Top 5 Myths to Avoid When Writing about Grief

Character death is everywhere. A classic favorite among authors, playwrights, and script writers alike, its uses are numerous. Killing off a character can add realism, advance the plot, provide motivation for other individuals, or satisfy the audience with a well-deserved end. Although the exact circumstances of a character’s death and the immediate impact on those who witness it are heavily covered in literature, a less commonly portrayed aspect of death is the long-term effects it has on those who experience it.top5mythspost

Mourning in literature is often seen as an obstacle to overcome. The assumption is that people in grief need to be cured, the melancholy mustn’t drag on too long, and the most important goal is to make sure the loved one’s death was not in vain. Sadly, these common themes in fiction are inherently wrong. As respected bereavement counselor Earl Grollman once said, “Grief is not a disorder, a disease, or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical, and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

Sooner or later in life, everyone is forced to experience a deep loss. And without the guidance of counselors or family, the only voice telling people how to grieve is our shallow, profoundly confused culture. As authors, we do a disservice to our readers if our heroes are praised for ignoring their grief, or if the main obstacle is that the character just needs to decide to “be happy” again. [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.

How to Avoid Freaking Out During NaNoWriMo

Ah, fall…my favorite season. It is around this time each year that I find myself participating in a few of the essential autumn activities—apple picking, pumpkin carving, and freaking out because I am not ready for NaNoWriMo! In all likelihood, you have also participated in one or more of these activities yourself, but today I’d like for us to focus our attention on freaking out, and why you don’t have to.nanoannouncement

First, Freaking Out

NaNoWriMo has become a staple event among writers, so I need not explain it to you here. An entire website has been dedicated to it (check it out). During the month of November (aka National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo) we all relinquish a hefty portion of our sanity in order that we might have the chance to maybe crank out a 50,000-word novel (if we’re lucky). Thankfully, the Kingdom Pen Community and Staff are here to help you eliminate the italicized words in the previous sentence and retain that robust sanity you’ve built up since the last NaNoWriMo. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Michael Stanton
Michael Stanton has had what he describes as a scatterbrained adventure of a life that has recently led him to working at Kingdom Pen. When he wasn’t teaching underprivileged children in Uganda and rafting on the White Nile, he was either in Canada’s capital city studying the history of Christianity or in Michigan learning how to make films. Originally from Banner Elk, North Carolina, Michael grew up homeschooled and surrounded by the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. Those mountains inspired Michael’s love of writing (and, let’s face it, the Lord of the Ringsmovies also helped). Many years and adventures later, Michael found himself getting a marketing degree, and low and behold, Kingdom Pen was in need of a Marketing Director. What are the odds that God didn’t see that coming? All divine providence allusions aside, Michael is super excited to get to work in an organization that so closely matches his desires to see more quality content streaming from the minds and hearts of his fellow Christians.

Exposing The Darkness: Writing Evil…Right – Part 2

By Jamie Dougall

The first part can be found here: Exposing The Darkness: Writing Evil…Right Part 1

 

2. The Story

Every story you write will be different from the others. Each will have its own particular set of limits. We have already established why stories need evil to generate conflict, but we haven’t stopped to ask why you are including these elements in your story. Paul makes an excellent point when he writes there is a difference between participating in the unfruitful deeds of darkness and exposing them (NASB, Eph.  5. 11-12). In writing, that difference is wrapped up in theme. writingdarknessfb

Theme keeps your use of gore and darkness in check because it puts meaning behind the events of your story. Without a theme, we risk losing our way in the darkness.  We risk forgetting our purpose and aimlessly writing evil for no other reason than to create something we hope is ‘entertaining’. As a Christian, this is a very real problem. If you are using gore and darkness solely as a draw card or as your story’s ‘energy drink’, you are not exposing the darkness. You are participating in it.

You can use your theme to set limits for your story by making your conflict, and therefore, your use of darkness, flow out of your story’s theme.

  • Establish what your theme is.

If your theme is something like “Love is powerful”, you will then consider what true love looks like in action. A loving person is sacrificial, caring for others even more than he or she cares for himself.  [Read more…]

Exposing The Darkness: Writing Evil…Right – Part 1

By Jamie Dougall

 

Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated, or perhaps obsessed, with right and wrong. Mom tells me stories about how I knew there was a right and a wrong way to do something, and would not do anything until I figured out which way was right. Now I’ve grown some since then, and I’ve realized sometimes there is more than one way to get a job done. Still, I have that same desire to get things right, and that desire redoubles when it comes to the written word. writingdarknessfb

After all, once your words are in print and in the hands of your readers, you can never change them. I’ve wrestled with questions like:

  • Is it appropriate to write violence and gore?
  • Is it evil to write evil?
  • How dark is too dark?

Many Christian writers struggle with these questions. We want to craft good stories, we want to “get it right”, but most of all we want to honor a God who hates evil. We feel stuck and kind of dirty, wondering if God is upset because our stories contain so much darkness. We stare at our notebooks or computer screen and ask, “Did I just cross the line?”

In order to truly answer these questions, we must first trace darkness to its root. Why do we include evil in our stories at all? Most would quickly respond, “Because we have to! Stories would be lame and boring without darkness and evil. Nobody would read them.”

But why?

It turns out, the answer is really simple. With the possible exception of survival and “man versus nature” genres, all stories depend upon sin, darkness, and evil to create conflict. If you have good, it seems perfectly natural to have evil come up against it. Christian and non-Christian authors are all in agreement with this idea. Though some authors might protest my word choice, their work testifies to the fact that stories rely on a moral battle to create conflict and generate plot. [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 or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.

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/

Writing For Christ By His Guidelines

I always need renewed vision when I’m writing. I’m constantly needed to be reminded of my purpose in why I’m writing in the first place. And recently I’ve been challenged to stop and think…

Why is writing so important to me? Why do I spend hours at a time clicking away at the keys to add words to another page?

Or maybe the question should be: why should writing be so important to me?

Is the answer “because I love it” good enough? Or “because I have something to say”?Writing For Christ Pinterest

Should these be the answers that justify the hours and hours of time we pour into our stories? I suggest that they should not. There is so much more to writing than our love for it and because we have something to say. And it all lies on this one fact; that we belong to Christ. (“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead: And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.” 2 Cor. 5:14-15) Therefore we represent Him in all that we do.

So how should we reflect, nay, radiate whom we represent?! I would like to propose this idea, which has given me new inspiration to continue writing for Him.

Why not let God’s Book be our inspiration?

Think about God’s Book. Since God wrote it, the book is perfect; therefore He is a perfect author. And we don’t have many of those in our culture today, do we? In fact, He’s the only perfect author I know. Which also means His book is the ultimate example for me, in everything I do, including how I write.

So how do we create our books in light of His perfect Words? How do we radiate His Words in the words we write?

[Read more…]

Profile photo of Rolena Hatfield
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.

What Does it Mean to Write for Christ?

Write For Christ PostWe talk about this idea a lot around here at Kingdom Pen, but what does it really mean to write for Christ? How exactly do you write for Christ? Does your story have to be out-right religious or blatantly about God in order to write for Christ?

I think the mistake we as Christians so often make when creating “Christian” stories or art in general, is we feel the need to proclaim that our work is Christian. We put God in a nice churchy box called “Christian” and make sure to parade this box around throughout our stories. As a result, quality is usually sacrificed on the altar of “a good Christian message.”

The reality is that God is so much bigger than we often make Him out to be in Christian fiction. Your story doesn’t need to be openly “religious” or even mention the name of God in order to write for Christ, and bring Him glory. Additionally, if you are writing for a non-Christian audience, sometimes it might be best to leave the name of God out of your story, as it could potentially alienate the ones you are writing for.

What? I’m confused. How can you write for Christ without talking about God? 

I am definitely not saying you should leave God out of your story. In fact, doing so would make your story unrealistic. However, God is so big, He’s everywhere and anywhere at any given time. We can write for Christ without blatantly coming out and talking about God or using His name in our writing. To write for God, we merely need to do one thing: Glorify Him. To glorify God, we need to reflect His character.

We reflect God’s character in two ways: quality and truth.

Quality

Our writing needs to be of the best possible quality. We need to write well, and do our best. God is perfect, so to reflect God, we need to get our writing as close to perfect as we can. A great message does not trump story, nor does a great story redeem a horrible message. Both are vital.

As a quote attributed to Martin Luther goes,

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

Of course, we will never be able to attain perfection, and getting frustrated with our work will not help things. Sometimes, the only way we can get better, is to let ourselves write poorly. Practice is the only way we can get better. So we don’t have to be perfect to reflect God. We just have to do our best, and always strive to get better, never resting on our laurels. That honors God.

Truth

We also reflect God in our writing by demonstrating His truth.

What is God’s truth, and how do we demonstrate it?

God’s truth is truth. Anything that is true is of God. Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). God is described as “the Spirit of Truth,” (John 16:3). God is truth; therefore, by writing about and displaying truth, we are writing for Christ. So many dark and disturbing stories today claim to be about truth, even ones written by Christians, but they are not displaying the real and ultimate truth, but a temporary distortion of the truth which Satan has wrought on the world through our sin. These dark stories which claim to be about “real life” are really just depicting a temporal illusion.

As C.S. Lewis’ Aslan points out in “The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe”, yes, there is a deep “magic” which decrees that the White Witch has ownership over Edmond for his treachery, but what the witch did not know was the deeper “magic” which proclaimed that if someone willing and blameless took his place, the death would be reversed. In other words, God’s truth is the “deeper magic” which cancels out and surpasses the false reality sin has created in our world.  

Displaying truth can take many forms, but ultimately, our stories should advance a theme which corresponds with God’s truth. In other words, yes, our stories should have a positive and moral message, but this should arise from the plot and characters, and not sacrifice quality by being tacked on unrealistically.

One example of displaying God’s truth is how we portray love. Love is often displayed in novels, and in our culture, as a feeling. I feel this, and I feel that. And the other person feels this about me. Love has come to reflect a very selfish idea, and it is true that there are different forms of love. However, the idea that true Love is about, “how much pleasure can I get out of this relationship or the other person?” is completely false. The world says love is about consuming. Writing for Christ could mean showing that true love is about sacrificing, which is what God proved love to be on the cross. John 3:16 describes it very well. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Another example of displaying the truth of Christ is advocating truth itself. In our Postmodern world, many people are denying that objective truth even exists. People like to say, “well that’s true for you, but that’s not true for me.” Objective truth exists, it’s God’s truth. So by writing a story with a moral showing that truth is truth, regardless of what people believe, you are writing for Christ.

By writing stories displaying and promoting Hope, Joy, Courage, Perseverance, Humility, Faith, Altruism, Peace, Mercy, Grace, etc. we are writing for Christ because we are reflecting the character of God. We may or may not include God in our writing, by name, but by displaying His truths and saying, “this is true,” we are putting God in our writing, and we are writing for Christ.

Also, if we strive to write for Christ, we will not be writing alone. If we abandon ourselves to God, then He can use us for His glory. He will guide us as we craft and develop our stories.

If you think about it, there are infinite ways to write for Christ and to glorify God. By writing for God, glory will not only be brought to Him, but we will be taking part in the spreading of God’s kingdom on earth. We can spread truth, and free the culture from its pervasive lies.

The beautiful reality is people are starving for these kinds of stories, and not just Christians. Truth and reality are far more wonderful than the fake. By combining God’s truth with a high quality story, we can write novels which deeply impact Christians and non-Christians alike. The Lord of the Rings, and the Chronicles of Narnia are two great examples of this playing out. Writing for Christ is truly a noble pursuit.

Writing for Christ = Glorifying Him = Reflecting His character = Doing our best to demonstrate His truth and wonderful mastery.

When Is It Okay To Kill?

If you’re writing an adventure novel, the odds are high that someone is going to die. Not only that, but your protagonist may have to be the killer. This raises the question, when is it okay for your protagonist—the good guy (or gal)—to kill? Is it ever right?

When(1)

Is killing always wrong?

 

The difficult thing about killing in fiction is that wartime ethics have a lot of grey areas.  Biblical principles arguably go against the extremes of a pacifistic attitude where all killing is wrong and of a more utilitarian approach that treats all killing as fine.  That being said, settling on a middle course that properly avoids either extreme can be much more difficult to determine.  Given that many philosophers and theologians have had difficulties coming up with a single answer to this question, it is likely that, to some extent, it’s likely that we won’t be able to get rid of all the grey areas that can be present in this difficult issue.

That being said, there is a biblical basis for taking a life.  In Romans 13, God declares that he’s given the government the power of the sword.  So in cases of just war (although what exactly qualifies a just war is another discussion entirely), the taking of life is justified.

[Read more…]

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…]