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…]

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…]

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…]

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.

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 or short stories at his website (link below) 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…]

Four Types of Plot Clichés That May Be Dragging Down Your Story

A few weeks ago, I picked a random book off the library shelf and started reading. The book, Flashfall, grabbed my interest immediately. The characters were relatable and the story world was fantastic. Even better, the plot seemed fresh: miners struggling to excavate radioactive caverns where mutated creatures were trying to eat them. I hadn’t read anything like it.4_Types_of_Plot_Cliches_That_May_Be_Dragging_Down_Your_Story

Until I realized that I had.

After the fun of the first sixty pages, the mining ceased. It turned out that a familiar dystopian regime ruled the “unique” story world. The “interesting” heroine became just another strong female character who didn’t respect authority. (She also had a boyfriend, and another guy she liked.) Needless to say, she ended up inciting a revolution and probably would have toppled the dystopian government. I’ll never know for sure, because I was too disappointed to read the next book in the series. The clichéd plot killed it. [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 Advice from a Chess Grandmaster Can Transform Your Writing

One of my favorite classes that I took at a homeschool co-op during high school was a chess class taught by a local grandmaster. I learned many different chess openings, position tactics, and endgame tactics, all of which improved my chess strategy.

One day the grandmaster was explaining a game he won against another high-ranking chess player. He pointed out that one move in particular was important because it served multiple purposes. His words stuck with me:chessmasterpost

“In chess, a mediocre move only does one thing. A good move does two things at once. But a great move does three things at once.”

This advice not only changed how I play chess, it transformed the way I write.

Pinned by the Single-Minded Approach

Often, when we begin writing a scene, we want to accomplish one specific goal—to have a character explain a massive plot twist or the villain enact a stage of his evil plan. [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.

Creating a NaNo Outline When It’s Already November

Early October came and went and you said you had a month to prepare.

Mid-October came and went and you said you had two weeks to write a short outline.

The end of October came and went, and now you’re here in November with no outline, no plot line, and a looming deadline.nanooutlinepost

Take heart! Not all is lost. Most stories are about someone trying to gain or accomplish an objective that someone else doesn’t want to happen. That means your story only needs three elements to be a success: a hero, a villain, and a goal.

All right, let’s get to it. You have precious little time to waste writing yourself into and out of corners, plot holes, and poorly developed story worlds. You need an outline. But it doesn’t have to be super detailed—just a rough map that will guide you from word one to word fifty thousand. And that’s exactly what we’re going to figure out. [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.

Three Types of Foreshadowing

There are three kinds of foreshadowing. There’s covert foreshadowing, where the shadow doesn’t appear clearly until the light of past events illuminates the hidden clues. There’s overt foreshadowing, which streams before the event, giving hints but veiling the true shape of what will occur. Then there’s event foreshadowing, spreading the scenario like multiple faint shadows from the vashta nerada in Doctor Who.foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is, put simply, a warning or indication of a future event. 

1.  Covert Foreshadowing

Covert foreshadowing happens when the possibility of an event is hinted at enough that the result doesn’t feel like a sudden shift in the story. If an aunt is going to turn out to be an undercover agent in the climax of a story, brief mentions of her skills or quirks throughout the book is a great way to foreshadow her reveal. Readers probably won’t realize the meaning of the clues until they’ve reached the end, but once they know the truth they will wonder how they didn’t figure it out. [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 Synopses

By Anastasia McTague

Lots of young writers have had to tangle, at some point or another, with the terrible synopsis—a means of distilling the entirety of a story into a few intriguing sentences that quickly and easily explain the plot. If you haven’t yet had to write a synopsis, you’ll likely need to do so in the future. Due to the size of many stories, condensing them into a few catchy lines is often frustrating. Hopefully the method outlined in this article will help shed some light on the synopsespostsubject, and take some of the frustration out of the activity. I call it the Expounding Method, because there are surely other ways to write a synopsis, and you shouldn’t feel limited to doing it this way. It’s just an option and a place to start.

The first step is to boil down the plot to one line.

What is the most important, most basic aspect of the plot? Who are the primary characters? What do they need to do, and how do they go about trying to do it? Play around until you get a sentence that sums up the gist of your story. As an example, let’s say the one-liner is:

A group of ancient warriors destroy Lian’s village and he sets out to stop the killing.
[Read more…]