Five Questions to Ask Yourself When Your Story’s Theme Lacks Subtlety

Few flaws can kill a story’s theme and message as much as blatancy.

We’ve all read books that constantly hit us over the head with the author’s beliefs. Afterwards we resolve never to do this as authors.

But then we sit down to write and realize how easy it is to make this mistake.

5_Questions_to_Ask_Yourself_When_Your_Story_s_Theme_Lacks_Subtlety

Why Subtlety Is Important

As I explain in my article, “Is Fiction Inherently Worse Than Nonfiction,” literature’s thematic power lies in moving emotions, not reason. Generally speaking, stories don’t change readers by presenting new logical arguments. That’s the role of nonfiction. Instead, fiction changes readers by showing what it means to live morally versus immorally, and what the results are. [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.

Are You Helping Your Protagonist Cheat Her Way to Victory?

By Rachel Keller

You’ve written a novel that you love (ironically) beyond words and handed it to beta readers to prepare it for the final editing stage. You’ve aced all the details (characterization, plot, theme, setting). You’re sure this is the novel that will launch you into publishing. Then you receive disturbing feedback from your beta readers:

“I didn’t care about the protagonist.”Are_You_Helping_Your_Protagonist_Cheat_Her_Way_to_Victory

“The protagonist won too easily.”

“I couldn’t help feeling more drawn to the side character or villain.”

Your momentum slows as you read their comments again and again. What happened? Your character suffered greatly! She dragged herself to the end! You spent considerable time developing her story. How can they dislike her? What did you do wrong?

I had this experience on the flip side as the reader. Excited to delve into a new book, energized and intrigued by the plot. Yet, I repeatedly slammed the book down in frustration. [Read more…]

Write a Great Description in Three Easy Steps

Readers can’t relate to a story without narrative description. It happens in a vague world of shadows and smoke that readers have never visited—a world of floating voices and gunshots (splitting the silence, probably) but no real physical matter. It fails to engage the senses and ignite the imagination.Write_a_Great_Description_in_Three_Easy_Steps

If you’re like me, most of your descriptions may read like this: “It was raining outside.” Not exactly imagination-evoking material. Story worlds must come to life for readers, or stories never can. Vivid description is life-or-death for your story, but there’s a secret to pulling it off. Don’t believe me? Try these three easy steps. [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.

Why Characters Who Love Each Other Won’t Ruin Your Novel

It’s possible you were taken aback at the title of this article. Maybe you once read a novel about happy people doing happy things in a happy world that caused you to cry in agony and run as fast as you could in search of a caged fight. Love means nothing ever happens, right? If people get along perfectly, where’s the conflict? And who wants to read a book about people who adore each other?Why_Characters_Who_Love_Each_Other_Won_t_Ruin_Your_Novel

As if romance isn’t a popular genre.

But I’m not talking about romance. I’m talking about love in general. Your characters should love each other, and despite the legitimate objections against this, your story will benefit. Here I will explain how. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Daeus
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.

What Sherlock Holmes Can Teach You about Writing Descriptions

I’ve read approximately 60 percent of the Sherlock Holmes collection, and it’s hard for me to decide which book I like best. From a writer’s perspective, however, the choice is obvious. Filed under The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is an obscure mystery titled “A Case of Identity” that offers a gem of writing advice for those who pick up on it.

The case begins with a visit from a woman in need of Sherlock’s assistance. He interviews the lady, and after she has left, he remarks that she intrigued him more than her case.What_Sherlock_Holmes_Can_Teach_You_about_Writing_Descriptions

Watson states, “You appeared to read a good deal upon her which was quite invisible to me.”

“Not invisible, but unnoticed,” explains Sherlock. “You did not know where to look, and so you missed all that was important. I can never bring you to realize the importance of sleeves, the suggestiveness of thumbnails, or the great issues that may hang from a bootlace. Now, what did you gather from that woman’s appearance? Describe it.” [Read more…]

Profile photo of Daeus
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.

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…]

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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.

Three Ways You May Be Wasting Your Descriptions

Once upon a time, I thought descriptions were merely a way to give characters faces and emblazon a hazy setting. The challenge was to figure out how to balance descriptions with action so the story never stopped, while still providing a clear vision of the surroundings. Once that’s been accomplished, the writer’s work is done, right?3_Ways_Your_May_Be_Wasting_Your_Descriptions

No, not in the least (as I learned from a few beta readers who previewed one of my recent novels). Action and description do need equilibrium, and portraying the setting through a character’s observations can be a great place to start. But descriptions can serve multiple purposes. To use them to the fullest potential, you need to convey more than just the setting. [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 Overused Clichés in Christian Fiction (and How to Avoid Them)

I have a love-hate relationship with Christian fiction.

On the one hand, the genre has immense potential, because it transcends what it means to live as a human being to explore what it means to live as a Christian. When these stories are done well, like Dave Swavely’s Silhouette, Richard Ramsey’s The Song (yes, I’m aware this is a movie), or Sigmeund Brouwer’s The Last Disciple, they often become my favorites.5_Overused_Cliches_in_Christian_Fiction_(and_How_to_Avoid_Them)

On the other hand, the titles I’ve listed are the cream of the crop. For every exceptional Christian novel I read, I typically wade through five or six mediocre ones first.

Why does modern Christian fiction fumble to tell a compelling story, especially compared to the lauded Christian authors of the past: C.S. Lewis, Fyodor Doestoevsky, and Alexandre Dumas? I believe one reason for this is modern Christian fiction’s reliance on clichés. [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 Things to Do When You Realize Your Plot Is Cliché

By Jamie Dougall

A brilliant new plot enters your mind. It charms you with sweeping intrigue, fascinating characters, and a premise that cannot be ignored. You immediately start writing, but eventually you realize the story is cliché. All your creative juices die, and you pound your head on your keyboard, wondering why you thought it was a clever idea. The characters are plastic Barbies and G.I. Joes who take three hundred pages to reenact your favorite movie. The ending is predictable. It’s an utter disaster.Three_Things_to_Do_When_You_Realize_Your_Plot_Is_Cliche

Maybe you are being a bit melodramatic. It’s not all that terrible, yet the cliché is present, blurring your scenes into predictable goop. How will you ever fix it?

Clichés are unacceptable because they are repetitive—similar characters playing out similar situations until the plot line becomes insipid. It’s like several people feeding you their own version of spaghetti. Every. Single. Day. You get sick of it, and the next time someone claims their recipe really is different, you’re unimpressed. It doesn’t matter if this sauce has a smidgen of brown sugar. Or the villain only looks like an evil hag. Or the protagonist’s name is not Rapunzel, but Genevieve d’Beauchene. Not only is that a mouthful, it doesn’t conceal the clichéd plot. And we are so done with that flavor.

So how do you spice up a story that tastes too much like bland spaghetti? Read on, and I’ll cover three techniques that may pull your plot out of yesterday’s clichés and to the forefront of originality. [Read more…]

How to Keep Yourself Organized While Writing

By LaToya Gay

As a writer, it’s possible (and maybe even likely) that you aren’t very organized when it comes to your craft. We’ve all experienced inspiration at the most inopportune moments. We can sit for hours staring at a blank screen or page with nary a clue how to proceed with our stories. Then, out of nowhere, inspiration strikes while we’re driving, taking a shower, or walking the dog. It seems to happen anywhere except in a convenient place to write.How_to_Keep_Yourself_Organized_While_Writing

When the muse strikes, we tend to scribble haphazardly on whatever is within reach, whether a dinner napkin, a random piece of mail, or the back of our hands. Although we don’t doubt the utter brilliance of our idea, it’s easy to put the note aside and forget about it, confident that it won’t get lost since we’ve written it down. [Read more…]