How to Enrich Your Story with Magic

By Amy Caylor

I’ve always adored fantasy. I’m fascinated with princesses in castles and knights battling dragons. But I especially love magic (and yes, Christians can write about it with discretion). To live in a world where books have self-turning pages and torn clothes can be mended with a gesture would be delightful.

I’m particularly drawn to unique magic systems. Over the years, I’ve observed stories where magic was thrown in as a component of the genre, and others where magic was purposefully included. Brandon Sanderson’s laws of magic have helped me identify two factors that set apart a magic system or any sort of extraordinary powers/abilities: costs and limitations. With these in mind, you can develop a distinct magic system and enhance your story.How_to_Enrich_Your_Story_with_Magic

Establishing the Cost for Using Magic

Characters should experience consequences for exercising their abilities. Not all magic systems have drawbacks, and when they do, it’s typically energy—such as in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. After a magician casts a spell, he feels tired. I can count on one hand the books I’ve read that had a downside to magic besides energy. Thus, energy-cost systems will likely be familiar to readers, which may be what you seek, but unusual disadvantages to magic will make your world more interesting to visit. [Read more…]

When the Towers Fell

By Eliza Downer

One normal autumn day

Lurking darkness flew

Few knew of the coming evil

Morning coffee, rushed goodbyes, final hugs

When_the_Towers_Fell

Clocked in, ready to work

Lunch break, stay or leave?

A loud crash, confusion, unknown

Run confused to the light

[Read more…]

Night and Day

By Isabelle Evans

There she stood,

Tall and pale in the moonlight,

Pearlescent eyes glowing,

Silver scales shining.

Night_and_Day

The dragon queen,

Glorious majesty,

Hatched from a moon,

Fathered by a star.

[Read more…]

Interview on Character Creation and Christian Writing with S. D. Smith (+3 Book Giveaway!)

Yes, KeePers, we’re giving away three signed books (two of them in hardback) courtesy of the latest author we’re interviewing.

S.D._Smith_InterviewOur very own Christi Eaton met S. D. Smith, a member of the Story Warren, at a convention earlier this year. Not only did she enjoy talking with him, but she also got multiple signed books from him to do a giveaway.

Read on to hear S. D. Smith’s perspective on writing as a Christian and creating characters.

The Writing Life

KP: What is the most difficult aspect of writing for you?

Smith: Finding a comfortable chair is challenging. I think the most important thing is to get obstacles to the story out of the way, so readers can see what you see. That can be hard, but it’s crucial, and there are a thousand ways to foul it up, on both the pretentious literary and pretty lazy side.

KP: What authors have influenced you most?

Smith: Cliché alert (but I don’t care): C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, G. K. Chesterton, and P. G. Wodehouse.

KP: If you could have done something differently when you were younger to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?

Smith: Read more. Write more. Get tougher. I would also have more appreciation for the formative power of habits. “You are what you continually do. Excellence, therefore, is a habit.” –Aristotle

KP: Do you hide secrets or inside jokes in your books only a few people will find?

Smith: I can’t saY for surE, Sadly.

Writing as a Christian

KP: What do you mean by “writing new stories with an old soul”? How has your faith influenced your mission?

Smith: I want to write downstream of the great inheritance of Christian authors and do so faithfully. I want to echo the classics I love so much, while taking advantage of a few of modern literature’s positive features.

KP: What does literary success look like for you?

Smith: Readers who are served well (delighted, mostly) by my stories.

KP: How has your walk with the Lord impacted your writing?

Smith: Because writing is another Christian vocation, I see it as an opportunity to love and serve. I think my relationship with the Lord impacts my writing the way it impacts all areas of my life: informing and inspiring. I think it helps me to regularly reconnect to the meaning of my work, that it is rooted in love. I must not believe lies.

KP: To view it from a different angle, has your writing ever impacted your walk with the Lord?

Smith: I’m not sure. I don’t think of my relationship with my Father in heaven as dependent on my ability to perform my vocation well. However, I have learned a lot about authority and storytelling that gives me insight and hope about the story God is telling in the world.

KP: What advice would you give on what it means to write as a Christian?

Smith: To remember you are loved. To remember you are a character in a bigger, better story. To remember that your calling is to love and serve. Don’t see your identity as rooted to fame and self-expression (though it’s good to strive for excellence and success), but rooted in who you are in Christ and how you can love and serve others.

Character Creation

KP: What’s your process for creating the characters in your stories? Do you fill out questionnaires and diagram their personalities, or do you just sit down and discover them through writing?

Smith: I discover them. A questionnaire sounds good, especially if it leads to doing the work. But sometimes those kinds of things (research, etc.) can be excuses to avoid the hard thing: writing.

KP: How do you know when you’ve written a good character?

Smith: I believe them. Readers believe them. They don’t think about them much. They fit in the story in a way that does not arrest their attention.

KP: As writers, sometimes we get very attached to our characters, and it can be difficult to rewrite or cut them from the story. What has your experience been with these kinds of large-scale revisions? What advice would you give to writers who are struggling to do this?

Smith: I would say what any working author would say, and that is we cannot be precious with our prose, or our characters, or our plot. We must be willing to cut anything that does not serve the story. We must clear away obstacles! All the clichés about killing darlings and cutting word counts are true. My first book was 74,000 words and its sequel was 60,000 words. The first would have been better if it were 60,000 as well. We learn. We get better. We get less precious about ideas and particular words. Cut and kill, young writers, and your story will live. Refuse to cut and the gangrene sets in and the whole patient is in grave danger of death.

You can learn more about S. D. Smith by visiting his website.

Ready for the Giveaway?

S. D. Smith is sponsoring a giveaway of signed copies of Ember Falls, The Green Ember, and The Black Star of Kingston. To be entered in the giveaway, click the widget below and login with either Facebook or email to see all the possible ways to enter. The more options you choose, the more entries you get, and the greater your chances of winning!

This giveaway will run from September 1st–September 7th, so enter while you can!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What Life Is

By Mariposa Aristeo

What is life? What defines it?

Even the dictionary can’t describe it.

If you had to define it, what would you see?

If it was left up to me, this is what it’d be:

What_Life_Is

Life is more than writing and reading a book,

More than eating and learning how to cook,

It is more than watching movies and having fun,

More than buying merchandise by the ton, [Read more…]

My Testimony

By Natalie Griffin

That glorious day I felt a stir,

One in my heart that I’d never heard.

It was the Word

Coming to intervene in my lost, broken life,

My_Testimony

To be a light in my darkness and a relief to my strife.

Although it’s fair to say in my eight-year-old circumstance,

I didn’t give the true meaning of “new life” a second glance.

It wouldn’t be until several years later [Read more…]

How to Achieve Multiple Levels of Conflict in One Scene

By Kate Flournoy

Conflict is often viewed as two forces that clash and cause tension, but it’s much more complicated than that. Conflict is engaging because it prevents a character from attaining a desirable goal, which readers can empathize with because of the struggles in their own lives.

Perhaps the character is a little boy named Billy who wants a cookie, but the jar is out of reach. This presents an obstacle, but it’s a less effective use of conflict because it’s not dichotomous.How_to_Achieve_Multiple_Levels_of_Conflict_in_One_Scene

The Essence of Conflict Is Contradiction

Readers need two sides to root for, not just one character and an obstacle. Nobody can sympathize with an inanimate object.

Suppose Billy’s sister, Sally, also wants a cookie, and only one is left. Mom told Billy he could have the cookie, but Sally didn’t eat her cookie yesterday. They both have a legitimate claim.

We might be tempted to stop here. The obstacle must still be surmounted, but now two characters are vying for the cookie and readers can relate to both of them, so they’re torn about who to cheer for. The conflict is more complex, yet is it enough?  [Read more…]

The Divine Letter

By Mariposa Aristeo

God’s Word is very special indeed,

More than anything I’ll ever need.

It is a pillow of comfort to rest my weary head,

The satisfying food with which I long to be fed,

The_Divine_Letter

The water that quenches my strongest thirst,

The shelter that protects me from the worst,

The loving teacher who guides me to the path of light,

The law that informs me of what’s wrong and what’s right, [Read more…]

Three Ways the Book of Esther Inspires Writers to Glorify God Between the Lines

By Mariposa Aristeo

Esther is one of the most beautiful books of all time, teaching us more lessons than a college class. It’s the Mona Lisa of literature. Yet, surprisingly, God isn’t mentioned in all 167 verses. His name’s absence has fogged the brains of some people so that they doubt Esther’s authenticity in the canon.

The Greek Septuagint (LXX) assumed God had mistakenly omitted Himself and added 107 apocryphal verses.[1] But inserting God’s name in Esther is like writing the word “book” underneath the Bible. If the author of Esther magnified God without mentioning Him, so can we. All we include and exclude in our novels can glorify God—even the smallest scenes. If God is truly at the core of our stories, we won’t have to state it.3_Ways_the_Book_of_Esther_Inspires_Writers_to_Glorify_God_Between_the_Lines

By digging into the book of Esther, we’ll unearth three jewels that will radiate God’s glory into a novel.

1. Glorify God by Emphasizing His Sovereignty

God’s name may be missing, but His sovereignty is evident in every verse. Instead of telling readers that God caused an event to occur, the author allows them to make that conclusion as they read along. Queen Vashti’s refusal, the king’s choice of Esther, and the execution of Haman are too purposeful to be mere coincidences. [Read more…]

Introducing KP Minicourses!

Introducing_MinicoursesHave you ever needed to get a solid foundation on core writing principles really fast?

If so, you may be interested in our newly released KP Minicourses!

KP Minicourses are built on the premise that many writers don’t have time to take an intensive course on every writing subject.

Sometimes they just need a shortcut so they can jump in, quickly learn what they need, and  return to writing.

Today we’re releasing two Kingdom Pen Minicourses.

One minicourse is called How to Create a Compelling Protagonist and explains the five key qualities every protagonist should have in order to enthrall the reader.

The other minicourse is titled The Basics of Writing Genre Fiction and explains what emotions readers expect to experience when reading various works of genre fiction.

Each KP Minicourse is between twenty and thirty minutes long and gives you the crash course you need to go out and write.

Sometimes a short course means a simple course that only covers the basics. That’s not what we’re trying to do here. We don’t want to waste your time with simple lessons that teach you things you already know.

Instead, each minicourse seeks to approach the topic with a unique perspective that helps you situate the topic in the context of our overall goal as storytellers: to tell stories that both delight and instruct readers.

These courses aren’t as comprehensive as our main courses. But they aim to be an effective shortcut to help you start working on your story immediately.

Even better, for this launch week, we’re offering both courses at the discounted price of $7 (normally $10) until midnight Saturday.

If either of these courses interests you, you want to snatch up this opportunity fast.

You can read more about both courses on their sales pages.

Click this link to learn more about what these minicourses offer.