The Wince Factor

By Hannah Krynicki

Have you ever experienced the Wince Factor?

It goes like this: One evening you are enjoying a new “family” movie with younger friends or siblings, chuckling at the jokes and sobbing at the tragic moments (and, as a writer, probably analyzing every element of the story). All at once, a jarring image flashes before you and the younger children. Mortified, you snatch the controller, but it’s too late. The kids around you have already witnessed that gratuitous bit of evil, and as the oldest person present, you feel responsible. For the next week, you shudder every time you think of it. I call this infamous image “the Wince Factor.” wincepinterest

Now here is a pretty puzzle: not all Wince Factors are bad. You’ve seen the good ones. A well-placed Wince Factor can bring a sense of credibility to your story and keep your readers on the edge, wondering just how the characters will deal with this. The bad Wince Factors, however, have the biggest reputation. Most are so dreadful because the guardians, especially parents, are trusted with the job of protecting young hearts. When the bad Wince Factors turn up, they feel as if they have failed.

Director Peter Jackson once joked that while working out fantasy action sequences, “You actually turn into a psychopath.” That’s probably the great fear of every Christian writer. No one wants to be remembered as the psychopath who wrote junky gore and wrapped it up with a bow labeled “Young Adult.” All of us must come to grips and to terms with  questions about darkness and gore.

How much is too much? Should I use the Wince Factor or not? [Read more…]

Dark Christian Fiction: A Contradiction in Terms?

When you pick up a work of fiction at your local Christian bookstore, you can probably expect a couple different things in it.  You can expect it to center around Christian characters that run into some kind of a problem.   You can expect there to be either a really nice atheist or a really mean atheist who ends up converting by the book’s end.  You can expect the main conflict in the book to be challenging—but not overly so, because by the book’s end, everything will need to wrap up in a happy ending.

And it’s because of this that some of you may be doing a double-take upon reading the term: “dark Christian fiction.”  Is Christian fiction really allowed to be dark?  Doesn’t writing for the Kingdom and shining Light in our fiction mean that we want to avoid writing fiction that’s going to be really dark?darkchrisitianfictionpinterest

There can be some fair cautions that should be taking when portraying darkness in fiction that I’m going to address later on in this article.  But what I want to argue in this article is simply this: Darkness must not be excluded from Christian fiction.  We can have a lively discussion how darkness should best be portrayed and how much of it should be shown.  But a refusal to accept dark tones in fiction is problematic.  And because of this, dark Christian fiction is therefore not a contradiction in terms but one that we ought to accept not only as a valid category, but also a necessary category in the world of Christian fiction.

Darkness in Christian Literature

Let’s go back to the hypothetical bookstore that you’re perusing.  You pick up a random book off the shelf, read a couple pages, and soon discover that the book is about a man who was unjustly imprisoned for twenty years and who, upon being freed, proceeds throughout the rest of the book to take revenge on everyone who had wronged him.

Perhaps a bit shocked, you put the book down and pick up another, hoping for something better.  But in this book, the main character is a college-dropout without a real job who within the first several chapters ends up murdering his landlady with an axe for a variety of reasons and as the book progresses, goes on to fall in love with a prostitute.

Both of these books would perhaps be tough sells to make in today’s Christian market.  [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.

Focused Hues: How Graphic is Too Graphic?

How graphic should one be when writing a battle scene?

When forming a beating or torture scene?

When describing the dark rituals of some fantasy druid?

These, and hundreds of related queries are valid questions. And yet, to answer inquiry with inquiry, there’s one question which can help clear up this confusion. And the answering question is this: where does your focus lie?

As Christians, when we write a story, what are we trying to focus on and portray?focusedhuespinterest

Philippians 4:8 reminds us to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and are of virtue and praise. This would include what we watch, listen to, read, and, of course, what we write. There’s trouble in every story, as well as darkness, danger, and perhaps violence, but what is your focus on? The good or the bad? The golden hope and light, or black despair and darkness? As Christians, our point shouldn’t be to get a story as dark and gory as we can without stepping over the line. The point is to glorify God though our writing, and as we take up the pen or sit down to type, we need to keep that in mind. Darkness and violence may (and, quite often, do) have their own place, but don’t write dark and gory scenes simply for their own sake or to add shock value to the story.

“Still, as every painter knows, it takes the dark shades to bring out the vividness of the light. Which brings us back to the original question of how much darkness a Christian writer should put in their story.” 

The most common question, and also the broadest, involves how much blood, gore, and violence should be shown in a book or story. Like many things which aren’t really a ‘sin issue’, different writers will have different convictions on this topic, and unfortunately there isn’t a hard line of ‘over here, everything is acceptable and good, but on this side everything is bad and wrong’. Somethings are obviously good, some are obviously unnecessary and over the top, and yet the majority of these red colored queries are tinted with gray and depend on the circumstances. It can make things a pain to figure out sometimes, but here are a few guidelines which will hopefully help.

First, don’t write something that you’d be uncomfortable reading yourself.

[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/

A Three Tiered World

By Hope Schmidt 

I’ve created three fantasy worlds in the past four years. Designing worlds, writing legends, holding the first printed copy of your book…it carries a thrill of creation. Of bringing to light something which didn’t exist before.

For those on one end of the spectrum, creating worlds is exciting and it can be tempting to avoid actually writing the story while forming layer upon layer of details worthy of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. On the other end of the spectrum are those who want to get the world building over as quickly as possible so they can move onto the story. In either case, it’s important to have enough development in your world so the story rings true and yet not get so bogged down or glide so high that you don’t ever move on with the story by which this world will be known. 3tieredworldpinterest

It may be easiest to view your world like a three-tiered structure and, while I’m focusing on fantasy worlds here, this same template could work if you are writing about our own world in the far future.

 

3 Tiers to every story world

 

1. The Foundational Tier

The first, or bottom level is the Foundational Tier of your world. This is your geography. The lay of the land. Whether you have one nation or several, there are the same basic formations such as rivers, forests, mountains, cities and roads. National lines need to be drawn and the nations themselves named (there’s no need to worry about national flags and cultures yet…that will come in a bit).

Also part of this first layer are fun details, like how many suns and moons your nation has. And then there are other aspects which you may or may not decide to develop depending on whether you need them or not…details such as what stars travelers use to guide them, nighttime constellations, weather patterns, unique storms, and length and type of seasons.

[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/

Fight Scenes 101: Writing The Fight

By Mark Kamibaya

 

You’ve got your fight scene all figured out. You’ve followed the five basic scene planning principles and have made sure to keep character at the forefront. Now for the hardest part: writing the fight scene.

A picture is worth a thousand words (or so the saying goes). So if a picture is worth a thousand words then how many words is a movie worth (24 frames per second and about two hours long)? Movies fightscenespost2seem to have supremacy over books especially in the area of fight scenes. Action is very much a visual journey. Would you rather read:

John turned left and punched the man with his right hand, but the man dodged the punch and returned that punch with another punch straight to John’s face.

or see it happen? Movies even have the advantage of hearing the sound of things we’ve never heard before supported by the greatest emotion mover, music. But if movies reign supreme, then why do we always hear that the book is better? There are only two advantages that books have over movies. And we need to use them to turn something visual, like action, into something experiential.

First, character connection.

The power of this is in the reader. Books can show the reader the thoughts of characters. Their internal choices and battles. Readers step into the shoes of the character and join them on a journey at the same time. This is why the book is always better than the movie. You can never be closer to someone other than yourself than with the character of your favorite book. The depth of the relationship is so close it cannot exist off the page.

Note: Actually it can exist off the page. But only divinely. [Read more…]

Fight Scenes 101: Planning The Fight

By Mark Kamibaya

 

More often than we would like, we read fight scenes. And more often than we would like, we read boring fight scenes.  Fight scenes that don’t keep us on the edge of our seat, but make us flip pages to see when it ends. So how can we make gripping fight scenes that engage and enthuse our audience? It takes both careful planning and considerate writing.  fightscenespost

Planning the Scene

A fight scene is a fight scene. Therefore, you should plan it in the same way you plan all your other scenes. So approach it using thesefive simple scene planning principles.

First, every scene needs to advance the plot.

This isn’t easy. It’s hard to cut scenes you’ve worked hard on. Some scenes are there just to show your great writing skills. Cut them. Some scenes don’t exactly advance the plot, but give great characterization moments (like showing a protagonist has awesome fighting skills). Cut it. Worst case scenario is the reader will put down your book because she’s always losing the plot. Any scene that doesn’t advance the plot needs to be cut.

Second, pace your scenes.

Two big secret reveals in a row? Hinges on melodrama. Two character deaths in a row? Too much angst. Two major fight scenes in a row? Boring. This applies to fight scenes even more because some authors (usually guys) love action so much they just stick it in at every opportunity for any excuse. “Well, I’ll put a fight scene in here because it will show that Bobby likes kittens so much he literally fights for their rights!” (Also a great characterization moment) Please, no. [Read more…]

Forgotten Aspects of Action

By Melody Faith 

Action and Adventure is a large genre of novels today. One of my favorites, in fact. A large part of these novels is, of course, action. Fist fights, gunman chases, sword duels, battle scenes: all those intense scenes that make the action a reality in the story. I have always enjoyed action in stories.Forgotten_AspectsWhen it comes to writing it, there are some pretty main points that young writers tend to forget. They are the forgotten aspects of action scenes.

 

Cinema Impression

That scene where you can practically see the camera angles for each scene. See the pain but also emotion in a character’s face as they swing their weapon. Hear the dramatic music ringing through the battle as a beloved character falls. Their hand moves up slowly, and you hold your breath as you await the end of an intense fight. And then you look up from your book; all is still in your bedroom, it’s late at night and your family is all asleep. Few authors do this, but those that do, create it well. James Byron Huggins, the author of a fantastic novel called Rora, is amazing at incorporating this. You feel as though you are there for every fight that Joshua encounters, defending against the enemy for your very life. So when it comes time for you to try out the cinema impression, try to slow down those scenes. If you have to choreograph the fight ahead of time, do so. View it like a story board artist: what camera angle would you focus on?

 

Character Development

Many times young authors like to emphasize characters in quiet scenes, rather than action scenes. They feel like they have to take a break from the story to expound on who the character is. Don’t let this happen. Action scenes are crucial for your character’s development. How do they react under pressure? How do they think when they have little time? What are the thoughts running through their head when their lives are threatened? Who would they sacrifice themselves for? Understand that your character is weak and vulnerable in action scenes: you are seeing them for who they really are. Take advantage of this; let your reader see who this character really is. Do they have a secret the reader only hears about in those intense moments that the character drops their guard?  Enjoy discovering who your character is in these moments, and drop the intense focus on what kick your character will carry out. Just dig into who this character is.

 

Dialogue

This goes hand and hand with character development and plot driving. Keep the characters talking. It helps the plot to continue driving home rather than pausing for each fight or battle scene. The best I have seen of this is Ted Dekker’s Circle Series. Thomas Hunter is a martial artist in one world and an army commander in another. In each fight scene, the plot continues to flow strongly, questions are raised, and the plot builds. You also get to know each character through the scenes, while not pausing the whole story for a flashback. When dialogue flies between the hero and antagonist, it builds so much more tension and emotion. Make your characters converse as they fight, and take advantage of these moments to flesh your character out more.

 

Aftermath

A lot of us enjoy writing the action scenes, but then when it comes to the aftermath, it’s like writer’s block strikes again. A large flaw for new writers is to skip over the aftermath. They move on to the next exciting scene, forgetting they left a character back on the last page with a broken limb and busted lip. You can’t forget the effects of the action scene. Follow through with your action. It’s not all about the fight: include the aftermath and show how it has affected your character. Bryan Davis is great at doing this in his Echoes from the Edge series. After each action scene, you are given a chance to breathe as you read about how the characters were affected. In your aftermath scenes, don’t forget to emphasize how the plot has moved or changed since it took place.

 

You can probably tell that when it comes to writing, developing your character and plot are the biggest points. It must all tie back to that. So even when you are writing intense action, don’t throw it in there carelessly. Take great care to why it is there. Have fun and delve into your action scenes, get to know your characters, and keep the plot flowing.

 

IMG_1294-3At fourteen years old I decided to pick up writing novels. I had always loved writing essays and
reports but I had never considered writing novels. I was introduced to Nanowrimo by a friend, I
decided to try it out. I never stopped writing novels since. I found a new love. A new world was opened up to me, one I could create myself. I have a firm belief in using coffee as a writing fuel. C. S. Lewis has always been my inspiration. I want to write showing messages that point to Christ and inspire others to do greater things. When I am not writing I enjoy graphic design of all varieties, listening to music, and training in Karate with my nine other siblings.

 

What Baby-Sitting Can Teach You About Writing

Quick. What’s your first reaction when you hear that the “littlest” members of the family are coming to spend some time at your house? For some of us, it may not be excitement. It means no computer time and an indefinite number of little kids to watch for the duration of their stay. Synonymous with the end of the world? Maybe not, but it’s not going to be a walk in the park either.

Babysitting Pinterest

I mean, really. Authors, the predictable species that we are, are already self-conscious enough about our writing. Hide the screen at all times—even if it’s just the innocent passerby. And one plus prying pairs of eyeballs? Yeah… there goes your last hope for finishing NaNoWriMo. Introverted? Too bad—the family is expecting you, being the responsible young adult that you are, to keep your cousins occupied.

 

Now what, aside from what sounds like Sarah feeling the need to tell you about her most grievous position over the holidays, does this have to do with writing? They’re little kids, after all. They can’t even read yet. Ah, but it’s not them that will be learning something. It’s you.

 

When my two little cousins, Charlie and Nora, arrived yesterday, the first thing we did was jump right into the action– we went to our big swing at the end of the field. Well, right after introductions.

 

Think about it. What kind of beginning do you want to have in a novel? Certainly not one that starts off with a bunch of boring information dumps about how life has been for the author, or all the not-so-important conversations about daily life and normal things, God forbid that we have remotely normal lives. No, you want to jump right into the action.

[Read more…]

Profile photo of Sarah Spradlin
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.

Should You Include Cussing in Your Story?

“What the BLEEP!”

 

SONY DSCI’ve wanted to write a post for Kingdom Pen on this topic for about three years now, ever since a debate I got into on the One Year Adventure Novel writing forum. Is it okay to include cussing in your story? Or is it always wrong?

Is profanity a sin?

Of course, to determine if it is wrong to include profanity in your novel, you first have to believe that it is wrong to use profanity yourself. The Bible makes it clear that profanity is a sin (Ephesians 4:29, Ephesians 5:4, Colossians 3:8, James 3:9-12, 1st Peter 3:10, etc.)

While there are those Christians who would dispute that cussing is a sin, it is not the purpose of this article to make the case profane speech is sin. For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume we all agree that cussing is a sin.

But is it wrong for your characters to cuss?

So, swearing is wrong, but does that mean we can’t use it in our stories? After all, we display other forms of sin in our stories. Theft, murder, abusive anger, lying, jealousy, the list goes on. As we spoke about regarding the need for more strong female characters in modern literature, there is a difference between depicting something, and glorifying it. What is so different about profanity? Can we not include profanity in our stories, but simply not glorify it?

I came very close to including a cuss word in one of my novels once. I wasn’t planning on having this particular villainous character swear. I didn’t write in my outline that they would use this particular word, but as I wrote this rather intense scene between my protagonist and this villain, and as the conflict heated up, and the accusations flew, it just came to me that the villain should swear. It fit. She was the kind of character who would use a cuss word, and since I had included no profanity anywhere else in the story, the word would gain shock value.

My scene froze as I debated with myself over whether or not I should include this particular swear word, and the old discussion that I was involved in on the OYAN forum came back to me. There is a time and a place for everything, right?

Though this seemed like the time and the place to include a curse word, I eventually decided against its usage for a number of reasons, five to be exact, and I figured I should share them to help any of you who may be struggling with this dilemma in your writing.

 

5 Reasons not to include profanity in your story

[Read more…]