But first. Let us honor the fallen who gave their lives in the comments section, waiting for this to be revealed.
But first. Let us honor the fallen who gave their lives in the comments section, waiting for this to be revealed.
Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful Princess in the kingdom of Indiandia. Her parents taught her all that it meant to be a princess and prepared her to one day meet and marry a prince from a nearby land. They warned her about rebellious men who would seek to dethrone her future rule and tarnish the kingdom, and so the beautiful Princess vigilantly guarded her heart.
One day while on a stroll through the kingdom, the Princess happened upon a peculiar sight: a Rebel who acted like a knight. How strange! He looked just like the kind of man her parents had cautioned her about. But he was…different.
Occasionally the Princess would venture out of the palace to observe the Rebel as he tried to stir up the populace in surrounding towns. To her amazement, he did not speak against the kingdom, or in favor of rebellion. On the contrary, he strove to spur the people toward loyalty.
The Princess had to know more…
She followed the Rebel to an enclave on the edge of the kingdom where he resided. Although she wore a disguise, the Rebel suspected her true identity from the moment they met.
Unfortunately, the Rebel’s enclave was slowly being taken over by enemies of the kingdom. Together the Princess and the Rebel fought to maintain the purity of the haven, but it was a lost cause.
The Rebel was soon called elsewhere, and he left the enclave for good. The Rebel and the Princess parted ways… [Read more…]
Stories follow a familiar pattern because it works. When it comes to character archetypes, we have the Hero, Villain, Mentor, Ally, and Love in just about every story. Usually, the weakest of these is the Love. This is because in an adventure novel, the main story goal is not to “get the girl” (or boy as the case may be), which means your Love character will become the object of a subplot. This leaves less time available for pursuing the Love. Less time for the Hero to be rejected, overcome the rejections, and eventually win the Love.
As a result, romantic subplots usually feel unsatisfying because we get the sense that winning the girl (or boy) isn’t as important as defeating the villain. How many movies and books can you think of where obtaining the Love interest was way too easy, and seemed to just be tacked on at the end, like a bonus prize? Throw in some extra-marital romance, perhaps a kiss here and there, and this all adds up to cheapen love, rather than esteem it. Many books and movies bombarded us with the fantasy that “love is all you need”, but the “love” they speak of is NOT real love. It’s just the glossy icing on the cake, lacking the deep richness that true love actually renders.
“It is love that sustains romance, but our culture would have us believe it is the other way around, and that romance sustains love. We cannot perpetuate this myth in our stories.”
So many stories today want to pitch us the easy, cheap, and “free” kind of love which is just an imitation, a vapor that doesn’t last when divorced from its foundation, a foundation based on sacrifice; hard love.
For most young writers, I think they would be better off leaving out a Love subplot altogether. Pulling off a real, meaningful Love subplot that esteems the real deal is a difficult task. On top of that, it’s hard to write appropriate, believable, and positive examples of romance into your story. Even if your characters are married, for young writers, it can be difficult to pull this off.
However , this does not mean we should abandon love. We need stories that show what we are missing. We need stories with hard love. Therefore, for beginning writers, if you want to write a Love subplot, write one that doesn’t include any romance.
It is once again that crazy time of year where writers everywhere decide to embark on a heroic quest of their own: writing an entire novel in just one month.
If you have decided to take on this massive enterprise for the first time, or are coming off of a failed attempt last year, this goal may seem even more daunting than it really is. The truth is, writing a novel in one month is actually pretty simple. All you have to do is write 1667 words every day. Or, to reduce that down even more, only 833 words an hour for two hours a day, or, 209 words every 15 minutes.
Do you think you can write 209 words every 15 minutes? Of course you can! 209 words is nothing!
We make a lot of excuses. Being too tired, not having enough time, something else coming up, etc. But very rarely do any of these excuses account for not writing a novel in a month. Surely, even the busiest person can find 8 fifteen minute sections in a day to write 209 words. It’s not about time or capability. You have the ability and the time to write a novel in just one month. However, the reason you may not lies inside your head.
I successfully completed NaNoWriMo in 2012, but then failed to complete a novel the following year. Why? The same reason why I think a lot of others don’t finish: perfectionism.
More and more as I write, it is becoming increasingly difficult to turn off that inner editor voice in my head telling me my writing is absolutely appalling. I’ll just be merrily writing along when, BAM! Off goes the bad writing alarms.
Inner editor: Oh my gosh! You just used an adverb there! That’s weak writing! [Read more…]
“We need more strong female characters!”
I’m sure you’ve heard this battle cry before. Whether it be in books or movies, we hear the mainstream media and our peers clamoring for more “strong female characters”. And you know what? I agree with them; we do need more strong female protagonists in our stories.
Of course, I disagree with the Feminists over what “strong” looks like for women and girls. For the Feminists, a “strong female character” is a woman who knows martial arts, and can beat up all the men with kicks and punches. She wears a sly, confident grin, and never needs any help, especially not from men. She is Independent and deadly. She is equal, if not superior to, men in physical strength, and she curses just as crudely. This is a “strong” woman. In other words, an arrogant self-centered man…in female form. This is not strength, but brokenness and weakness.
The damsel in distress; oh what a symbol of misogyny and oppression. This ancient trope of a male hero saving a woman from imminent harm is arguably the most bemoaned in our culture today. I’m sure you have all heard the frequent criticism of Disney animated films featuring princesses, “Why do they all need a man to save them?” Mainstream media clamors for female characters who can save themselves, are independent of men, or better yet, save a man in distress! Although, it is a bit strange that you never hear people say how demeaning it is to men that the male lead must save a woman in order to have value. Hmm…
Is the modern day scorn for the damsel in distress well deserved? To a degree. Like any story element, the damsel in distress plot-line can be written poorly.
As many point out, the Damsel in Distress trope can sometimes paint the woman in distress as being one-dimensional. Some fear that this trope sends the message that, “women are inherently weak and their only strength is their beauty.” If a particular story creates a damsel that is weak, pretty…and that’s it, then I would agree that this is a valid point.
Making the damsel in distress weak and one-dimensional is bad not so much because it’s insulting to women (even physically weak women still have worth), but it is bad in that it is just poor story writing. No one is one-dimensional. No person is simply just weak and that’s all there is to them. People are complex, so to write a one-dimensional damsel, a one-dimensional character, is not realistic, and harms a story.
When one makes the damsel one-dimensional, the Damsel in Distress plot then becomes a mere cop-out. Instead of doing the work to create conflict and tension, the writer simply makes the Hero’s love interest fall into enemy hands and boom! Instant conflict and tension! But the story will ultimately fall flat, and seem unbelievable.
That said, I don’t think the Damsel in Distress plotline is inherently evil. What is more, despite the criticism, the reality remains that we love the Damsel in Distress plot!
“The reality remains that we love the Damsel in Distress plot!”
What kinds of stories should the Christian writer write? I’ve met Christians who believe that Christian writers can write about pretty much anything and everything. And then I’ve met Christians who think that the Christian writer shouldn’t even write sci-fi or fantasy. Where is the balance? Is there a balance?
I don’t like thinking in terms of what is permissible and what is not, nor where the lines should be drawn. To me, this seems to be a very negative approach to writing and life; I like to focus on the positive. I’d rather focus on the power and potential every writer-for-the-kingdom has to impact the world for the better, and I believe we do this by writing truth: all truth comes from God.
However, it seems that in the attempt to depict truth, we can fall into the trap of dwelling on the darkness of the world more than is necessary. One writer said to me:
“I’m pretty good at saying a lot of rough stuff in a mild and round about way…I think it’s important for young kids to get a taste of the world and what going out and reaching out to people in the world is really like. So long as it’s done artfully and in a way that won’t ruin any innocence or anything. I mean…if they are raised without knowing anything outside of their home…it’ll be pretty harsh and hard and could stifle and scare them and they won’t end up being the lights for Christ they should.”
I’m not sure I know anyone who is raised without knowing anything outside of their own home, but even so, I think it’s dangerous for us to take on the role of trying to expose young kids to the “rough stuff” (a.k.a. sin) of the world. And yet, I know some Christian writers who will go into great detail depicting the terrible sin of the world. They justify their writing by saying that they are depicting truth. I disagree. They are depicting the lies of Satan.
Yes, there is terrible sin in the world—that is true—but that’s not the whole truth. These dark writers are missing the full picture by dwelling on the darkness. The full truth—the “deeper magic” from before the dawn of time, as Aslan would say—is that the light is greater than the darkness (John 1:4-5).
These writers of darkness will say that they are trying to draw attention to the darkness to spark a change, or that we cannot turn a blind eye to the evil going on around us. These dark writers will often vehemtly criticize the Christian books which are nothing but “fluff,” and explain how we need to be a light in the darkness.
I agree with them. We should not write fluff, we need to be a light in the darkness and write stories with meaning, but I think the execution of these dark writers is very flawed, and even works against their intentions.
How are we helping others by going into such explicit detail and description of darkness and sin? What good can come from putting such images of evil and sin before the minds of our readers, and before our own minds? Is this really being a light in the darkness? Or does it perpetuate the darkness?
I know another writer who intentionally makes characters as innocent as possible (to the point of being unbelievable), and then causes despicable, perverse, and evil things to happen to them. Their story ends without hope. Why? The writer would say this is to expose others to fact that such evil happens in the world. This writer is using good to highlight evil. This is completely backwards.
Rather than focusing on the darkness, I’d rather we focus on the light. Of course, in order to depict good winning out over evil—we must have evil. We should have evil in our stories, just as the Bible has examples of evil. But we should not become obsessed with the darkness, or dwell too deeply on the twisted, perverse, and vile. The Bible never goes into detailed description of evil and sin so as not to put such darkness before our minds.
Instead of writing about the truth of darkness, why don’t we write about the truth of something much more real? The truth of light.
We need stories about Perseverance: continuing in pursuit of a goal, despite adversity or success.
In order to show real perseverance, we must first have conflict–something getting in the way of reaching our goal. We need darkness to display the light, but the focus is the light, not the darkness.
We need stories about Humility: an attitude that acknowledges the importance of others in opposition to self-promotion.
For us to write great stories displaying remarkable humility, we need to show characters with the incredible desire to help others, despite the fact that it may harm themselves. There has to be danger, there has to be something to lose. Conflict. Harm. Darkness. But focus on the light. The bad should only serve to highlight the good, not the other way around.
We need stories about Faith: The assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen.
Remarkable faith is seen when the darkness is the greatest. It’s easy to have faith in God when all is well, but what about when things go wrong? As Satan said of Job, “Does Job fear God for nothing?…But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will curse you to Your face.” (Job 1:9,11) And what happened next? Job lost all his possessions and his children. That’s pretty dark. But the point of the story wasn’t to tell us how dark the world is. I think we already know that. Job never cursed God, even when his own wife told him to! (Job 2:9). He instead had faith, even in the face of overwhelming despair and hardship.
We need stories about Joy: a pervasive sense of overall and ultimate well-being.
Joy does not mean being happy all the time, but it means knowing that everything is going to be okay—even when the world is falling to pieces. Why? Because God is still in control. Nothing can happen without Him allowing it or causing it. But how can we have stories depicting the power of ever-present joy when the sun is always shining and all the butterflies think your skin makes an excellent landing pad?
In our world today, it is darkness and sorrow that so many find to be at the deepest center of life, while joy is seen as being superficial. This is a lie. Reality is actually the opposite. Joy lies at the heart of the universe.
As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live.” (159)
We need stories about Hope: The anticipation of good not yet here, or as yet unseen.
How can we have stories about the incredible power of hope when the arrival of good seems inevitable? Hope finds its power when all hope seems lost. Few stories do this better than the Lord Of The Rings. The power and strength of Mordor seemed unfathomable and overwhelming, and yet the characters fighting for good held on to hope, and hope carried them to victory. Those that lost hope (Saruman and Denethor) met horrible ends. The might of hope shown through. The Lord Of The Rings is a story about hope, not darkness and despair.
We need stories about Love: The decision to will the good of another.
As Jesus says perfectly in Matthew 5:46, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” How will your readers see the power of love if you have not enemies in your story in need of love? Don’t add evil people into your story to show how evil the world is. Put in the darkness to make the light appear all the brighter. For once, I’d like to see a “love” side-plot that is really about love, and not about the selfish romantic desires of the male and female leads. How more powerful would the strength of love show through if these characters were to actually act in opposition to their romantic desires, and instead, do what is really best for the other person? That is love!
We need stories about Courage: The quality of mind and spirit that enables you to act rightly in the face of uncertainty, difficulty, danger, pain, or fear.
Courage is not the absence of uncertainly, difficulty, danger, pain, or fear…it’s doing good despite such terrors. The greater the danger, the greater the pain, the greater the fear, the greater the darkness…the greater the potential of courage! How incredible is that? Yet courage is the emphasis, not the danger, not the pain, not the fear.
Most incredible of all, is that all of these virtues are choices and actions that we are all capable of—capable because of Christ. Show this truth through your characters and your story. Be a writer of light. That’s how you write for the kingdom of God. Don’t write stories about the “rough stuff” of life, write about the whole truth—the greater truth that good will win in the end. Write stories about the light and the power of God—you may not even have to use His name.
It was four years ago in February of 2010 when Eli King first caught the vision of Kingdom Pen magazine. A year later, in February of 2011, the first issue of Kingdom Pen was released to about 30 subscribers. I joined the team later that year, and I think fondly back on the time I was able to work with Eli on building Kingdom Pen before he stepped down to pursue other callings.
Both as a tribute to the action Eli took to found Kingdom Pen, and to celebrate the fact that Kingdom Pen is now three years old as a magazine, we will be re-releasing the very first issue of Kingdom Pen magazine. I hope you enjoy this bit of Kingdom Pen history, and are inspired.
“We build our sandbag walls to brace ourselves against the onslaught of negative feedback. Yes, writers are an insecure bunch.”
Beginning writers make a lot of mistakes. From improper pacing to shallow characters, young writers are going to make mistakes. It’s the only way to grow. All of these weaknesses can be overcome; however, in my opinion, there is one weakness–the greatest weakness of young writers—which can derail any possibility of improvement.
The biggest weakness I’ve seen in beginning writers (and I’m guilty of it too) is sandbagging.
Now what is “sandbagging”? Sandbagging is building up your defenses and lowering the expectations of another person. This almost always manifests itself when a young writer sends me part of their story to read. They’ll say something along the lines of, “Here you go, it’s absolutely horrible, you’ll understand once you read it.”
I used to do this myself, but I’ve stopped (or I’ve at least tried to stop). Yet so many young writers feel the need to lower their reader’s expectations before they read it; that way, if they don’t like it—we theorize—that’s okay because I know it’s terrible already and it was nothing special anyway.
In my experience, there are two reasons writers sandbag (even if they don’t consciously realize they’re doing it). There are those of us who sandbag, but only to people who we know will be merciful (or at least won’t ridicule us for our writing.) Thus, when we hear positive feedback after the low expectations we’ve set, we seem like writing gurus.
“Wow! She is such a good writer but she thinks she’s terrible! She must know something I don’t know!”
Sandbagging, in this case, is really an expression of pride, I believe. We look good when we criticize our writing and others praise it.
The other reason for sandbagging is that we are afraid. We want to downplay our writing to keep ourselves protected from any criticism that may be lurking in the bushes. We build our sandbag walls to brace ourselves against the onslaught of negative feedback. Yes, we writers are an insecure bunch.
Whether you sandbag for the first reason, the second reason, or both, it needs to stop.
Now, what’s so wrong with sandbagging? If sandbagging really was just a mechanism to brace against criticism, then I might say that it’s okay, but sandbagging is rarely as simple as that.
Sandbagging is hardly ever realistic. If we want to improve as writers, we have to stay real. Sandbagging usually involves making up problems that aren’t there, or overreacting to real issues. This can either be out of fear, pride, or both. Whatever combination, when we sandbag, we weave a protective web of self-deception. Consciously or subconsciously, we want to hide from the truth, because we fear that truth will be bad, or horribly depressing. That won’t help us improve. We don’t want to be blind to our mistakes or our strengths.
As a general rule of thumb, things are never as bad as they seem, nor are they as good as we think. Keep that in the back of your mind when evaluating your own writing, and try to objectively evaluate where the weaknesses are. Objectively critiquing our own writing is extremely difficult, which is why finding others to read and critique your writing is paramount to your development. Speaking of others…
Sandbagging is inconsiderate to others. They don’t want to hear how deplorable your novel is before you shove it off on them to read. You’re pretty much manipulating them into going easy on your novel, which you don’t want! They may overlook faults in the story because they know how negative you already feel towards it. Your poor critiquer may feel the need to reassure you that your novel has potential, rather than provide you accurate feedback. So please, be
We build our sandbag walls to brace ourselves against the onslaught of negative feedback. Yes, writers are an insecure bunch.
Be nice and don’t put your reader in an awkward position by sandbagging them.
Sandbagging is weak and fearful. Don’t be weak and fearful.
“But I am weak and fearful…”
Oh! There you go again! It’s weak and fearful to say that you’re weak and fearful. That’s the easy way out. You don’t have to be that way. You get to choose!
Even if your writing is astonishingly deplorable (which, if you’re reading this, I highly doubt it is) there is still no reason to be insecure about yourself or your writing. Everyone has to start somewhere, and you have to write to get better. You don’t need to apologize for where you are; in the same way, you shouldn’t brag for where you are. It’s two sides of the same coin.
One of the most important aspects to becoming good at anything, is attitude. A positive attitude of excitement leads to hope and motivation. You can focus on enjoying writing for the sake of writing, and not get caught up in the quality of it. This allows you to achieve the quantity you need to produce quality. Negativity shuts down inspiration and creativity. Don’t be ashamed of your writing, no matter how good or “bad” you think it is. You can’t afford it.
Stop with the sandbagging. Be realistic, and realize the reality is that it takes time and hard work to become good. But if you allow yourself to indulge in negative thoughts about your writing, you will lose the desire to improve and become good. It’s hard to start the climb to greatness when the wall looks insurmountable. You have to start at the beginning, and take it one step at a time.
If you stay positive, and keep practicing and working hard, it’s not a matter of if you will become a great writer, but when.
Have a question about writing? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, using the subject line, “Question For The Panel”. A panel of Kingdom Pen writers will then attempt to answer the questions you email to us in the quarterly issues. We’ll also be posting the questions and answers on our website (like in this post), so you’ll have a chance to comment with your own thoughts and solutions.
Here are the questions we answered in the last issue of Kingdom Pen:
I’ve been hearing a lot about subtext, how using it correctly can really help your story. But there seem to be a lot of conflicting ideas about subtext and what it is—can you guys clear up some of the confusion for me?”
A lot of people view subtext as an “advanced writer’s tool” that can only be fully understood after having completed three novels, purchased a platinum membership on one of the more prestigious writing forums, and learned the top-top-secret Novelist’s Fistbump. I disagree. Subtext is an organic element of storytelling that you’ve probably always known about to some extent, but that will take a lot of work and conscious thought to master.
At its most basic level, subtext is the meaning that lies underneath your character’s words and actions. Your character says one thing, but means another—and the subtext peeps out from what he’s saying, revealing his true thoughts and motives. Sometimes this is on an unconscious level, and the reader doesn’t really understand what he’s really saying until later, when the story events suddenly make everything make sense. At other times, the subtext is a little less subtle and instantly discernible, but it’s still subtext.
A stellar (and not-so-subtle) example of this is in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, where George Bailey violently denounces any intentions of having any kind of romantic feelings for Mary, who retorts that she really couldn’t care less, and that if he feels that way, why doesn’t he just leave town and travel like he’s always wanted to. Through the subtext, we as viewers get a much better feel for the characters’ true motives and emotions then if they just cheerily announced that they were crazy about each other and didn’t want to live life apart.
Subtext is too complex a topic to really talk about in-depth in this column—whole books have been written about it. But hopefully this will give you a place to get started from, and will dispel some of the confusion you’ve had on the subject. A full understanding and mastery of subtext will bring a whole new dimension to your characters and their story.
– Braden Russell
How can I get rich quick through writing?
Write a best-seller that becomes a series that becomes a movie. However, unless you have the luck of Stephanie Meyer, that isn’t likely to happen. If you want to get rich quick, don’t turn to writing. Go try something else. Making a living at writing means going into it for the long haul: countless rejections, thousands of hours and words spent in growing and refining your skills, tons of marketing, building a reader platform, and a lot of patience. Some authors /do/ end up making a living by their craft and sell thousands of books. Dekker and Peretti are two such examples. Others never get rich, still work a day job, and write only a handful of books. Author/forensics expert Bill Bass is a good example of that. If you are writing for the possible financial payoff, you might want to stop and think again. What inspires your /best/ writing? A handful of green paper or the undeniable urge to exercise your voice and say something worthwhile? Beautiful, artistic, important writing shouldn’t be about the money, but about the things being written.
– Hannah Mills
When writing stories about Bible characters, do I have to adhere absolutely to the facts or can I use some imagination? It’s quite hard because the Bible does not contain many facts about a particular person.
My short answer is, yes, you can use some imagination, because you have to. Like you said, details are lacking. What facts there are, you must adhere to, but there is a lot that isn’t said, and allows for flexibility.
My long answer is that attempting to add facts or events to Biblical peoples’ lives is risky. You are straying from the truth, which could potentially confuse your readers as to what the truth really is. One example of this is in the famous book Paradise Lost by John Milton. Many commonplace ideas about Christianity come from that book, even though it is not scripture. Therefore, I probably would not even write a historical fiction novel using real Biblical people, as I would be too concerned about misrepresenting them, and thus, confusing others’ understanding of what they were really like. But if you’re set on using the events and characters recorded in the Bible, why not just change the names and locations? The Passages books by the creators of Adventures In Odyssey are a great example of this, and they made for very compelling books, even for a 12-year-old me who did not like reading at the time.
– Reagan Ramm
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