Why Theme Is the Key to Unlocking Your First Chapter’s Potential

First chapters are hard to pull off.

You need to introduce your protagonist, your story’s setting, and the beginning of your plot in an engaging way that entices people to keep reading. This last point gets hammered on again and again by editors and agents, which can make writing the first chapter seem imposing.

You may wonder whether it’s really worth it to throw yet another element into the first chapter.Why_Theme_Is_the_Key_to_Unlocking_Your_First_Chapter_s_Potential

At first you might assume it’s optional to include theme. I’d like to propose, however, that a strong thematic presence is far from extraneous and can actually be the missing piece you need to enhance a first chapter.

Theme Generates Excellent First Chapters

Few things intrigue as much as a good theme. Theme gives the reader a reason to care about your story, because it correlates fiction to the real world. The biggest mistake I often observe in newer authors’ first chapters is that they focus on an action sequence that’s supposed to be compelling. It might be compelling in film, where the audience could actually see the battle or gunfight, but in a text-based story it doesn’t work because readers have no reason to care about what’s happening. [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.

Set Your Novel Up for Success by Sharing Your Outline

It’s January, the month of new beginnings. You’ve made your New Year’s resolutions, and maybe, just maybe, one of them involves writing. Maybe you resolved to write a novel. An entire novel. And maybe this time you’re actually going to do it. So you sit down in front of a word processor with your fantastic new idea and start tallying up the word count.Set_Your_Novel_Up_for_Success

Not so fast. Before you get carried away, you should take a minute to set yourself up for success in your novel-writing endeavor.

First, you need an outline. If you don’t have one yet, check out my post on how to quickly create one. It doesn’t need to be complicated or too in-depth. But it should provide direction for your novel so that you don’t end up wandering aimlessly, or not moving forward at all.

Your outline is the skeleton of your story. You want it to be great; unfortunately, it isn’t. Not yet. You won’t be able to see its flaws, but they will be there nonetheless. Plot holes you didn’t consider. Flat/useless characters you thought were important. Exciting sequences that shouldn’t happen so rapidly. Your outline will be full of little errors and slip ups that you won’t notice, and maybe your readers won’t notice them either. But each of those mistakes is a missed opportunity for improvement. Also, a small flaw in your outline could morph into a huge muse-killing flaw in the final product. Sound bad? It is. Once you’ve written your draft, outlining errors are difficult and time consuming to fix. So how can you find them before it’s too late? [Read more…]

Profile photo of Brandon Miller
Raised on C.S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend the physical reality to reveal spiritual realities which apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts and solar systems (including our own.)
When not writing fiction Brandon spends his time tending his blog The Woodland Quill, sportsing, or just struggling through that last-year-of-high-school/first-year-of-college which is really neither but is definitely both.

A Collection of Poems

Sublime

In the softest swaying of a tree

Lurks a certain quiet mystery

Collection_of_Poems 

Up above the sky in outer space

Of this mystery we find a trace

  [Read more…]

Profile photo of Daeus
Daeus is the published author of two books, Edwin Brook and Treachery Against The House Of Fairwin. He is a Christian seeking God’s face when he remembers to and finding that that is all he was seeking when he seeks for something else. He is a joker who takes himself too seriously and a sack full of ambition who likes to relax. Among his top interests are poetry, reading, philosophy, theology, gardening and permaculture, athletics, marketing, psychology, and interacting with his friends. You can also find him participating in such activities as ranting about the glories of frozen raspberries or making impromptu music for every occasion.
He also is a fanatic over The Count Of Monte Cristo. Be thou forewarned.
If you would like to sample his work, you can get a free copy of his novella, Treachery Against The House Of Fairwin at the link below.

How to Write the First Page of Your Novel

There are no set rules for an opening line of a novel. Nearly anything goes—be it description, dialogue, or a statement of philosophical truth. But that flexibility does not apply to the first page of your novel. All good novels contain several essential elements that immerse the reader in the story world and keep them there, ideally to the end of the book. Here’s a breakdown of the five key components to include in the first page of your novel.How_to_Write_the_First_Page_of_Your_Novel

1. Your Protagonist

As our Editor-in-Chief, Josiah DeGraaf, helpfully explained last year, the novel is distinguished from other storytelling art forms by its focus on the inner lives of its characters. Principally, you will be selling your story on the personality of your main character, and it’s best to introduce him or her to the audience as soon as possible to begin building that connection.

There are two ways to handle this. The first is to start with an intriguing description of your character. Don’t say that Marcus Langley is five foot nine with sandy-brown hair and azure-blue eyes. Your readers’ imaginations can supply those details easily enough. Instead, tell readers he’s a mushroom hunter. Or an explosives expert in a special-ops unit. Those few words will fascinate readers more than entire paragraphs delineating physical details. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Sierra
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.

KP Critiques – 35

Welcome to the 35th edition of KP Critiques! May others be inspired by your bravery, Lady Tessa. Even the most skilled wordsmiths shudder at the sight of an editor’s dagger, but it’s a necessary training procedure. Although you may emerge with blood splatters on your hands, your sword will be sharpened and your story will wield more impact.KP Critique 35

I issue a challenge to all the squires in the audience. I beseech you to don the armor of a knight and come forward. Dost thou hear the trumpet sounding? Send us your novel excerpts!

Now, onward to the analysis of Tessa’s tale!

A timid knock on the bedroom door started Charles Galing’s day.

“Come in,” he called sleepily. He sat up and pushed back his orange curls. Deep set eyes, bleary with sleep, Blinking his bleary eyes, he looked questioningly at Mary, his maid, as she entered.

By detaching Charles’s eyes from his person, they’ve become “floating body parts.” This is a bit of a POV breach as well, since Charles can’t see his own eyes. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Brianna Storm Hilvety
Brianna was born with a rumble in her veins. She finds the tap of a keyboard to be soothing like the pitter-patter of rain. She has been a writer for a decade, a freelance editor for a few years, and a bibliophile from the moment she pronounced her first syllable. Proudly a Silver Member of The Christian PEN, she serves on their team as Graphics Coordinator. She exudes her passion for speculative fiction and helping young writers by being an Associate Editor at Castle Gate Press and the Copy Editor/Director of Graphics for Kingdom Pen. When she isn’t poring over words, she may be spotted shooting her Canon, riding The Breeze (an all-terrain vehicle), or romping with her dog, Zookie. Purple is her signature color, and she refuses to recognize all other claims to it.

Paradoxical

By Kate Flournoy

In losing lies the finding.

In sacrifice the gain.

Freedom is a binding rope,

And liberty a chain.

paradoxicalpost

Loving is releasing.

Releasing is relief.

Devotion is a letting go,

And knowledge is belief.

[Read more…]

How to Give a Terrific First Impression as an Author

“You will never get a second chance to make a first impression.” No one knows who first voiced that statement, but the logic of it has endured. A bad impression may be mended over time, and a good impression may turn out false. But you only have one chance to make that first impression on readers and convince them you are an author worth listening to.How_to_Give_a_Terrific_First_Impression_as_an_Author

Your Persona

There are three sources through which readers will get their first impression of you. The first is yourself. This could be via your blog, website, or social media profiles. It could even be you in person, at a writers’ conference or gathering. [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/

How Do You Get Published as a Young Writer? Interview and Giveaway with Author Amanda Davis

amandadavisinterviewToday we have the privilege of interviewing Amanda Davis, author of the award-winning Cantral Chronicles. If you haven’t heard of her before, you may have heard of her father, Bryan Davis, author of the best-selling Dragons in our Midst series. I (Josiah) read Amanda’s first two books while in high school and loved their character depth and suspenseful plotting, so I was thrilled to get the chance to talk with her now about her experiences as a writer.

Amanda published her first book when she was only nineteen years old, so today we talk about her road to publication as a teenage writer and the challenges she’s had in editing her books. Keep reading onto the end of the interview to get the chance to enter a giveaway for Precisely Terminated, the first book in her Cantral Chronicles series.

Journey to Publication

KP: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Amanda: I believe I was fifteen when I decided I wanted to be a writer. When I was about twelve, I started touring with my dad, helping with the book tables and listening to him speak. After meeting people from so many places and seeing their reactions to his books, I wanted people to hear my stories as well.

KP: When you were still in your teens, what helped you the most as an aspiring author?

Amanda: My father’s writing lessons probably helped me the most in my writing journey. I took his classes a hundred times over, thanks to traveling with him. I often had to hear a new concept a dozen times before it would stick.

KP: What’s something you wish you knew as a younger writer? [Read more…]

Reminiscence

By Joy Mastron

The clock is ticking backward

To a time I never had,

Replaying every memory,

Songs both sweet and sad.

reminiscencepoempost

Our lives flash not before our eyes,

But carve upon our heart,

So use your minutes carefully,

There can be no second start. [Read more…]

Character Types: The Herald

kp_video_theherald“Aren’t these videos supposed to be posted on the 1st of this month?” you ask. “Isn’t this rather late for the next Character Types video to go up?”

It’s a good question.

And one that we’re going to be mum on.

Anyways.

In the last video in this series, Daniel vowed that he wasn’t going to pretend to be stupid anymore.

So in this video he’s coming back in full suit attire and with (presumably) the brains to match it as we tackle what the Herald character type is, and how to portray it effectively in fiction.

Previous Stereotypes: [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.