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…]

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Josiah DeGraaf started reading when he was four, started writing fiction when he was six and hasn’t stopped doing either ever since. After growing up with seven younger siblings, he eventually found himself graduated and attending Patrick Henry College, where he plans on majoring in literature with a minor in pedagogy (it’s a fancy Greek word for education).
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels that have 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 fun as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. Plans for obtaining those impossible goals include listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer, ignoring college work so that he can find time to write, and avoiding coffee at all costs.

How to Create Religions as a Christian Fantasy Author

When I first started writing, I loved fantasy and fully intended to write fantasy of my own. But I encountered a problem. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I couldn’t just skip mentioning religion in my stories, even if Christianity by such a name was limited to the real world. My characters needed a faith or a creed to base their actions on, yet inventing a religion of my own seemed almost sacrilegious.creating_religions

Does Fantasy Need Religion?

At first I tried to ignore the need for religion in my stories. But that didn’t make the issue go away. As a Christian, what I believe is a foundation for how I act. I’m not referring to mere traditions and rituals (which may or may not have a place in a story), but convictions that are the bedrock of life. [Read more…]

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Hope Ann is a Christian wordsmith, avid reader, and dedicated authoress. Her time is taken up with writing, reading, archery, knife throwing, playing with inspirational photos, helping care for the house and eight younger siblings, and generally enjoying the adventures of life on a small farm at the crossroads of America. She has self-published fairy tale retellings on Amazon and is currently working on several projects including a fantasy novel and futuristic trilogy. You can find out more about Hope and her work on her website as well as links to download her first Legends of Light novella for free!

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…]

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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.

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…]

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Hope Ann is a Christian wordsmith, avid reader, and dedicated authoress. Her time is taken up with writing, reading, archery, knife throwing, playing with inspirational photos, helping care for the house and eight younger siblings, and generally enjoying the adventures of life on a small farm at the crossroads of America. She has self-published fairy tale retellings on Amazon and is currently working on several projects including a fantasy novel and futuristic trilogy. You can find out more about Hope and her work on her website as well as links to download her first Legends of Light novella for free!

Purposefully Capturing a Reluctant Reader

By Jessica Greyson

Into caring about the details of your world

I’ll be the first person to admit it. I am not the best at worldbuilding, I am much better at what I call world painting. My first published book Annabeth’s War has a lack of description. I’ll be honest. I did it on purpose. Why?

There are several uses and reasons to worldbuild or not to worldbuild. CapturingReluctantReader_post

In Annabeth’s War, I chose not to specifically worldbuild, and describe deeply. Why? I wanted the reader’s imagination to take control of the situation. I wanted them to paint the canvas of Annabeth’s War for themselves. I put in the emotions I wanted the readers to understand, but the rest was up to them. They could read as a spectator, or they could step into the shoes of Annabeth and Ransom and make the world their own. The choice was up to them.

However, many people need more guidance:  they want to be told a story, and that is where purposeful worldbuilding or painting comes in.

Personally I don’t like too much worldbuilding as a reader.

Why?

Because far, far too often the characters didn’t care.

For me as a reader and writer, worldbuilding must be purposeful; it must have meaning. I don’t know how many times I’ve skipped description in a book because I felt they had no meaning and were mere words that clogged the story from the plot and inhibited the story’s building drama. Why are you describing the sunset to me, if it’s a mere fact of life? As a reader I see no purpose for the description of sun putting itself to sleep behind the ridge of mountains, no matter how prettily put. [Read more…]

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 Christian wordsmith, avid reader, and dedicated authoress. Her time is taken up with writing, reading, archery, knife throwing, playing with inspirational photos, helping care for the house and eight younger siblings, and generally enjoying the adventures of life on a small farm at the crossroads of America. She has self-published fairy tale retellings on Amazon and is currently working on several projects including a fantasy novel and futuristic trilogy. You can find out more about Hope and her work on her website as well as links to download her first Legends of Light novella for free!

Writing Realistic Sword Fights

By Daeus Lamb

Sword fights are common elements in literature and drama. Everyone wants to include them because they rouse the audience to mountainous heights of tension. What if you have no idea how sword fighting works, though? Even worse, what if you deceive yourself into thinking that you do? Come on, you’ve seen The Princess Bride. Isn’t that what sword fighting looks like? Not even close.

Realistic_Swordfights_Post

I am not a “master of defense” by any means, but I do know enough to speak with authority on this issue. I was a fencer for about 2 ½ years; I have read books on traditional swordsmanship focusing on medieval and renaissance eras, and have had some practice in them; I even did a thesis paper on what it would have been like to see a sword fight on an Elizabethan stage, including a live demonstration.

If you are considering including a sword fight in your novel but are worried about accuracy, have no fear. I have written this article to give you the basic foundation you need to write such scenes with confidence.

[Read more…]

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Daeus is the happy lunatic behind a novel and novella, with plans to expand that repository as infinitely as possible. Among his oddities are the inability to stick to any single genre, his uncompromising and fanatical insistence that The Count Of Monte Cristo is the best novel ever, and his difficulty in coming up with a third thing to say here.

Perhaps the most addicted person to the Kingdom Pen forum ever to exist, you can always catch him commenting over there. When not writing, Daeus enjoys thinking about writing, talking about writing, and reading.

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.

Realities of War

Swords flash. Shields clash. Spears glint. Horses thunder across the plains. Grim lines of soldiers advance and retreat. Flags flutter and trumpets blast amid the glittering glory of battle.Realities_of_War

This is what may come to mind when the word ‘war’ appears in a fictional or fantasy setting, but it’s a far shout from the bitter, slogging endurance of a real campaign.

A war builds up long before the first battle lines clash.

How many details actually appear in the story depend on the writer’s choice and what time the book starts, but there are many things which should be known about the ‘pre-war’ weeks, months, or even years.

Are there tensions between the two nations (assuming, of course, this isn’t a civil war)? War is a grave matter, not to mention expensive, so what has led two or more nations to such a confrontation?

And are both sides at various levels of fault, or is there definite division of evil and good?

The most common story-line is for one nation to invade another. The invaders, of course, are bad while the outnumbered and battered resisters are on the side good. (But what if the stereotype was reversed? Hmm…it’s worth a thought. But back on topic).

Is the attack a complete surprise? The invading nation has had to gather troops and supplies, so have such signs been noticed? And if not, is it because of laziness, carelessness, or expert security on the invading side…any one of which could be yet another obstacle in the way of the ‘good’ army?

In either case, whether with months to prepare or mere hours, organizational networks need to be set in place.

How many men sign up or are drafted into the army? Depending on the size of your country, this could be a considerable percentage of men. At this point, many of the younger men may think of war in terms of glory and heroics, while their elders remain silent and serious. And, as the army’s numbers swell, the villages and towns change. A quarter of the men may be gone. Or half the men. The mothers, daughters, elderly, and young children must now tend to the fields to keep life going as before…and more.

Logistics

For there is bustle on the home front as well. Weapons must be supplied for all soldiers. Food, tents, clothes, medicines, boots, bandages…the list of supplies could go on and on. Someone has to make and transport these things. And that someone isn’t going to be the steel clad soldier now lining up to give his life, if need be, in defense of those he loves.

And, of course, the armies of both sides must meet before the first battle takes place. An army moves an average of 10-30 miles a day depending on many things, such as seasons, roads, weather, number and formation of troops, and their condition. The Roman army regularly traveled 15-18 miles a day, and then stopped in mid-afternoon and set up camp, complete with trenches, a solid wall surrounding orderly tents, and roads laid out regularly throughout the whole. The next morning they tore up the logs, burned what they didn’t carry with them, marched another day, and rebuilt the fortress that evening.

However quickly the army moves, they need to protect their baggage train. Supplies of all kinds must be carried along for the army’s well-being, but this baggage train can be quite troublesome for an invading army. And the further they move into an enemy land, the longer supply lines will stretch and the more vulnerable it will be…unless they can get all the supplies they need from their defeated enemy. Relying solely on the enemy’s land can be a risky proposition however…especially if the invaded decides to retreat, burning fields and stopping up springs as they go. This is known as a “scorched earth policy,” famously employed by the Russians on multiple occasions, much to the chagrin of Napoleon and Hitler.

Non-combat casualties

Just as preparations for war starts long before the first battle, so many lives may be lost without a blow being struck. Disease does not spare victors from vanquished, but strikes everywhere with a heavy hand. In many wars, the number of soldiers who succumb to sickness are several times greater than those who fall in battle. In the American Civil war, dysentery, typhoid, and pneumonia were among the top three killers, with two out of three deaths due to disease of some kind. The number was even greater among English troops in the Napoleonic era.

If your story takes place in the future or present, sickness might not be as great a problem. Even a fantasy-style medieval army could cut their losses by basic protocols which, obvious though they may seem, can be overlooked…such as camping on dry ground away from swamps and making sure latrines are downstream of wherever the army’s drinking water is drawn from. While all these details may not even be referenced in a book, it is something to keep in mind. And, if you need another challenge to throw at your characters, a deadly epidemic is in no way unrealistic.

Battles

Finally, one day, both armies ‘see each other in the face’. They may or may not attack the first day. Roman armies would sometimes march out and face each other for several days before the battle took place. Sometimes one general would draw up his soldiers, taunting the other in an effort to draw them into an attack. Positions may be shifted and secured. But, eventually, one or both sides will move and the battle will be joined.

Battles are not necessarily won by one glorious (or not so glorious) charge. Sometimes one army will charge the position of the other, while other times they meet at the center of the field. A running charge is for the practical purpose of closing the distance between armies and so escaping javelins and arrows as quickly possible. All too soon the flying projectiles are exchanged for the dubious security of hand to hand fighting as both sides meet and the battle proper begins. And the soldiers, now fighting for their lives amid the heat, screams, and blood of battle are quickly disillusioned to whatever thoughts of glorious combat they may have had.

A battle’s length varies. Some battles last two or three hours. Others are fought from dawn and into the night. In the Bible, some battles were fought all day with the victors pursuing the enemy all night. Others battles are fought for several days in a row before one side conquers the field.

As the battle progresses, there are many minor details that should be kept in mind to add to the feeling of reality. For example, what direction is your army facing? Is the sun behind them or in a position to blind them (or to the side where it could do either)? Keep in mind that if the sun rises behind your troops, it will eventually set before them and get in their eyes if the battle progresses into the afternoon. What is the weather like…sunny, overcast, windy, stormy? Weather is very important and can be used as a help or hindrance. And the geography…are there hills to retreat to, forests to ambush from, or a solid anchor for the flanks?

Most of all, what of the soldiers? Many of these men are probably killing for the first time. They are horrified and terrified. Men, comrades, friends are dying about them. Some are struck down. Others are wounded and, unless they can move, run the risk of being trampled underfoot. Yet the soldiers fighting must ignore the cries of their comrades and struggle on.

And, no matter what weapons your army is using, death is never pretty. Swords don’t just stab cleanly through the heart and neither do bullets. Blood. Severed limbs and bodies. Raging thirst. The stench of battle. Screams of the wounded. Vultures, perhaps, circling overhead. You get a portion of the picture. Choosing how graphically to portray the battle is another topic, but what the men are seeing is something that will affect them mentally and emotionally for months and years to come.

The end of a battle rarely ends in the complete destruction or capture of the vanquished army. And sometimes, if the battle ends in a rout, more men are killed as they flee than were cut down in the fight itself. The pursuit, either on horse or foot, can last the whole night and into the next day.

Aftermath

Many books and stories close with the victory of the hero and his army, but that is hardly the end. Hundreds, thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of dead from both sides cover the ground. And, mixed with those who gave their life for their cause, are the wounded. Depending on the situation, a truce might be arranged so the opposing side can carry away their casualties. Or it might be the task of the weary victors to clear the field, tending to the wounded and dying as best they are able and quickly disposing of the fallen. This gruesome task can drag on for several days. There’s also spoil to be gathered and perhaps riotous soldiery to control. On top of this, there are still normal mundane things to attend to, such as watches on the camp, care for prisoners, and the steady supply of food. Weather and animals, such as the aforementioned vultures or wild dogs, can also complicate matters.

And that’s just the first battle. Some wars are completed in the spring or summer of the campaign season. Others drag on for years. Armies march and counter march, taking passes, holding cities, and trying to starve each other by cutting off supplies. More men are drawn into the ranks from back home and eventually another battle is fought, and yet another, and another until one side surrenders, is defeated, or a treaty of some kind is worked out.

The length and ferocity of any war has long reaching effects. Quite often, famines are coupled to war due to the shortage of men to raise crops, as well as the destruction of fields by the armies on both sides. With many men being cut down, there will be numerous families living without the head protector of their home, and many children growing up without a father. A shortage of young men of marriageable age may also be a real possibility in some parts of the country.

Quite often, in books, a single crushing defeat repels or destroys the enemy. This is theoretically possible, but after a nation has braced itself for war, they normally won’t back down after a single battle. Even if the ‘good’ army, who is normally outnumbered, manages to completely defeat and conquer the invading army, the belligerent nation can probably raise another army to send against the now battered conquerors. So make sure the ensuing peace is realistically brought about, perhaps by a wiser leader who’s risen after the fall of the main villain, or by the combined outrage of the people of the opposing nation who never wanted the war in the first place.

But no matter who wins the war, the land has changed. Things will never be exactly as they were before. Hundreds and thousands of men are dead, their families shattered and mourning. Others come home, wounded or with sights they will never forget emblazoned in their mind. Young men are now old in the horrors they’ve seen. Treasuries are drained, villages are burned, fields lie fallow.

Though war is sometimes necessary, and in books is commonly part of the plot, it isn’t pretty, it isn’t glorious, and it isn’t to be desired. Heroics consist of normal men doing what needs to be done in the face of fear and death. In the place of the glorious feats the young soldiers once dreamed of, there is a comradeship and strong love among the troops. A love for those they defend, and a brotherly love among themselves. For no greater love has any man, than that he lay down his life for his friend.

Profile photo of Hope Ann
Hope Ann is a Christian wordsmith, avid reader, and dedicated authoress. Her time is taken up with writing, reading, archery, knife throwing, playing with inspirational photos, helping care for the house and eight younger siblings, and generally enjoying the adventures of life on a small farm at the crossroads of America. She has self-published fairy tale retellings on Amazon and is currently working on several projects including a fantasy novel and futuristic trilogy. You can find out more about Hope and her work on her website as well as links to download her first Legends of Light novella for free!

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…]

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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.

Women In Combat: We Need More Strong Female Characters – Part 2

This post is a collaboration of thoughts from the KP Team, building off of part 1.

How should the Christian writer handle the prospect of female characters in combat? 

Strong Female Characters Part 2

Strength comes down to how well someone or something fulfills the purpose it was created for. Men and women were created to fulfill different roles, each reflecting one-half of God’s character. A woman doesn’t need to pick up the sword, or express military prowess to be strong.

Does this mean we can’t depict women in combat? Not at all!

As writers, we need to draw a careful distinction between aspects of the story that are there just because it reflects reality, and aspects that we’re trying to glorify.  In the context of whether not we should write stories with women in combat, this distinction can become pretty crucial.  There is nothing wrong with writing about “gung-ho, beat-’em-up female characters taking part in combat” necessarily. To the extent that our culture is moving in that direction, those sorts of people do exist in real life to some extent.  The real question then, is whether or not we present it in a positive light in our stories. Gender roles and gender callings are a tricky subject to wade through, especially in light of a culture that’s very hostile to drawing any distinction between men and women.  It therefore becomes imperative to focus on biblical commands to guide us through these discussions, and not on cultural standards.

The real question then becomes, “should we be glorifying women in combat?”

[Read more…]