Why It’s Okay to Have Clichés in Your Fantasy Novel

By Gabrielle Massman

“Your story is a bit cliché, don’t you think?”

For a long time, I dreaded I would hear those words. They seemed like the ultimate insult, meaning that anyone could have written my story.

I was obsessed with avoiding clichés. I Googled “fantasy clichés,” and I even posted a list of ten common ones on my blog. I gave the characters in my fantasy world Hebrew-based names—no Norse or Celtic for me. My fantasy nation would not have a monarchy! And heaven help me if I even read a book with a damsel in distress, an evil dragon, and a brave prince.Why_It_s_Okay_to_Have_Cliches_in_Your_Fantasy_Novel

However, I’ve recently come to a new conclusion about clichés. I think we need them, and uniqueness is grossly overrated. Isn’t the Bible and the entire history of God and humans one big cliché? Kill the dragon; get the girl (Revelation 12:9 and Isaiah 62:4–5). [Read more…]

How to Write Strong Women in Fiction without Making Them Feminists

Writing Christian fiction involves much more than mentioning God a few times or showing a character attending church once. Christian fiction encompasses the whole worldview behind your characters. Loyalty. Courage. Hope. Kindness. Love. No character is perfect, but the worldview presented and the conclusions reached by the main characters ought to mirror the teachings of Scripture. This is true, not only of emotional and mental themes, but of all the details in your story—including the portrayal of gender roles, which is often ravaged by secular (and sometimes Christian) fiction.How_to_Write_Strong_Women_in_Fiction

I am not just talking about a proper view of marriage or the fact that God created us male and female. In a biblical worldview, men and women have different tasks and roles of authority in which the woman is a helpmeet to the man. [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!

Set Your Novel Up for Success by Sharing Your Outline

It’s January, the month of new beginnings. You’ve made your New Year’s resolutions, and maybe, just maybe, one of them involves writing. Maybe you resolved to write a novel. An entire novel. And maybe this time you’re actually going to do it. So you sit down in front of a word processor with your fantastic new idea and start tallying up the word count.Set_Your_Novel_Up_for_Success

Not so fast. Before you get carried away, you should take a minute to set yourself up for success in your novel-writing endeavor.

First, you need an outline. If you don’t have one yet, check out my post on how to quickly create one. It doesn’t need to be complicated or too in-depth. But it should provide direction for your novel so that you don’t end up wandering aimlessly, or not moving forward at all.

Your outline is the skeleton of your story. You want it to be great; unfortunately, it isn’t. Not yet. You won’t be able to see its flaws, but they will be there nonetheless. Plot holes you didn’t consider. Flat/useless characters you thought were important. Exciting sequences that shouldn’t happen so rapidly. Your outline will be full of little errors and slip ups that you won’t notice, and maybe your readers won’t notice them either. But each of those mistakes is a missed opportunity for improvement. Also, a small flaw in your outline could morph into a huge muse-killing flaw in the final product. Sound bad? It is. Once you’ve written your draft, outlining errors are difficult and time consuming to fix. So how can you find them before it’s too late? [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.

How to Write the First Page of Your Novel

There are no set rules for an opening line of a novel. Nearly anything goes—be it description, dialogue, or a statement of philosophical truth. But that flexibility does not apply to the first page of your novel. All good novels contain several essential elements that immerse the reader in the story world and keep them there, ideally to the end of the book. Here’s a breakdown of the five key components to include in the first page of your novel.How_to_Write_the_First_Page_of_Your_Novel

1. Your Protagonist

As our Editor-in-Chief, Josiah DeGraaf, helpfully explained last year, the novel is distinguished from other storytelling art forms by its focus on the inner lives of its characters. Principally, you will be selling your story on the personality of your main character, and it’s best to introduce him or her to the audience as soon as possible to begin building that connection.

There are two ways to handle this. The first is to start with an intriguing description of your character. Don’t say that Marcus Langley is five foot nine with sandy-brown hair and azure-blue eyes. Your readers’ imaginations can supply those details easily enough. Instead, tell readers he’s a mushroom hunter. Or an explosives expert in a special-ops unit. Those few words will fascinate readers more than entire paragraphs delineating physical details. [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.

How to Write Christian Stories without Annoying Your Readers

“Do I need to make my story Christian?” is often one of the first questions biblically-minded young writers ask themselves. After growing up on a steady diet of Veggie Tales and Adventures in Odyssey, it may seem natural to follow this fine tradition by writing stories rife with applicable Bible verses and modernized parables. Or perhaps you have the exact opposite in mind and are instead struggling with nagging guilt that your tale lacks prominent Christian themes.howtowritechristian

Actually, the question of whether a book needs to be Christian is, in a sense, irrelevant. Every action, spoken word, or inward thought in a story works in harmony to paint a picture of the author’s beliefs. A writer with a solid biblical foundation, whose aim is to write strongly and reflect God’s truth, will inherently write a “Christian” story, even if Jesus is never mentioned in it. [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.

Revolutionize Your Writing by Deepening Your Characters

By definition, what is a novel?

At first glance, the answer may seem simple: it’s a prosaic work of fiction that meets a certain word count and is bound up in book form. But if you look into the issue more deeply, you’ll see it’s trickier to explain what makes a novel distinct. Epics, plays, short stories, and poems all represent other forms of literature that existed before the novel was essentially invented by Miguel Cervantes in 1605 with the publication of Don Quixote. When compared with these other forms of literature, what unique qualities does the novel have to lend?deepenyourcharacters

Last semester, I took a college course that explored the attributes of the novel. The more we studied the novel in the course, the clearer it became to me that the novel is distinct for its focus on the inner minds of its characters.

Properly expanding the inner lives of characters can be a difficult skill to master for writers. If we delve into it too much, it’s easy to make our characters seem melodramatic and angsty. So it can be tempting to avoid such a portrayal by describing characters through their actions only. [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.

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.

 

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!

Portraying Reality in Your Story

portraying reality pin“Write what you know.”

The infamous adage, while looking good on paper, can be increasingly difficult to use well when put in practice. For writers of speculative fiction, it can look downright ridiculous. After all, when you’re writing a story about a bunch of halflings fighting past legions of orcs and black riders in order to destroy a piece of jewelry—is there even a point of listening to this adage? While the saying may appear maddening and out-of-place at first glance, it may not actually be saying what you think its saying. Fully understanding this adage requires one to first understand what’s real.

What’s really real.

Sure, you can point to the particular geographic oddities of the spinning globe that we call earth, the chance interactions between different sentient beings living on the globe, and the different events that those beings experience, and call all of that real. I wouldn’t disagree with that; there’s nothing wrong with that per se. But leaving our discussion of reality merely at that point tends to miss the greater reality that surrounds the world that we live in.

Loyalty, justice, evil, mercy, suffering. You can’t taste, smell, touch, hear, or see any of these essences per se. But we all know what they are. All of these things are real, and they are real in a much more stable sense than the physical world. We can imagine a world where, say, Greenland didn’t exist, or we had a seventh continent in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We can imagine a world where America was colonized by Europeans centuries before Columbus, or the Byzantine Empire wasn’t conquered in 1453.

But to imagine a world without love, or where justice didn’t exist?

That isn’t merely tinkering with a world’s mechanics. That would require changing the nature of who God is in such a world.

The physical world is real, and it’s valuable and important. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating a form of Gnosticism. But there are also distinctive characteristics of mercy, of love, and of righteousness that are the same yesterday, today, and forever. And they are that way because they reflect the unchanging God in Heaven.

What does your experience have to do with a group of rebels fleeing from bounty hunters in the black vacuum of space? A lot more than you might think. You may have no experience fighting against bounty hunters that are threatening the rebel’s existence, or with how technology could allow such a chase to happen in space. But you do know about human nature. You know how people act when they’re angry, how they relate to friends, and how they react to unexpected news. You further know that there’s not one definitive answer for each of the previous three situations; different people handle the same event differently. As a Christian, you know about the transforming nature of love, the rewards of humility, and the joy that only comes through suffering.

“Well, that’s all good,” you might be saying, “but what does it have to do with writing?” Everything. Until you know the true nature of reality, you can’t portray reality accurately in your writing.

One of your foremost goals in writing ought to be to portray reality accurately. I’d venture to say that trying to accomplish this is more important than focusing on the message that you’re trying to get across in your book. Why? Because as Augustine pointed out nearly two millennia ago, all truth is God’s truth. There is no truth about reality that we can discover that runs against who God is and what God has said. Instead, creation declares the glory of God, as Psalm 19 attests.

When we’re trying to portray reality accurately, we can’t help but infuse a message in our story. We can’t help it because God did it first when he made the universe—with all creation testifying to His truth. All of morality points to Christ. And so when we attempt to duplicate that higher reality in our work, we can’t help but bring all the messages with it.

Of course, all of this is easier said than done. It’s fairly easy to agree that we ought to attempt to accurately portray reality in our story. But when we sit down and try to write it out, we often come across a problem: we don’t fully understand the higher reality, and thus it’s hard to incorporate it into our story.

The solution? If we’re going to better understand the higher reality, we need to earnestly look at it and examine it if we’re going to try to replicate it in our novels. There are multiple ways to do this, some less obvious than others. Looking to the Bible is, hopefully, a pretty clear choice. The book of Proverbs in particular has a lot to say about what happens to those who indulge in such-and-such behavior. Hatred causes strife. The wise receive blessing. The wicked will be brought to ruin. There are so many themes and stories in Proverbs that are mentioned, one after another, as examples of how God generally deals with man. Many of these themes are already common motifs in fiction writing. And there are so many others that can be developed.

But we shouldn’t merely stop with the Bible. We’ve been placed smack-dab in the middle of the greatest story of all time, written by the Master Storyteller Himself, and it seems like we ought to be taking cues from it. We live in the most multi-layered, complex, exciting plot that could ever be imagined—one that blows all other stories out of the water because of its Author. Do we want to know how this higher reality interacts with man? Look at history. See how they have acted—how God has responded—and how the entire narrative fits together. What should we do in order to portray reality accurately in our story?

Look at who God is—his character, his works, and how he relates to man. Examine what he shows us concerning the nature of the world in the Bible, and then see how these principles unfold themselves throughout history. We’re living in the midst of the greatest narrative ever written.

Write what you know. You know a lot more than you think you do. So study the world that God has gifted us with, learn about His character and about reality, and then, with that knowledge, write it out. Your world may have different continents, different races, different people, different timelines, or it might be pretty identical to the world we live in. But whatever the case, it still is under that fundamental reality. So write what you know.

And know what you write about.

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
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.