Five Overused Clichés about Family in Writing (and How to Avoid Them)

Name a Disney film. Name both of the hero’s parents.

Not easy, right? Usually at least one of the parents is dead. Although Disney has other reasons for doing this, the main one is to develop sympathy in the audience for the hero. Sometimes it works. But it also comes at a price.

People, especially young adults, are surrounded by family. Whether they want to be or not, they are stuck with their family and have to interact with them every day. Though some might not admit it, familial relationships are the strongest relationships anyone can possess.5_Overused_Cliches_about_Family

Why aren’t we highlighting these relationships when we write stories? Most of your readers will have close friends from church or school. Many of your readers might have “significant others.” (I hate that term; isn’t everyone significant?)

But all of your readers have (or have had) parents. [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.

How to Write Strong Women in Fiction without Making Them Feminists

Writing Christian fiction involves much more than mentioning God a few times or showing a character attending church once. Christian fiction encompasses the whole worldview behind your characters. Loyalty. Courage. Hope. Kindness. Love. No character is perfect, but the worldview presented and the conclusions reached by the main characters ought to mirror the teachings of Scripture. This is true, not only of emotional and mental themes, but of all the details in your story—including the portrayal of gender roles, which is often ravaged by secular (and sometimes Christian) fiction.How_to_Write_Strong_Women_in_Fiction

I am not just talking about a proper view of marriage or the fact that God created us male and female. In a biblical worldview, men and women have different tasks and roles of authority in which the woman is a helpmeet to the man. [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/

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 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.

Make Your Protagonists Hate Each Other in Four Easy Steps

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a writer is to allow all your protagonists to get along with each other.

Many of us are inclined to do this because we love our characters. The protagonists are all working together toward the same goal, right? So why shouldn’t they have a harmonious relationship?

But this habit keeps writing from being great—and kills the story.protagonsitspost

Last summer, I read a Christian fantasy work which bored me to tears for a simple reason: the four or five protagonists always got along and never had any conflicts that weren’t immediately resolved with an apology. [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 as he works toward achieving these goals.

How God Fits into Character Archetypes

By Mark Kamibaya

The character archetype system (roles that characters play in a story) is used by many authors. It was invented by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (basically Sigmund Freud version 2.0 but without all the libido). Carl Jung broadened the field that Sigmund Freud revolutionized. He coined the labels extrovert, introvert, sensing, feeling, thinking, and intuiting (the basis for the Myers-Briggs Personality Types) and gave authors character archetypes.how_god_fits_into_character_archtypes

According to the original list by Carl Jung, there are twelve archetypes: the Innocent, Everyman, Hero, Caregiver, Explorer, Rebel, Creator, Lover, Jester, Sage, Magician, and Ruler, none of which are bound by genre. [Read more…]

Four Tips for Creating a Compelling POV

A week ago, I talked about why the portrayal of a character’s internal thoughts and emotions is inherent to the novel, and how excluding that component can hinder the potential of your story. However, crafting a distinct, compelling POV (point-of-view) isn’t as simple as inserting more of your character’s emotions or thoughts into the book. We’ve all read that novel where a character overanalyzes something to death or is so emotional that the whole book becomes melodramatic and annoying. It’s important to portray characters’ thoughts and emotions, but it takes practice and skill to do it well.compellingpovpost

Here are four tips to help you accomplish this.

1. Capture the Character’s Ethos

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when delving into a character’s mind is to be generic. Bland. Normal. Boring. [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 as he works toward achieving these goals.

Revolutionize Your Writing by Deepening Your Characters

By definition, what is a novel?

At first glance, the answer may seem simple: it’s a prosaic work of fiction that meets a certain word count and is bound up in book form. But if you look into the issue more deeply, you’ll see it’s trickier to explain what makes a novel distinct. Epics, plays, short stories, and poems all represent other forms of literature that existed before the novel was essentially invented by Miguel Cervantes in 1605 with the publication of Don Quixote. When compared with these other forms of literature, what unique qualities does the novel have to lend?deepenyourcharacters

Last semester, I took a college course that explored the attributes of the novel. The more we studied the novel in the course, the clearer it became to me that the novel is distinct for its focus on the inner minds of its characters.

Properly expanding the inner lives of characters can be a difficult skill to master for writers. If we delve into it too much, it’s easy to make our characters seem melodramatic and angsty. So it can be tempting to avoid such a portrayal by describing characters through their actions only. [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 as he works toward achieving these goals.

Three Ways to Use Death in Storytelling

Our theme for this month was death, which might seem like an odd theme to encourage young writers to focus on. Is it healthy for Christians to dwell on death? Isn’t the difference between us and the world that we don’t focus on death in the way that it does?

On the contrary, however, death is central to the Christian faith.death_in_storytelling-1

The cross obviously stands central in Christianity. But it isn’t just Christ’s death that is central to the Christian faith. It’s our own deaths as well. Our spiritual death in Genesis 3 sets the whole plan of salvation in motion. And the reality of our physical death urges us to make the most of our time on earth by winning others to Him.

I once heard a pastor say that his goal was to teach his congregation how to die well. Death is, after all, the final test in our lives and the point where we need to have either accepted or rejected the claims of Christ.

Death is central to the Christian faith. By extension, therefore, it ought to be central to our storytelling. Although not all stories that Christians write need to encompass death, it ought to still have a prominent role overall, and when we use death in our stories, here are three ways it can be done biblically. [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 as he works toward achieving these goals.

Questions to Consider Before Killing Off a Character

As writers, we are sometimes accused of gloating or chuckling evilly to ourselves in dark castles over the sorrow we cause readers when we kill favorite characters. I won’t confirm or deny that, but I will say that writers who reap tears from readers will feel the deep satisfaction of a job well done, because they’ve made readers care about the characters.deathquestions

But whether we weep over our characters’ deaths, rub our hands and grin over them, or indulge in both reactions by turn, several points must be considered when deciding if a character needs to die, how he should die, and the end result.

Does Your Character Really Need to Die?

Not everyone has to die. Otherwise no one would be left to mourn the deceased, and where’s the fun in that? Also, sequels tend to need living characters to fill the pages and bring readers back to your stories. In all seriousness though, depending on what you are writing, it’s likely that a character (or two, or ten) will die—but you must have a reason. [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/

True Courage

‘Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s the courage that counts.’

While this quote from John Wooden might not be literally accurate in every instance, there is a good amount of truth in it. In writing, and in life too, one success won’t establish your character forever. It will build him up, giving him strength for the next challenge, but more challenges will come. And it is during failure that a character learns the most valuable lessons. But, in success or in failure, a character’s courage or lack thereof will affect how they act and react, no matter what the theme of your story. truecourage

Courage, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is the ‘mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.’ Or, as the common saying goes, courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to continue on despite fear. A character needs courage to move forward, to lead, to make decisions and then hold up those decisions. They’ll need to fight, to rescue, to confront… they might not feel brave, but they continue forward anyway, even when there seems to be no hope. Without courage, a character will have a hard time making any sort of rational decision and then sticking to it.

For some characters, gaining courage might be part of the plot.

[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/