How to Enrich Your Story with Magic

By Amy Caylor

I’ve always adored fantasy. I’m fascinated with princesses in castles and knights battling dragons. But I especially love magic (and yes, Christians can write about it with discretion). To live in a world where books have self-turning pages and torn clothes can be mended with a gesture would be delightful.

I’m particularly drawn to unique magic systems. Over the years, I’ve observed stories where magic was thrown in as a component of the genre, and others where magic was purposefully included. Brandon Sanderson’s laws of magic have helped me identify two factors that set apart a magic system or any sort of extraordinary powers/abilities: costs and limitations. With these in mind, you can develop a distinct magic system and enhance your story.How_to_Enrich_Your_Story_with_Magic

Establishing the Cost for Using Magic

Characters should experience consequences for exercising their abilities. Not all magic systems have drawbacks, and when they do, it’s typically energy—such as in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. After a magician casts a spell, he feels tired. I can count on one hand the books I’ve read that had a downside to magic besides energy. Thus, energy-cost systems will likely be familiar to readers, which may be what you seek, but unusual disadvantages to magic will make your world more interesting to visit. [Read more…]

Three Types of Telling You Must Erase to Create an Intimate POV

You’ve just created a new character and are excited to share his point of view with readers. He’s witty, charming, flawed, and about to embark on the adventure of his life. You’re desperate to bring readers up close and personal with him. If you don’t, you’re worried they won’t love him as much as you do. Believe it or not, the key to accomplishing this is showing.

You’ve no doubt heard “show, don’t tell” before. Sounds like solid advice, but what does it truly mean? For the sake of this article, I will separate telling into three categories: telling in description, telling in thoughts, and telling in emotions. Once you eradicate telling in these areas, readers will feel much closer to your character and your book will be one step nearer a masterpiece.3_Types_of_Telling_You_Must_Erase_to_Create_an_Intimate_POV

Not All Telling Is Evil

Before we jump in, please realize that telling isn’t an enemy writers must avoid like gold-obsessed dragons or One Rings. Telling is simply summarizing. You can’t write your entire novel without summarizing; otherwise your book would double in size and slow to an unbearable crawl. The examples in this article are only suggestions, not rules you must obey. Your book should contain showing and telling, not exclusively one or the other. [Read more…]

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Gabrielle Pollack currently resides with her family and many cats amidst a small wood she wishes was Narnia. Her interests are varied, and when she isn’t writing or studying, she enjoys karate, archery, introverting, and hanging out on the Kingdom Pen forum. She relishes the cool wind that rushes in before a thunderstorm, the scent of fresh rain, black clouds, and in summary, all things storm. As a lighthearted INFP, she loves horses, spring, strawberries, and sitting on the roof of her house.
She fell in love with stories many years ago and immersed herself in epic books like The Kingdom Series and The Peleg Chronicles, living the adventures and loving the characters. It took her a while to realize she could write epic stories herself, but once she did, she was a lost cause. She never quite recovered her sanity and often rants about good storytelling to innocent bystanders. Gabrielle has written two books since, and has a plethora of other ideas swirling inside her brain, waiting to turn into people and worlds. She desires to glorify God through her books, short stories, and blog, and looks forward to learning more about her trade.

How Villains and Side Characters Can Deepen Your Protagonist’s Character Arc

The core of story is conflict. If your story contains no struggle, it’s just a tale about nobody important who never overcame anything. Conflict takes many forms; physical, mental, and spiritual conflicts are all crucial, and even necessary. Ideological conflict, however, is invaluable to developing character arcs. Without it, your protagonist won’t grow because his beliefs are never questioned. Ideological conflict is often facilitated by villains and side characters who challenge the hero’s beliefs and worldview. If you start with your protagonist, creating these characters is relatively simple.How_Villains_and_Side_Characters_Can_Deepen_Your_Protagonist_s_Character_Arc

How to Create an Effective Villain 

Let’s say your hero has a positive change arc. This means your protagonist initially has a negative Experiment in Living and clings to a lie that damages or hinders him somehow. Over the course of the story he learns the truth, which he eventually uses to replace the lie and defeat the villain. [Read more…]

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Gabrielle Pollack currently resides with her family and many cats amidst a small wood she wishes was Narnia. Her interests are varied, and when she isn’t writing or studying, she enjoys karate, archery, introverting, and hanging out on the Kingdom Pen forum. She relishes the cool wind that rushes in before a thunderstorm, the scent of fresh rain, black clouds, and in summary, all things storm. As a lighthearted INFP, she loves horses, spring, strawberries, and sitting on the roof of her house.
She fell in love with stories many years ago and immersed herself in epic books like The Kingdom Series and The Peleg Chronicles, living the adventures and loving the characters. It took her a while to realize she could write epic stories herself, but once she did, she was a lost cause. She never quite recovered her sanity and often rants about good storytelling to innocent bystanders. Gabrielle has written two books since, and has a plethora of other ideas swirling inside her brain, waiting to turn into people and worlds. She desires to glorify God through her books, short stories, and blog, and looks forward to learning more about her trade.

Beyond the Evil Overlord: Three Dynamic Character Arcs for Villains

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a hero in possession of reasonable talents and good looks must be in want of an arch nemesis.”Beyond_the_Evil_Overlord

Although the above statement is nothing more than a bad Jane Austen paraphrase, every writer knows that a story is vapid without a villain. Without darkness, how will the light shine through? No one can test, provoke, or push the hero to reach his full potential the way a villain can. In all likelihood, without the villain, the hero would still be a poor moisture farmer in a planetary backwoods.

But even though we recognize that a villain is essential to the success of a story, we tend to focus our efforts on fleshing out our protagonist’s motivation and personality. We may create the most unique and compelling character of the century, but if our main villain is a lazy, dark-lord-Sauron imitation, the story’s overall quality will be reduced.

A stagnant villain is a boring villain. With that in mind, let’s examine three dynamic character arcs villains can follow. [Read more…]

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Sierra Ret — homeschool grad, camping fanatic, and amateur adventurer — joined the KP team as an intern a year ago and has since been promoted to Writing Team Captain, an honor equally thrilling and humbling. She enjoys both swinging in a hammock in the woods and hermiting behind a laptop screen with a mug of tea in one hand and a bar of dark chocolate in the other (something that tends to make typing difficult).
While the most recent plot in her long string of fantasies involves making a living as a travel blogger in New Zealand, she currently makes her home in Peterborough, Canada, a pleasant land that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Shire. But regardless of whether she eventually settles at home, abroad, or at the seat of government power in Ottawa, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

How to Cope When Your Manuscript Is Black and White and Red All Over

You did it. You sent your manuscript out to be appraised by someone else—and you’re not sure whether to shout hurray or groan. Maybe you’re trying to get published, or maybe you’re just seeking feedback. Maybe this is the first time you’ve shown your work to someone, or maybe it’s the one-hundredth time. Whatever the case, you’ve placed your writing in someone else’s hands and now you’re trembling and biting your nails as you await the results.

Black_and_White_and_Red_All_OverThen you hear the flutter of paper, the ding of an e-mail, or the shuffle of the mailman, and your precious bundle arrives. But as you open it, you gasp at all the bloodstains marring the pages, and you wrestle with one of two thoughts:

  1. I must be a horrible writer!
  2. This person doesn’t understand me or my piece, and they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Both of these reactions are wrong, and neither is good for your morale as a writer (although at least the first displays humility). You’re understandably feeling stung, but before you start sobbing or chopping off any heads, pause to pray for wisdom. To endure criticism and emerge a more astute writer, you need to analyze five factors. [Read more…]

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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 an Associate Editor at Castle Gate Press and the Copy Editor/Director of Graphics for Kingdom Pen. 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.

Five Questions to Ask Yourself When Your Story’s Theme Lacks Subtlety

Few flaws can kill a story’s theme and message as much as blatancy.

We’ve all read books that constantly hit us over the head with the author’s beliefs. Afterwards we resolve never to do this as authors.

But then we sit down to write and realize how easy it is to make this mistake.

5_Questions_to_Ask_Yourself_When_Your_Story_s_Theme_Lacks_Subtlety

Why Subtlety Is Important

As I explain in my article, “Is Fiction Inherently Worse Than Nonfiction,” literature’s thematic power lies in moving emotions, not reason. Generally speaking, stories don’t change readers by presenting new logical arguments. That’s the role of nonfiction. Instead, fiction changes readers by showing what it means to live morally versus immorally, and what the results are. [Read more…]

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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.

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.

Why Characters Who Love Each Other Won’t Ruin Your Novel

It’s possible you were taken aback at the title of this article. Maybe you once read a novel about happy people doing happy things in a happy world that caused you to cry in agony and run as fast as you could in search of a caged fight. Love means nothing ever happens, right? If people get along perfectly, where’s the conflict? And who wants to read a book about people who adore each other?Why_Characters_Who_Love_Each_Other_Won_t_Ruin_Your_Novel

As if romance isn’t a popular genre.

But I’m not talking about romance. I’m talking about love in general. Your characters should love each other, and despite the legitimate objections against this, your story will benefit. Here I will explain how. [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.

What Sherlock Holmes Can Teach You about Writing Descriptions

I’ve read approximately 60 percent of the Sherlock Holmes collection, and it’s hard for me to decide which book I like best. From a writer’s perspective, however, the choice is obvious. Filed under The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is an obscure mystery titled “A Case of Identity” that offers a gem of writing advice for those who pick up on it.

The case begins with a visit from a woman in need of Sherlock’s assistance. He interviews the lady, and after she has left, he remarks that she intrigued him more than her case.What_Sherlock_Holmes_Can_Teach_You_about_Writing_Descriptions

Watson states, “You appeared to read a good deal upon her which was quite invisible to me.”

“Not invisible, but unnoticed,” explains Sherlock. “You did not know where to look, and so you missed all that was important. I can never bring you to realize the importance of sleeves, the suggestiveness of thumbnails, or the great issues that may hang from a bootlace. Now, what did you gather from that woman’s appearance? Describe it.” [Read more…]

Profile photo of Daeus
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.