KP Book Review: A Peep Behind the Scenes

Many today are unfamiliar with both Mrs. O. F. Walton and her work A Peep Behind the Scenes, which was originally published in 1877. Although it may not be considered a literary classic nowadays, it still is a remarkable story. By the end of the 1800s, A Peep Behind the Scenes outsold Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter by two million copies.A_Peep_Behind_the_Scenes

Walton’s story takes you “behind the scenes” of what seems to be the glittering life of the traveling carnival. The story focuses on a little girl named Rosalie. While she struggles with the life of the fair, dealing with her harsh father, and trying to care for her sick mother, Rosalie’s story is not unlike a typical Charles Dickens novel. However, A Peep Behind the Scenes contains a sweetness not commonly found in Dickens’ novels. When a gentleman visiting the carnival gives little Rosalie a picture depicting a lost sheep, the child learns of The Good Shepherd and that she is like that lost lamb needing a Savior. [Read more…]

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Christine Eaton is a college student who loves stories and hopes to publish children’s books. Wearing flip-flops in December, frequenting the beach, and taking every opportunity to visit Disneyland, Christine relishes living in sunny Southern California. She can usually be found happily sipping tea, memorizing lines from the latest play she is a part of, caving into her addiction to chocolate, writing encouraging snail mail, or listening to music, which is usually something folky like Andrew Peterson or the Gray Havens, or some Broadway musical (and rarely anything landing between those two categories.) Art is one of her largest passions, and her walls are covered in her sketches and paintings. Christine yearns to use her skills to glorify God by illustrating and writing her own children’s books that will teach children more about Jesus. Some of her favorite authors include A.S. Peterson, Francine Rivers, Louisa May Alcott, and Andrew Peterson. She is so thankful for the opportunity to manage Kingdom Pen’s social media accounts and help out around the Kingdom wherever she can. From the encouragement, enthusiastic young Christian writers, and her fellow staff members, KP holds a huge place in her heart and she is excited about encouraging young writers to write well and glorify God through their writing.

Can You Keep a Pure Mind While Reading about Darkness in Literature?

In my article, “All Art is Christian Art,” I proposed that any beauty in art must by necessity find its traces in the order of the world God created. My three main goals were to show that art is essentially objective, being grounded in God’s original design; to prove that secular literature can still give us an incredible understanding of God and his creation; and to help Christians evaluate literature and be savvy in their reading choices.

I thought my case rested there, but through certain conversations, I began to realize that I had failed to cover a precept that was vital to the Christian approach to literature.Pure_Mind

I had a serious problem because I was up against a Bible verse:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8, NKJV).

Based upon what I already knew about the foundation of art in Christianity, I was certain that even books with faulty themes could impart loads of good and noble things to meditate on. [Read more…]

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Daeus is the published author of two books, Edwin Brook and Treachery Against The House Of Fairwin. He is a Christian seeking God’s face when he remembers to and finding that that is all he was seeking when he seeks for something else. He is a joker who takes himself too seriously and a sack full of ambition who likes to relax. Among his top interests are poetry, reading, philosophy, theology, gardening and permaculture, athletics, marketing, psychology, and interacting with his friends. You can also find him participating in such activities as ranting about the glories of frozen raspberries or making impromptu music for every occasion.
He also is a fanatic over The Count Of Monte Cristo. Be thou forewarned.
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.

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…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.

Is Fiction Inherently Worse Than Nonfiction?

A couple months ago, I came across an article from a semi-popular Christian blogger whom I generally respect in which she was explaining why she no longer read fiction.  While she enjoyed some fiction, as she explained it, nonfiction was simply more applicable to real life because it actually had information on real life, and for that and other reasons related to the lack of morality in a lot of modern fiction, she had simply stopped reading fiction. fictionvsnonfictionpinterest

The idea that non-fiction is inherently better than fiction is hardly an idea that I’ve encountered several times, sometimes by bloggers writing on the internet, and sometimes by other people in my life who don’t understand why I devote as much time to fiction as I do.  Often it’s presented like it was in the article before:

Why read stories about untrue things when instead you could read stories about life how it actually is? 

Within Christian circles, it can sometimes be set as a matter of holiness.  What’s the value in reading a fantasy novel about mythical creatures and ungodly magic , when instead you could be reading a theological work that would be bettering your spiritual life?  But the arguments aren’t always articulated.  Sometimes, people may not raise any verbal objections to fiction—but they show with their actions and reading choices that they simply have no use for fiction in their life because of these reasons.

In this article, I’d like to defend fictional works against the charge that they are less real, less useful, or less transformative than non-fictional works like biography, history, or theology.  While many may read fiction just for enjoyment and without any thought to these categories, the best fiction is the kind that is both enjoyable and useful.  And so, without any further ado, let’s examine the value of fiction.

1. Fiction is as Real as Non-Fiction

This point may seem to be hard-sell at first.  After all, given that non-fiction is about the world as it actually is, how could fiction be just as real under these categories?  To be sure, if we’re defining ‘real’ as giving us propositional truths about the world that we live in, fiction can’t win in that race.  However, this prompts the question about what is truly real.

Many today believe that the physical world is the most real world that we have.  However, this is a rather novel development in the scope of human history.  While they have disagreed about the nature of the spiritual world, most philosophers and theologians before the 1600’s tended to believe that there was a spiritual world that was more real than the physical world that we live in.  In other words, there are eternal concepts such as justice, goodness, or beauty that are more real than the individual cases we often see of them on the earth.

This is what led Aristotle, a Greek philosopher living over 2,000 years ago, to argue that literature (or poetry, as it was known back then) was closer to reality than the world we lived in.  In his Poetics, he argued that

“Poetry is more philosophical and more significant than history, for poetry is more concerned with the universal, and history more with the individual.”

[Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.

KP Book Review: King Lear

This play by the Bard isn’t the type of story that you want to pick up to read for fun—unless your favorite pastime happens to be reading gut-wrenching tragedies.  But it also has numerous implications for writers, which is why I’m recommending kinglearreviewthis book to Kingdom Pen subscribers.

Given the popularity of this book, particularly in English and Literature courses, the basic plot of this story may very well already be familiar to you: the story of the aging king who decided to separate his kingdom among his three daughters.  When one of the daughters refuses to flatter him like her sisters do, but chooses to show her genuine affections for him instead, the aging king misunderstands her intentions and disowns her from the inheritance, dividing the kingdom instead between the two flattering daughters.  And from there, the story pretty much goes downhill from there, as the king learns to his expense how much of a grave error he made when divvying up his inheritance. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.

KP Book Review: Northanger Abbey

If you’re like me, as an avid reader or writer, you’ve probably imagined what it would be like to be the hero or heroine of your own little story. northangerabbey

And that’s what makes Northanger Abbey such a fun and entertaining book to read.  The book’s protagonist, Catherine Morland, is essentially a protagonist who does just that: she grew up reading tons of books, and thus she now views herself as a sort of heroine whose story is currently unfolding.  Like any Jane Austen protagonist, Catherine is a single woman in search of a husband.  And so, as the book unfolds, Catherine tries to compare herself with the heroines of the books that she’s read as she tries to find a spouse. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.

Tips for a Well-Written Historical Fiction

historical men with pipes fullHistorical fiction is one of the largest genres out there. Book topics span from scarcely heard about events to World War Two and Civil war-era fiction. In such a big market, it’s hard to really set yourself apart. What do some of the most successful historical fiction books have in common?

The first thing that comes to mind is research. In any novel, research is important, yet it’s even more so in historical fiction. While the reader will never physically see the long hours, books read and pages upon pages of notes, they’ll very easily be able to tell if you know what you’re writing about. Make sure you’ve got your major facts correct, then dig deeper. Figure out how people lived, what the economy was like and things like that. More research and hard work on your part will only make the quality of your book better.

If you’re not the type to sit and pour through text books for hours on end, find some good historical fiction written in the time period you’re wanting to write about. I’m not saying to forego the textbooks entirely, because that’s important too. Read how other successful authors have done it and learn from them. Keep a huge notebook (if it doesn’t start out huge, it will end that way) of all the random tidbits you’ve learned.

This brings me to my second point and that’s characterization. For me at least, I’ll push through a lacking plot line and less than descriptive settings if the characters are strong enough. Take out the good characters and replace them with dull, unrelatable ones—you’ll have a hard time getting me past the first chapter. Another thing that makes characters feel off is when they speak or act out of character. Back to the research, make sure that you know how people back then would act. Just as someone from the middle ages wouldn’t say, “What’s up, dude?”, someone from our time wouldn’t speak in Shakespearian English. Know the vocabulary and mannerisms of the time you’re writing in.

However, just knowing how a person would talk or act isn’t enough to make them a dynamic and interesting character. Don’t be afraid to mess your characters up. At a writing conference I attended this year, one of the speakers put it this way, “When you’re a writer, you get to play at being God. You create these characters. There is a difference though. We give our characters the sins and then punish them for having them!” In order for your characters to feel relatable, they’ve got to be messed up. Everyone has something—multiple things—that they struggle with. Make your characters sinful and then put them through the process to fix that. You don’t want to make them so terrible that no one will like them, but they can’t be perfect either.

With all the historical fiction out there, you need to find a way to make your story unique. This is also where reading already published and well-known novels will come in handy. In most cases, you’ll find the author has done something just a little different than someone else, making the story that much better. I described my last historical fiction novel to people as a “historical fiction with a little bit of sci-fi”. My main character could time travel, but it wasn’t in the same way it usually happens. A pocket watch was tied to times written in his ancestor’s journal. Whenever it struck that time, the character traveled back and stayed—sometimes for days, sometimes hours, sometimes nearly a month. It was something different and it had time travel—something I find interesting.

Brainstorm a list of ideas to make the story different. Start small and then go crazy with it. My idea came from a very late night of writing any random thing that came to mind. Even if it seems weird and totally out of place, put it down. Sometimes the strangest ideas end up being the ones that work best.

A lot of what makes or breaks a good historical fiction boils down to research. It’s not only the characters, dialogue and actual events you’ll want to learn about though. Learn about the area where they take place. If possible, visit those places. Things will have changed over the years, but it’s still helpful and inspiring to stand on the place you’d be using in your story. That’s one of the amazing things about historical fiction. In a way, it feels as though it was real. You can go to places used in your novel, take pictures of them and really be there.

I’ve said it several times, but I’ll say it again: research, research, research. See, your mom was always right! History really can help you in real life. It will only make your novel better.

KP Book Review: Ender’s Game

Far and away, Science Fiction is my favorite genre to write. However, when it comes to reading Sci-fi, there’s a lot of…weird stuff out there. Not only that, but much of it is cliche or soaked to the bone in Humanism.  Because of this, my experience reading Sci-fi has been a mixed bag. That being said, Ender’s Game was definitely one of the gems.

I stumbled upon Ender’s Game after reading a book on writing Science Fiction by the same author, Orson Scott Card. Through reading his “how to” book, I discovered that Card himself had written an award winning Science Fiction novel, or rather, a series of novels: the Ender’s Game Series. I decided I wanted to read this Ender’s Game book. That way, I could see if Mr. Card really knows what he’s talking about. Does Orson Scott Card really know how to write a Science Fiction novel?  He does.

Ender’s Game is easily one of my favorite books, which makes it my pleasure to share with you this excellent review by Kingdom Pen subscriber, Corey Poff. For more reviews and insights, check out Corey’s blog: The Ink Slinger

Associate Editor

Reagan Ramm

Ender’s Game: A Book Review

by Corey Poff

In the futuristic world of Ender’s Game, an alien race has attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed mankind. To prepare for the next encounter, an international Battle School has been established, where the world’s most talented children are drilled in the arts of war. Their early training takes the form of “games”: simulated battles in null-gravity.

Enter Andrew “Ender” Wiggin: a genius among geniuses. His training begins at age six, and when he joins Battle School, his tactical prowess becomes obvious. With humanity’s survival in the balance, everything hinges on Ender’s ability to surmount every challenge he’s given. The authorities are determined to make him or break him. Ender will grow up fast.

[Read more…]