The problem is that she’s twenty-eight, and few men are interested in a woman as old as she is. So Jane’s contented herself to living on a back burner—at least until the honor of her family is at stake and Jane needs to take action if she’s going to save it.milkandhoneypinterest

Feel a bit like a Jane Austen novel? It kind of is, because Mary Robinette Kowal consciously draws on several stereotypical Austen tropes.

The catch? In this world, magic exists. And not just any magic, but an illusion-based magic that characters use for artistry and disguises.

This one twist sets the premise for an intriguing and fanciful genre-melding book, as Kowal meshes some of the best elements of Austen-style romance with the best elements of fantasy. And not only does she do it, but she does it well. [Read more…]

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.