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…]

Interview with Rachel Starr Thomson on Writing, Editing, and Indie Publishing (Plus Giveaway!)

For the past ten years, Rachel Starr Thomson has been an inspiration to me on numerous levels. I first encountered her when she was a columnist for the Amie Newsletter, a publication dedicated to encouraging teenage girls. Her articles on the Christian walk impacted me deeply during a season in my life when my steps were unsure.

Rachel_Starr_Thomson_Interview_&_GiveawayAfter the Amie Newsletter was discontinued, I stalked Rachel on her blog—always reading but never uttering a peep. She posted writing tips back then, which fueled my aspirations to sling words onto paper and into people’s hearts. I admired—and almost envied—her fluid, artistic voice, and her courage in building a platform for herself through self-publishing quality books.

I bumped into her again years later when I submitted an article about storytelling to Homeschool Enrichment Magazine, where she served as copy editor. Shortly after my article was published, I began receiving requests from authors for help with refining their work, and I discovered that polishing sentences gave me a sense of satisfaction I’d never felt before. I realized I was suited to editing and wanted to pursue it seriously, but I had no idea how to get started. I sought advice from Rachel because I had no one else to ask, and she kindly imparted counsel that has proven invaluable. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I’m at now (editing for KP and a small Christian publisher) without that short e-mail she sent in response to mine.

Thus, it gave me great pleasure to approach Rachel on behalf of Kingdom Pen and ask her about her experiences as an author of more than twenty books, blogger of Kingdom truths, and a freelance editor for twelve years. I found myself empathizing with and learning from her comments, and I know all of you will benefit from hearing her wisdom as well. Read on, KeePers, and be sure to check out the book giveaway at the bottom of the post!

KP: You’re considered a pioneer of self-publishing. What caused you to choose indie over traditional publishing?

Rachel: I started experimenting with indie publishing back in 2006 or 2007, while simultaneously looking for an agent and a traditional book contract. I’d done so much writing over the years that I wasn’t even thinking about pursuing publication for all of it, so self-publishing was just a fun way to learn how to produce a book and put something into print myself. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bent, but mostly I was just playing around. I realized it might be a real, viable publication path slowly, especially after I checked on an e-book I’d put up for free on Smashwords and forgotten about and realized it had been downloaded over 25,000 times while I wasn’t looking. Eventually “playing around” gave way to thinking more seriously about writing as a business. I much prefer the control of self-publishing, which applies to many aspects of the publishing journey, from timelines to content to career trajectory. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Brianna Storm Hilvety
Brianna was born with a rumble in her veins. She finds the tap of a keyboard to be soothing like the pitter-patter of rain. She has been a writer for a decade, a freelance editor for a few years, and a bibliophile from the moment she pronounced her first syllable. Proudly a Silver Member of The Christian PEN, she serves on their team as graphics coordinator. She exudes her passion for speculative fiction and helping young writers by being on the staff of Castle Gate Press and Kingdom Pen magazine. When she isn’t poring over words, she may be spotted shooting her Canon, riding The Breeze (an all-terrain vehicle), or romping with her dog, Zookie. Purple is her signature color, and she refuses to recognize all other claims to it.

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…]

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!

KP Book Review: Dreamlander

What if, in your dreams, you enter into another world?  What if the world of dreams was set in a fantasy setting with some splashes of steampunk and a growing schism between two warring nations?  What if normally, you and your dreaming self can only remember snatches of the life that you live on the other side?  But what if, unlike all the rest of the populace, you were able to fully remember what goes on in both the waking and dreaming worlds? dreamlanderreviewpost

This is the basic premise of Dreamlander, K.M. Weiland’s third published novel.  The protagonist of the story, Chris Redston, has spent the past several years of his life running away from his responsibilities and duties.  But when he becomes the Gifted—the only person able to remember both worlds—and inadvertently brings destructive forces into the dream world, he’s going to need to learn to take responsibility and learn how to fight if he’s going to save both worlds from crossing into each other and destroying themselves. [Read more…]

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.

Magic, Fantasy, and the Christian Writer

When you think of the fantasy genre, three things probably quickly come to mind: swords, elves, and magic.  And it’s the latter that can become a problem for the Christian writer.  We’ve all probably read, or are at least familiar with, the passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy that condemn magic and warn God’s people not to practice it.[1]  Yet, we’ve also read fantasy novels where magic is used, whether it be in The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or The Inheritance Cycle.  And while perhaps it may be fine to read books with elements that you disagree with, when it comes to what’s okay to write as a Christian, the fantasy writer may have a more difficult problem with this issue.

Magic, Fantasy and the Christian Writer courtesy of sattvaThere are many different positions taken and answers given by Christians on this issue, ranging from those who say any “good magic” in fiction is wrong, to those who say that anything is permissible in a fictional universe.  My hope is to not gravitate to either extreme.  Given that, in this article, I’d like to present a defense of magic in fantasy from a Christian worldview.  I’m not going to try to defend every instance of magic in fiction; rather, I wish to provide a perspective from which magic in fiction can be understood.  To do this, I’ll begin by looking at what magic actually is, before moving onto when it may be appropriate to use magic in fiction.

While we all know what magic is when we see it, actually defining magic is difficult.

As we seek for a definition of magic, we quickly run into a problem.  While we all know what magic is when we see it, actually defining magic is difficult.  Is magic simply a disruption of the natural order?  If that’s the case, the question must be asked about what the natural order is.  In addition, this definition would also seem to define many of God’s miracles as magic, which may very well make us uneasy.  Another problem arises when we look at how far technology has brought us in the past four hundred years.  If you were able to time-travel to the Medieval Ages, and you showed people an object that could listen to someone talking hundreds of miles away, you may very well have been burned at the stake for being a witch, even though it was just a phone.  Often, magic is simply that which we can’t explain; thus, not all magic systems really deal with the supernatural.

[Read more…]

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.

Reality And Fantasy: Finding the Right Blend

Using your own life experiences to make your stories more real and fantastic at the same time.

By Lissy Jones

My mother always tells me the same thing whenever I write – “Write what you know”. I can’t stress this enough. Allow me to explain this with a simple example. Which is easier to write if you are a suburban Christian teenager – a story set in New York City about a young urban professional or a story about a suburban Christian teenager? Now, you may have a sibling that is a young urban professional in NYC, and that will make it easier to write the former, but generally, the latter is always going to be easiest for you to write. Think about it. You know the people in your neighborhood, you know what it’s like to be a teen, and it’s your life. I write my best fiction when it’s almost non-fiction. Having part of your personal story in your writing is like having climbing gear while climbing a mountain, versus free-hand climbing. It’s easier, and much less dangerous.

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But, my friends, writing direct biographies of our lives could be boring.  I know that I love writing partly because of the other world it transports me to – a world that I create. It’s only human to want to create things, as we are created in the image of the Creator. And when I’m writing what seems to be a narrative of my own boring (in my opinion) life, I tend to get bored. I have yet to write anything based directly on my life that is longer than a short story. And now, we are presented with a dilemma. So how do we fix that? Well, there are three ways. First, recognize the balance in writing. Second, learn to make reality fantasy. Third, research any topics you aren’t familiar with.

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Writing, like life, is a balance. It’s a delightful concoction with the perfect ratios of reality to fantasy. Every writer must be able to dream a little. I’m almost 100% sure C.S. Lewis didn’t possess a magical wardrobe that transported him to another world inhabited by talking animals. Yet, he spins a tale so real, the books have lasted years! So, what’s the magic ratio? In all honesty, friend, it varies. “The Chronicles of Narnia” requires more fantasy than, say, “The Grapes of Wrath.” A good writer is able to recognize exactly how much fantasy/reality he or she needs to add to the story. It’s like cooking – add a dash of reality to taste. If you reach the point where you read over your work and it sounds very “fake”, maybe reconsider some elements of your story, and make them closer to home. If you’re a girl who loves reading and writing, an illiterate boy who has just immigrated to America might be too hard to try to relate to. I like to play it safe and always have my main character be a girl, like me. Always have something in common with your character. A good way to do this is to make a chart comparing you and your character’s homes, families, personalities, and situations. This can help you see what you can change to get more in common. If, on the other hand, your story sounds like an autobiography, expand your mind a bit and add in some spice – perhaps you’ve always secretly wished you played piano from birth. Add that in! Also, consider changing one big piece of your character’s background. If you come from a two-parent household, making your character live with a single parent in a divorced or widowed family can add a fresh take on things.

[Read more…]