How to Write an Unlikable Hero

A dark, brooding hero isn’t particularly nice to anyone, and he is particularly mean to a few nice people. A tragic event in his past has shaped his sour outlook on life. He might live on 221B Baker Street, or he may call up CIA agents just to tell them they look tired. He’s conflicted, fearless, and terrified.

Also, he’s very popular in modern YA fiction.How_to_Write_an_Unlikable_Hero

But, unfortunately, failure awaits those who attempt to write him. A dark, brooding, unlikeable character is … unlikeable. The chances are slim that he will hold readers’ attention through a book.

Many authors try to skirt the problem by throwing in backstory that explains how the hero became such a jerk. They think readers will pity and ignore the hero’s rough edges if they understand that he lost his parents at a young age.

Wrong. [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.

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.

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.

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/

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 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/

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…]

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 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…]

Profile photo of Sierra
Sierra Ret is a homeschool student who spent nearly her entire childhood with her nose buried in a book, and consequently decided she wanted to write one of her own (preferably filled with dwarves and elves). Actually getting her thoughts down on paper regularly has proven to be a far greater challenge than she first thought, but Kingdom Pen was kind enough to step in and give her some much-needed deadlines by honouring her with a temporary spot on their writing team. When not hermiting behind a laptop screen, Sierra enjoys gallivanting across Canada and adventuring near her home in rural Ontario with her family. Currently her chief fantasies include making a living as a travel blogger and someday moving to New Zealand. But above all, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

How to 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.