Five Strategies to Conquer the Two-Headed Monster of Doubt

A creature lurks inside every writer’s brain. For some, he’s small and stealthy. For others, he’s gargantuan and grumpy. Sometimes he breathes fire, and sometimes he sneezes slime. He can be scaly or amphibious, clumsy or graceful, rank or aromatic. But, regardless of his appearance and personality, he always sabotages creative expression.5_Strategies_to_Conquer_the_Two-Headed_Monster_of_Doubt

He hisses fear into your ear, barely audible, but your imagination magnifies his voice until the walls of your mind are quaking from the reverberation. What if no one likes my writing? What if readers don’t find it compelling, informative, or interesting? What if I accidentally break some rules or regurgitate a cliché? What if my inclination to weave words is foolish because I’m not talented enough to produce material worth reading? [Read more…]

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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.

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…]

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…]

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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.

Five Reasons You Aren’t Writing Your Dream Novel

Grab a paper and pencil, because this isn’t an article you can just read and ignore. Instead, you’ll be forced to examine yourself and identify what’s hindering you from writing the book you dream about. Because, let’s face it, most of us haven’t achieved our aspirations. We’re in despair because our writing style hasn’t sharpened quickly enough or because we’re unable to finish a draft.

We’re in trouble. We need a breakthrough—which can be accomplished by training ourselves to detect and destroy obstacles that might be holding us back. But first we must address the core issue.5_Reasons_You_Aren_t_Writing_Your_Dream_Novel

What’s Your Long-Term Vision?

If you can’t define why you’re a writer or what your goals are, you’ll lack motivation, and the rest of this article won’t matter. Knowing your desired destination will help you navigate toward it and determine what to sacrifice along the way. [Read more…]

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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.

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…]

Interview on Dystopian and YA Literature with Author Nadine Brandes (+Giveaway!)

Back in April of this year, I was privileged to attend a Christian writers’ conference where Nadine Brandes led a workshop (one of the main reasons I registered for the conference).

Nadine_Brandes_InterviewI’d been following Nadine for a while before the conference. I noticed how she was personal and sincere with her readers, wrote fun blog posts, and was becoming well known for her Out of Time series (which I didn’t read until after the conference, and now I’m a fan). She seemed to hold some secret to being an author that I wanted to know.

Thus, I went to the conference with eyes and ears wide open. My expectations were not only met, but blown out of this galaxy.

I was amazed by her workshop, which gave me a vision for where I should take my writing, and I was flabbergasted by her enthusiasm to talk with me one-on-one. Somewhere in that conversation, I asked if she’d be interested in doing an author interview for Kingdom Pen, and she readily agreed. I was doing a happy dance on the inside!

So, without further ado, I hope you catch a glimpse of who Nadine is and are encouraged by her words of wisdom to aspiring authors.

Being an Author

KP: What led you to become an author?

Nadine: The imaginary voices in my head! [wink] Actually, I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one thing. It’s a mixture of God’s prompting, my dad’s storytelling, my mom’s reading, my big sister’s playacting, and my love of reading. I’d always loved the concept of story and being able to affect someone’s life with it.

Only once I attended my first writers’ conference did I realize I wanted to pursue publication.

KP: At the writers’ conference, you said in your workshop that “being an author is more than just about writing, but about the ministry.” Can you explain what makes writing a ministry? [Read more…]

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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.

Why Most Modern Christian Allegories Fail (and How to Prevent This)

As of this Saturday, I’ve been reviewing submissions at Kingdom Pen for four years. During this time, I have seen several trends in content that’s submitted for publication.

Few are as prevalent as allegories.

Roughly half our fiction submissions are allegories of some form. But I can count on one hand the number of allegories I’ve approved to be published over the past four years.Why_Most_Modern_Christian_Allegories_Fail_(and_How_to_Prevent_This)

Simply put, most modern Christian allegories are terrible. Somewhere along the road, it seems that Christian writers began to believe that traditional rules of writing compelling, three-dimensional characters and subtle, non-preachy themes don’t apply to allegories. As a result, most modern allegories I’ve read follow the same blatant retelling of the Gospel story centered around a conversion narrative with flat characters and a predictable storyline. Bonus points if Christ literally shows up in the story or it’s set in a generic fantasy environment. [Read more…]

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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 Symbolism Benefits Character Arcs

Character arcs are bothersome.

Let me clarify: creating character arcs is bothersome. Character arcs in and of themselves are terrific; they aid with theme, character development, and the execution of vital plot points. Yet, they require effort to pull off correctly. Writers risk dumping all the character’s growth on readers like a pile of bricks, rendering the change heavy handed and ineffective.How_Symbolism_Benefits_Character_Arcs

This is where symbolism dashes to the writer’s rescue. Symbolism occurs when an object, person, or place embodies or alludes to an idea or belief. When it is incorporated into character arcs, the changes necessary to the arc are shown, not with words, but with objects. By studying how symbolism is utilized in other stories, we can discover how symbolism enhances character arcs and apply it to our own tales.

Symbolism and Abstract Ideas

Symbolism might seem complicated at first, but once you learn about it, it’s not so scary after all. In one sense, symbolism is like associating memories with objects, people, or places. When your character experiences or believes something, the people, places, and objects around him becomes a landmark to that sentiment or occurrence. Afterwards that object is a monument that will remind your character what happened, just like you might recall a street your best friend lived on or ice cream you ate while celebrating a special event. That is symbolism. [Read more…]

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Gabrielle Pollack currently resides with her family and many cats amidst a small wood she wishes was Narnia. Her interests are varied, and when she isn’t writing or studying, she enjoys karate, archery, introverting, and hanging out on the Kingdom Pen forum. She relishes the cool wind that rushes in before a thunderstorm, the scent of fresh rain, black clouds, and in summary, all things storm. As a lighthearted INFP, she loves horses, spring, strawberries, and sitting on the roof of her house.
She fell in love with stories many years ago and immersed herself in epic books like The Kingdom Series and The Peleg Chronicles, living the adventures and loving the characters. It took her a while to realize she could write epic stories herself, but once she did, she was a lost cause. She never quite recovered her sanity and often rants about good storytelling to innocent bystanders. Gabrielle has written two books since, and has a plethora of other ideas swirling inside her brain, waiting to turn into people and worlds. She desires to glorify God through her books, short stories, and blog, and looks forward to learning more about her trade.

Three Ways Exceptional Sci-Fi Authors Develop Themes

My favorite sci-fi stories always seem to be tight. The sci-fi elements, the characters, the world, and the theme are all closely intertwined. Whether the stories are relatively small scale (the movie Arrival) or full-blown trilogies (Jill Williamson’s The Safe Lands), they blend otherworldly characteristics with real-world issues to create a compelling narrative that not only entertains but explores and instructs.

But how? Theme was complicated before aliens and phasers and warp speed got in the way. Are you supposed to handle theme the same as you would for non-speculative genres?3_Ways_Exceptional_Sci-Fi_Authors_Develop_Themes

No, because genres differ for good reasons. Speculative stories are set apart by their diverse options for communicating theme. Sound scary? Maybe. But exciting too.

However, before we start discussing themes, we need to take a minute to talk about the genre.  Sci-fi stories are defined by their Primary Fantastic Element, which makes them surpass reality. For 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the PFE is the existence of the Nautilus. For the movie Passengers, it’s the ability to put people into hibernation while they hurtle through space for one hundred and twenty years. Perhaps your futuristic world features flying cars and surgically implantable bio-computers that enhance sensory detail, but only one element should be so drastically different from the real world that the story rotates around it. That is your story’s Primary Fantastic Element, and it is the axis of your theme. [Read more…]

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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.

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 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.