How to Resist Writing Stereotypical Fantasy Races

A fine line separates inspiration and imitation, or so the saying goes. Writers struggle to define this boundary more than most artists—they are, after all, rearranging the same twenty-six letters in various patterns judged to be the most pleasing to the mind and ear. The number of plots guaranteed to captivate readers is also limited (falling in love, freeing the kingdom, solving the mystery). Since fantasy writers have immersed themselves in the worlds of their literary heroes from childhood, they cannot help subconsciously modeling their own stories off them.How_to_Resist_Writing_Stereotypical_Fantasy_Races

Thus, it is unsurprising that many books seem to be penned by copycats, or just another Lord of the Rings rip-off. Nevertheless, original fantasy works with fascinating new species are still being written and enthralling audiences. What are these authors doing differently?

To answer this question, let’s examine the staple of high fantasy: the common elf.

How Tolkien Reinvented the Elf

These mythical beings predate recorded history and intersperse Anglo-Saxon, Icelandic, Germanic, and Scandinavian tradition. [Read more…]

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Sierra Ret — homeschool grad, camping fanatic, and amateur adventurer — joined the KP team as an intern a year ago and has since been promoted to Writing Team Captain, an honor equally thrilling and humbling. She enjoys both swinging in a hammock in the woods and hermiting behind a laptop screen with a mug of tea in one hand and a bar of dark chocolate in the other (something that tends to make typing difficult).
While the most recent plot in her long string of fantasies involves making a living as a travel blogger in New Zealand, she currently makes her home in Peterborough, Canada, a pleasant land that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Shire. But regardless of whether she eventually settles at home, abroad, or at the seat of government power in Ottawa, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

Teaching Freedom

Arthur Blakeney hated September.

He didn’t despise fall’s arrival, or his students’ return to his one-room schoolhouse, or even the picking of apples and pumpkins. He once welcomed all these changes and more, but now they evoked dread instead of pleasure. The annual Honor Ceremony fell smack in the middle of that awful month, and as the schoolmaster of Gribleyton, he was compelled to give a lesson on the reason for the occasion. And that was enough to make him avoid flipping his calendar long after August had passed.Teaching_Freedom

But every year September arrived despite Arthur and his students’ wishes, and today the short, graying schoolmaster faced a room of familiar young people, most fidgeting with excitement and the rest chattering loudly about the evening’s festivities. Arthur was a patient man and fond of his students, but today the chaos grated on his already frayed nerves. [Read more…]

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Sierra Ret — homeschool grad, camping fanatic, and amateur adventurer — joined the KP team as an intern a year ago and has since been promoted to Writing Team Captain, an honor equally thrilling and humbling. She enjoys both swinging in a hammock in the woods and hermiting behind a laptop screen with a mug of tea in one hand and a bar of dark chocolate in the other (something that tends to make typing difficult).
While the most recent plot in her long string of fantasies involves making a living as a travel blogger in New Zealand, she currently makes her home in Peterborough, Canada, a pleasant land that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Shire. But regardless of whether she eventually settles at home, abroad, or at the seat of government power in Ottawa, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

Should a Christian Ghostwrite?

Who do you suppose wrote this article? If you’re a loyal, observant reader of Kingdom Pen (as you should be) your answer will probably be: “Sierra Ret, obviously. It says so at the top.” But in the age of superfluous digital-content creation, a byline might not be as authentic as you expect. If I were a less ethical writer (and our editor-in-chief less picky about whom he hires), this article could be ghostwritten.Should_a_Christian_Ghostwrite

Ghostwriting is typically defined as writing for another who is the presumed or credited author, and the practice has a long tradition. Presidential speeches, for instance. George Washington’s famous Farewell Address was primarily written by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. It is, after all, unreasonable to expect successful leaders to also be phenomenal wordsmiths. Today we automatically assume that nearly all presidential discourses are ghostwritten, and no one is deceived into thinking that lofty statements about freedom, unity, and American exceptionalism flowed straight from the president’s own pen. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Sierra
Sierra Ret — homeschool grad, camping fanatic, and amateur adventurer — joined the KP team as an intern a year ago and has since been promoted to Writing Team Captain, an honor equally thrilling and humbling. She enjoys both swinging in a hammock in the woods and hermiting behind a laptop screen with a mug of tea in one hand and a bar of dark chocolate in the other (something that tends to make typing difficult).
While the most recent plot in her long string of fantasies involves making a living as a travel blogger in New Zealand, she currently makes her home in Peterborough, Canada, a pleasant land that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Shire. But regardless of whether she eventually settles at home, abroad, or at the seat of government power in Ottawa, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

How to Develop Realistic Sci-Fi Technology

On the surface, sci-fi is one of the easiest genres to define: stories involving speculative science. But the word speculative has deeper connotations than you might think. When authors incorporate as-of-yet uninvented technology into their stories, they are speculating answers to different what ifs. What if people had the ability to indefinitely extend their lifetimes? What if the government had to completely restructure itself to deal with the changing population demographic? What if certain religious groups rejected the artificial life extensions and suffered persecution for continuing to procreate, which the rest of society worries could lead to overpopulation?

How_to_Develop_Realistic_Sci-Fi_TechnologySci-fi writers are equally nerds and philosophers because they explore the limits of mankind’s knowledge and the fundamental reality of human existence. But when writers fail to show the various ramifications of their fictional technological achievements, their story worlds ring false.

Thankfully, you can avoid this fate by tackling the following five questions in your sci-fi story.

#1: What is the Government’s Response?

One of the most implausible elements of most sci-fi stories is that a fantastic, life-changing technology is developed, yet the government does nothing—instead of flooding the scene with an overabundance of red tape and restrictions.

Marvel’s Civil War did an admirable job of addressing the state’s role by playing out what happens when lawmakers, international boundaries, and governmental oversight finally catch up to scientifically enhanced superheroes. Cap and Iron Man, who previously enjoyed a free reign as they thwarted evil, must choose between submitting to a questionable higher power or acting as vigilantes. [Read more…]

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Sierra Ret — homeschool grad, camping fanatic, and amateur adventurer — joined the KP team as an intern a year ago and has since been promoted to Writing Team Captain, an honor equally thrilling and humbling. She enjoys both swinging in a hammock in the woods and hermiting behind a laptop screen with a mug of tea in one hand and a bar of dark chocolate in the other (something that tends to make typing difficult).
While the most recent plot in her long string of fantasies involves making a living as a travel blogger in New Zealand, she currently makes her home in Peterborough, Canada, a pleasant land that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Shire. But regardless of whether she eventually settles at home, abroad, or at the seat of government power in Ottawa, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

Beyond the Evil Overlord: Three Dynamic Character Arcs for Villains

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a hero in possession of reasonable talents and good looks must be in want of an arch nemesis.”Beyond_the_Evil_Overlord

Although the above statement is nothing more than a bad Jane Austen paraphrase, every writer knows that a story is vapid without a villain. Without darkness, how will the light shine through? No one can test, provoke, or push the hero to reach his full potential the way a villain can. In all likelihood, without the villain, the hero would still be a poor moisture farmer in a planetary backwoods.

But even though we recognize that a villain is essential to the success of a story, we tend to focus our efforts on fleshing out our protagonist’s motivation and personality. We may create the most unique and compelling character of the century, but if our main villain is a lazy, dark-lord-Sauron imitation, the story’s overall quality will be reduced.

A stagnant villain is a boring villain. With that in mind, let’s examine three dynamic character arcs villains can follow. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Sierra
Sierra Ret — homeschool grad, camping fanatic, and amateur adventurer — joined the KP team as an intern a year ago and has since been promoted to Writing Team Captain, an honor equally thrilling and humbling. She enjoys both swinging in a hammock in the woods and hermiting behind a laptop screen with a mug of tea in one hand and a bar of dark chocolate in the other (something that tends to make typing difficult).
While the most recent plot in her long string of fantasies involves making a living as a travel blogger in New Zealand, she currently makes her home in Peterborough, Canada, a pleasant land that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Shire. But regardless of whether she eventually settles at home, abroad, or at the seat of government power in Ottawa, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

Ceiling Tiles

Anna Shipley had often been told she was an old soul in a young body. And upon being admitted to the Golden Years nursing home at age nineteen, her first thought was that fate had an unusually twisted sense of humor.

Following that initial observation came a host of others, mostly of a grim and hopeless nature. She soon found existence easier if she avoided thinking and instead focused on small diversions. This morning she took an inordinate amount of pride in confirming that three hundred and seventy-eight tiles covered her gray ceiling, which she would have reported had anyone asked her.Ceiling_Tiles

“Her” ceiling was a relative term, for she had been shuffled into an out-of-the-way spare room while the nurses were manically sanitizing everything after last month’s influenza outbreak. Im no different than the furniture.

The thought caused her mood to further deteriorate. Great. It’s barely past ten and I’m already indulging in self-pity. Pull yourself together, Shipley. [Read more…]

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Sierra Ret — homeschool grad, camping fanatic, and amateur adventurer — joined the KP team as an intern a year ago and has since been promoted to Writing Team Captain, an honor equally thrilling and humbling. She enjoys both swinging in a hammock in the woods and hermiting behind a laptop screen with a mug of tea in one hand and a bar of dark chocolate in the other (something that tends to make typing difficult).
While the most recent plot in her long string of fantasies involves making a living as a travel blogger in New Zealand, she currently makes her home in Peterborough, Canada, a pleasant land that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Shire. But regardless of whether she eventually settles at home, abroad, or at the seat of government power in Ottawa, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

Seven Reasons Writing Fanfiction Can Make You a Better Writer

Disciplines in the writing field that were once considered frivolous wastes of time have become respected and appreciated by our society. Journalism, novel writing, and poetry are all prime examples. One sizable genre this maturation process has yet to encompass is fanfiction.7_Reasons_Writing_Fanfiction_Can_Make_You_a_Better_Writer

Many authors view fanfiction as a blight on the modern literary world—a scourge of copyright infringements and abuse heaped upon beloved characters. But they are incorrect in assuming that this is a modern phenomenon. The Aeneid, a poetic epic written in 20 A.D. and a magnificent work of Latin literature, is in fact a Roman fanfiction of Homer’s Odyssey.

As an author who has deeply enjoyed both reading and writing fanfiction, I believe that fanfiction is a perfectly acceptable way to hone writing skills, as long as you acknowledge your work is fanfiction and it doesn’t bring you any material gain. Here are seven reasons why. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Sierra
Sierra Ret — homeschool grad, camping fanatic, and amateur adventurer — joined the KP team as an intern a year ago and has since been promoted to Writing Team Captain, an honor equally thrilling and humbling. She enjoys both swinging in a hammock in the woods and hermiting behind a laptop screen with a mug of tea in one hand and a bar of dark chocolate in the other (something that tends to make typing difficult).
While the most recent plot in her long string of fantasies involves making a living as a travel blogger in New Zealand, she currently makes her home in Peterborough, Canada, a pleasant land that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Shire. But regardless of whether she eventually settles at home, abroad, or at the seat of government power in Ottawa, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

Five Myths about Writing Strong Female Characters

Of all the overdone stereotypes currently at loose in literature and on the screen, the Strong Female Character annoys me the most. Strong Females have infested filmmaking to the degree that directors seem to think it’s no longer optional to include one. In hand-to-hand combat, a female warrior is often portrayed as equal, if not superior, to a male triple her size. Yet, despite the innumerable Strong Females marketed to us (Katniss, Jyn, Triss, Rey), I find myself struggling to relate to any of them.5_Myths_about_Writing_Strong_Female_Characters

I am aware that as a female I tend to be more critical of my own sex. I also acknowledge that although I am not capable of singlehandedly thwarting three armed assailants trying to steal my BB-8 droid, that does not necessarily imply no woman can. But in a culture proclaiming that gender is an arbitrary social construct while simultaneously bewailing a lack of female presidents, it is important that Christian authors reaffirm what it means to be a woman. Here is an opportunity for us to stand out from the empty noise by avoiding five common mistakes when writing Strong Female Characters. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Sierra
Sierra Ret — homeschool grad, camping fanatic, and amateur adventurer — joined the KP team as an intern a year ago and has since been promoted to Writing Team Captain, an honor equally thrilling and humbling. She enjoys both swinging in a hammock in the woods and hermiting behind a laptop screen with a mug of tea in one hand and a bar of dark chocolate in the other (something that tends to make typing difficult).
While the most recent plot in her long string of fantasies involves making a living as a travel blogger in New Zealand, she currently makes her home in Peterborough, Canada, a pleasant land that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Shire. But regardless of whether she eventually settles at home, abroad, or at the seat of government power in Ottawa, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

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 — homeschool grad, camping fanatic, and amateur adventurer — joined the KP team as an intern a year ago and has since been promoted to Writing Team Captain, an honor equally thrilling and humbling. She enjoys both swinging in a hammock in the woods and hermiting behind a laptop screen with a mug of tea in one hand and a bar of dark chocolate in the other (something that tends to make typing difficult).
While the most recent plot in her long string of fantasies involves making a living as a travel blogger in New Zealand, she currently makes her home in Peterborough, Canada, a pleasant land that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Shire. But regardless of whether she eventually settles at home, abroad, or at the seat of government power in Ottawa, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

How to Write Christian Stories without Annoying Your Readers

“Do I need to make my story Christian?” is often one of the first questions biblically-minded young writers ask themselves. After growing up on a steady diet of Veggie Tales and Adventures in Odyssey, it may seem natural to follow this fine tradition by writing stories rife with applicable Bible verses and modernized parables. Or perhaps you have the exact opposite in mind and are instead struggling with nagging guilt that your tale lacks prominent Christian themes.howtowritechristian

Actually, the question of whether a book needs to be Christian is, in a sense, irrelevant. Every action, spoken word, or inward thought in a story works in harmony to paint a picture of the author’s beliefs. A writer with a solid biblical foundation, whose aim is to write strongly and reflect God’s truth, will inherently write a “Christian” story, even if Jesus is never mentioned in it. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Sierra
Sierra Ret — homeschool grad, camping fanatic, and amateur adventurer — joined the KP team as an intern a year ago and has since been promoted to Writing Team Captain, an honor equally thrilling and humbling. She enjoys both swinging in a hammock in the woods and hermiting behind a laptop screen with a mug of tea in one hand and a bar of dark chocolate in the other (something that tends to make typing difficult).
While the most recent plot in her long string of fantasies involves making a living as a travel blogger in New Zealand, she currently makes her home in Peterborough, Canada, a pleasant land that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Shire. But regardless of whether she eventually settles at home, abroad, or at the seat of government power in Ottawa, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.