Five Overused Clichés in Christian Fiction (and How to Avoid Them)

I have a love-hate relationship with Christian fiction.

On the one hand, the genre has immense potential, because it transcends what it means to live as a human being to explore what it means to live as a Christian. When these stories are done well, like Dave Swavely’s Silhouette, Richard Ramsey’s The Song (yes, I’m aware this is a movie), or Sigmeund Brouwer’s The Last Disciple, they often become my favorites.5_Overused_Cliches_in_Christian_Fiction_(and_How_to_Avoid_Them)

On the other hand, the titles I’ve listed are the cream of the crop. For every exceptional Christian novel I read, I typically wade through five or six mediocre ones first.

Why does modern Christian fiction fumble to tell a compelling story, especially compared to the lauded Christian authors of the past: C.S. Lewis, Fyodor Doestoevsky, and Alexandre Dumas? I believe one reason for this is modern Christian fiction’s reliance on clichés. [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.

Love and Time

By Elri Voigt

Gazing over her subjects, Time watches

Waiting for the next victim to be subject to her iron rule

None can escape it, like a goddess

She waits, immortal and cruel

To laugh as mankind tries to outrun her, and fails

Love_and_Time

Two pairs of eyes meet

Two hearts skip a beat

Two souls believe

In a destiny

Two hands join together

[Read more…]

Three Things to Do When You Realize Your Plot Is Cliché

By Jamie Dougall

A brilliant new plot enters your mind. It charms you with sweeping intrigue, fascinating characters, and a premise that cannot be ignored. You immediately start writing, but eventually you realize the story is cliché. All your creative juices die, and you pound your head on your keyboard, wondering why you thought it was a clever idea. The characters are plastic Barbies and G.I. Joes who take three hundred pages to reenact your favorite movie. The ending is predictable. It’s an utter disaster.Three_Things_to_Do_When_You_Realize_Your_Plot_Is_Cliche

Maybe you are being a bit melodramatic. It’s not all that terrible, yet the cliché is present, blurring your scenes into predictable goop. How will you ever fix it?

Clichés are unacceptable because they are repetitive—similar characters playing out similar situations until the plot line becomes insipid. It’s like several people feeding you their own version of spaghetti. Every. Single. Day. You get sick of it, and the next time someone claims their recipe really is different, you’re unimpressed. It doesn’t matter if this sauce has a smidgen of brown sugar. Or the villain only looks like an evil hag. Or the protagonist’s name is not Rapunzel, but Genevieve d’Beauchene. Not only is that a mouthful, it doesn’t conceal the clichéd plot. And we are so done with that flavor.

So how do you spice up a story that tastes too much like bland spaghetti? Read on, and I’ll cover three techniques that may pull your plot out of yesterday’s clichés and to the forefront of originality. [Read more…]

How to Keep Yourself Organized While Writing

By LaToya Gay

As a writer, it’s possible (and maybe even likely) that you aren’t very organized when it comes to your craft. We’ve all experienced inspiration at the most inopportune moments. We can sit for hours staring at a blank screen or page with nary a clue how to proceed with our stories. Then, out of nowhere, inspiration strikes while we’re driving, taking a shower, or walking the dog. It seems to happen anywhere except in a convenient place to write.How_to_Keep_Yourself_Organized_While_Writing

When the muse strikes, we tend to scribble haphazardly on whatever is within reach, whether a dinner napkin, a random piece of mail, or the back of our hands. Although we don’t doubt the utter brilliance of our idea, it’s easy to put the note aside and forget about it, confident that it won’t get lost since we’ve written it down. [Read more…]

Dear Beloved

Oh beloved,

Don’t you know that love comes from God alone?

You might feel happiness without him

But is it real joy?

Dear_Beloved

Sin wreaks havoc in our lives.

It tempts us,

It draws us in,

It is like the song of the siren who lures sailors to their death. [Read more…]

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Christine Eaton is a college student who loves stories and hopes to publish children’s books. Wearing flip-flops in December, frequenting the beach, and taking every opportunity to visit Disneyland, Christine relishes living in sunny Southern California. She can usually be found happily sipping tea, memorizing lines from the latest play she is a part of, caving into her addiction to chocolate, writing encouraging snail mail, or listening to music, which is usually something folky like Andrew Peterson or the Gray Havens, or some Broadway musical (and rarely anything landing between those two categories.) Art is one of her largest passions, and her walls are covered in her sketches and paintings. Christine yearns to use her skills to glorify God by illustrating and writing her own children’s books that will teach children more about Jesus. Some of her favorite authors include A.S. Peterson, Francine Rivers, Louisa May Alcott, and Andrew Peterson. She is so thankful for the opportunity to manage Kingdom Pen’s social media accounts and help out around the Kingdom wherever she can. From the encouragement, enthusiastic young Christian writers, and her fellow staff members, KP holds a huge place in her heart and she is excited about encouraging young writers to write well and glorify God through their writing.

Why It’s Okay to Have Clichés in Your Fantasy Novel

By Gabrielle Massman

“Your story is a bit cliché, don’t you think?”

For a long time, I dreaded I would hear those words. They seemed like the ultimate insult, meaning that anyone could have written my story.

I was obsessed with avoiding clichés. I Googled “fantasy clichés,” and I even posted a list of ten common ones on my blog. I gave the characters in my fantasy world Hebrew-based names—no Norse or Celtic for me. My fantasy nation would not have a monarchy! And heaven help me if I even read a book with a damsel in distress, an evil dragon, and a brave prince.Why_It_s_Okay_to_Have_Cliches_in_Your_Fantasy_Novel

However, I’ve recently come to a new conclusion about clichés. I think we need them, and uniqueness is grossly overrated. Isn’t the Bible and the entire history of God and humans one big cliché? Kill the dragon; get the girl (Revelation 12:9 and Isaiah 62:4–5). [Read more…]

Interview with Rachel Starr Thomson on Writing, Editing, and Indie Publishing (Plus Giveaway!)

For the past ten years, Rachel Starr Thomson has been an inspiration to me on numerous levels. I first encountered her when she was a columnist for the Amie Newsletter, a publication dedicated to encouraging teenage girls. Her articles on the Christian walk impacted me deeply during a season in my life when my steps were unsure.

Rachel_Starr_Thomson_Interview_&_GiveawayAfter the Amie Newsletter was discontinued, I stalked Rachel on her blog—always reading but never uttering a peep. She posted writing tips back then, which fueled my aspirations to sling words onto paper and into people’s hearts. I admired—and almost envied—her fluid, artistic voice, and her courage in building a platform for herself through self-publishing quality books.

I bumped into her again years later when I submitted an article about storytelling to Homeschool Enrichment Magazine, where she served as copy editor. Shortly after my article was published, I began receiving requests from authors for help with refining their work, and I discovered that polishing sentences gave me a sense of satisfaction I’d never felt before. I realized I was suited to editing and wanted to pursue it seriously, but I had no idea how to get started. I sought advice from Rachel because I had no one else to ask, and she kindly imparted counsel that has proven invaluable. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I’m at now (editing for KP and a small Christian publisher) without that short e-mail she sent in response to mine.

Thus, it gave me great pleasure to approach Rachel on behalf of Kingdom Pen and ask her about her experiences as an author of more than twenty books, blogger of Kingdom truths, and a freelance editor for twelve years. I found myself empathizing with and learning from her comments, and I know all of you will benefit from hearing her wisdom as well. Read on, KeePers, and be sure to check out the book giveaway at the bottom of the post!

KP: You’re considered a pioneer of self-publishing. What caused you to choose indie over traditional publishing?

Rachel: I started experimenting with indie publishing back in 2006 or 2007, while simultaneously looking for an agent and a traditional book contract. I’d done so much writing over the years that I wasn’t even thinking about pursuing publication for all of it, so self-publishing was just a fun way to learn how to produce a book and put something into print myself. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bent, but mostly I was just playing around. I realized it might be a real, viable publication path slowly, especially after I checked on an e-book I’d put up for free on Smashwords and forgotten about and realized it had been downloaded over 25,000 times while I wasn’t looking. Eventually “playing around” gave way to thinking more seriously about writing as a business. I much prefer the control of self-publishing, which applies to many aspects of the publishing journey, from timelines to content to career trajectory. [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.

What You Let Them Do

I watch their ambling machines,

and I hope you dance,

I hope you surprise—

people will tie strings to you if you let them;

What_You_Let_Them_Do

don’t let me tie strings to you.

People will make a machine out of you,

fine-tune the life out of you.

Perfectionism is an illusion [Read more…]

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If you’ve ever emailed us at KP, you’ve probably “met” Sarah—a passionate storyteller with a huge heart that loves Jesus and everyone she meets. Sarah grew up in Georgia with her mom, dad, and little sister, Merry, where she attends the University of Georgia, majoring in International Affairs and Agriculture Communication. When she graduates, Sarah wants to help people all over the world succeed in the agriculture industry and tell the all-important story of the farmer. She joined the Kingdom Pen Team as Secretary in September 2013 and now serves as the Director of Community Happiness. Sarah has been homeschooled, private-schooled, and graduated from Madison County High School in May 2015. She attended Summit in July 2015. She’ll read pretty much anything (if she had to pick, though, her favorite author would be Frank Peretti) and has tried her hand at pretty much every kind of writing out there, though she likes writing fiction and poetry best. But because writing bios is a struggle, if you really want to get to know Sarah, shove some words in her general direction via the Forum, on one of the many social medias down below, or through the KP e-mail: kingdompenmag@gmail.com.

Four Types of Plot Clichés That May Be Dragging Down Your Story

A few weeks ago, I picked a random book off the library shelf and started reading. The book, Flashfall, grabbed my interest immediately. The characters were relatable and the story world was fantastic. Even better, the plot seemed fresh: miners struggling to excavate radioactive caverns where mutated creatures were trying to eat them. I hadn’t read anything like it.4_Types_of_Plot_Cliches_That_May_Be_Dragging_Down_Your_Story

Until I realized that I had.

After the fun of the first sixty pages, the mining ceased. It turned out that a familiar dystopian regime ruled the “unique” story world. The “interesting” heroine became just another strong female character who didn’t respect authority. (She also had a boyfriend, and another guy she liked.) Needless to say, she ended up inciting a revolution and probably would have toppled the dystopian government. I’ll never know for sure, because I was too disappointed to read the next book in the series. The clichéd plot killed it. [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 Seven-Step Process to Solve Moral Quandaries in Christian Storytelling

When I was younger, I wrote without any intention of showing my stories to anyone outside of my immediate family (and sometimes not even them). The stories were for my enjoyment only, since I was tired of borrowing books from the library that I would have to set down because of bad content.

A_Seven-Step_Process_to_Solve_Moral_QuandariesThen one day I discovered the power of storytelling. Without my knowledge, my grandma loaned the book I’d written to a friend who was an English teacher. Later she told me what she had done, and the feedback I received from the teacher was positive and incredibly motivating. I decided I wanted to share my stories with an audience larger than my relative fan club, so I began to explore how I should approach writing as a Christian. In doing so, I encountered more and more questions concerning acceptable vs. unacceptable content until the list became daunting and seemingly endless. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Rolena Hatfield
Rolena is a country loving girl who wears cowgirl boots and has dreamed of being Cinderella since she was four. She has an explosive imagination that leads her on crazy adventures in other worlds, yet she somehow always ends up back at her desk with a pencil and cup of coffee in hand. Beside writing at late night hours and devouring books, she has a tremendous love of music and musical theater. She blames them both for not being able to stay off a stage since age eleven, becoming a vocal teacher and now directing dramas. Her favorite places to be are up in her library (yes, she has a special room in her house just for books), outside for a romp or any place with people. On her shelf of favorite books you’ll find The False Prince, Once on This Island, Princess Academy and Bella at Midnight. Her favorite thing to do is laugh. Though she has tried to stop writing, she’s never been able too and has no intentions of doing so in the near future. Or ever for that matter.

http://daughteroftreasure.wixsite.com/daughteroftreasure.