Why Most Modern Christian Allegories Fail (and How to Prevent This)

As of this Saturday, I’ve been reviewing submissions at Kingdom Pen for four years. During this time, I have seen several trends in content that’s submitted for publication.

Few are as prevalent as allegories.

Roughly half our fiction submissions are allegories of some form. But I can count on one hand the number of allegories I’ve approved to be published over the past four years.Why_Most_Modern_Christian_Allegories_Fail_(and_How_to_Prevent_This)

Simply put, most modern Christian allegories are terrible. Somewhere along the road, it seems that Christian writers began to believe that traditional rules of writing compelling, three-dimensional characters and subtle, non-preachy themes don’t apply to allegories. As a result, most modern allegories I’ve read follow the same blatant retelling of the Gospel story centered around a conversion narrative with flat characters and a predictable storyline. Bonus points if Christ literally shows up in the story or it’s set in a generic fantasy environment. [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.

A Sprig of Green

By Jane Maree

I scrub some of the dirt from between my fingers, trying to ignore the furious beating of my heart as I hobble across the pavement. My arms sting with small nicks and scratches from hours of scrabbling through the ruins, but all for nothing. I didn’t unearth a single tiny root.

Not even a hint of green.

And now I’m late again.

The apartment door looms up in front of me, the scanner glowing a soft blue. I lay my hand beneath the sensor. If I slip in quietly maybe Venys won’t notice.A_Sprig_of_Green

“Good evening, Michayla.” The automated greeter registers my identity and swings the door open for me.

“Clover Glyn,” I whisper. How long had it been since Father remarried and Venys reprogrammed the greeter to omit my middle and last name?

One week. Maybe two.

I tiptoe into the hallway, placing each step tentatively against the cold boards. The floor vibrates with the heavy bass blaring from the parlor, but the laughter that accompanies it is still audible over the sound. I clamp my hands over my ears, inching toward the nearest door. [Read more…]

Perfectionist’s Prayer

By Kate Flournoy

Lord, give me the courage to accept that I am human.

Give me the confidence to plod in the path You’ve given me,

Even when others soar,

And the peace to wish them joy with a whole heart.

Perfectionist_s_Prayer

Remind me that I am where I am

Because You placed me here,

And that the plans I have for myself

Aren’t necessarily the plans You’ve had for me from the beginning—

Plans for good, and not for evil, as You promised. [Read more…]

My Doubts, My Story, My Song

By Joy Mastron

My Doubts

I keep thinking to myself,

Your grace is too much.

Will there ever be a day I find

Your grace is always enough?

My_Doubts,_My_Story,_My_Song

Will I ever not doubt?

Will my doubts be confirmed?

Indeed, I know I am not worthy,

Even more, for I sometimes think Your Love

Is wasted upon my life.

[Read more…]

To Whom the Future Belongs

Serena could change the future.

Most days it wasn’t all that interesting. She’d see a potential future in her dreams where she’d break a pitcher or lose a button and, upon waking, simply take a different set of actions to avert the mishap. A far cry from the days of her youth when a warlord had tried to use her powers to win conquests. But Serena didn’t mind the slower pace. It was better when people’s lives didn’t rest on her ability to alter the future. She’d become accustomed to leisurely visions of village life.To_Whom_the_Future_Belongs

But then she foresaw her son’s death.

Serena sat on the edge of her bed, the battered wood rough against her stout thighs. Bells rang in the distance as she rubbed her cheeks. She’d went through this routine of sitting on her cot and rubbing her face every morning when she was in the warlord’s employ. It helped her focus on changing the future. But she hadn’t needed to concentrate this hard for a while, and the circumstances were different. Wrinkles etched her cheeks after many years of living on the earth. Her hands had toughened from being a washwoman since her husband’s death.

And now the stakes were much more personal. [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.

How Symbolism Benefits Character Arcs

Character arcs are bothersome.

Let me clarify: creating character arcs is bothersome. Character arcs in and of themselves are terrific; they aid with theme, character development, and the execution of vital plot points. Yet, they require effort to pull off correctly. Writers risk dumping all the character’s growth on readers like a pile of bricks, rendering the change heavy handed and ineffective.How_Symbolism_Benefits_Character_Arcs

This is where symbolism dashes to the writer’s rescue. Symbolism occurs when an object, person, or place embodies or alludes to an idea or belief. When it is incorporated into character arcs, the changes necessary to the arc are shown, not with words, but with objects. By studying how symbolism is utilized in other stories, we can discover how symbolism enhances character arcs and apply it to our own tales.

Symbolism and Abstract Ideas

Symbolism might seem complicated at first, but once you learn about it, it’s not so scary after all. In one sense, symbolism is like associating memories with objects, people, or places. When your character experiences or believes something, the people, places, and objects around him becomes a landmark to that sentiment or occurrence. Afterwards that object is a monument that will remind your character what happened, just like you might recall a street your best friend lived on or ice cream you ate while celebrating a special event. That is symbolism. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Gabrielle
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.

Dead Pens

By D.G. Snapper

Oh no!

Not again.

Why me?

This pen!

I unscrew the lid

And check the ink holder

The color is all there

But angered, the author

Dead_Pens

The pen I rebuild

Then place on the table

It should work

But why isn’t it able?

[Read more…]

Three Ways Exceptional Sci-Fi Authors Develop Themes

My favorite sci-fi stories always seem to be tight. The sci-fi elements, the characters, the world, and the theme are all closely intertwined. Whether the stories are relatively small scale (the movie Arrival) or full-blown trilogies (Jill Williamson’s The Safe Lands), they blend otherworldly characteristics with real-world issues to create a compelling narrative that not only entertains but explores and instructs.

But how? Theme was complicated before aliens and phasers and warp speed got in the way. Are you supposed to handle theme the same as you would for non-speculative genres?3_Ways_Exceptional_Sci-Fi_Authors_Develop_Themes

No, because genres differ for good reasons. Speculative stories are set apart by their diverse options for communicating theme. Sound scary? Maybe. But exciting too.

However, before we start discussing themes, we need to take a minute to talk about the genre.  Sci-fi stories are defined by their Primary Fantastic Element, which makes them surpass reality. For 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the PFE is the existence of the Nautilus. For the movie Passengers, it’s the ability to put people into hibernation while they hurtle through space for one hundred and twenty years. Perhaps your futuristic world features flying cars and surgically implantable bio-computers that enhance sensory detail, but only one element should be so drastically different from the real world that the story rotates around it. That is your story’s Primary Fantastic Element, and it is the axis of your theme. [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.

Hyperspace

Captain’s Log,

Stardate 70797.4

For thirteen hours and twenty-four minutes,

we have tailed the cosmic trail

of the vandalizing devils

who dared damage our ship’s hyperdrive.

I stare out the glass and into the black

that seems to be the color of my mood.

Hyperspace

The surrounding clusters of gas and rock,

stars, asteroids—

such maddening technicality—

are insistently scattered in our way.

My growing impatience covets an audience

with the supernova responsible.

Clean up after yourself, you haphazard accident!

[Read more…]

Profile photo of Cindy
Cindy Green is a Canadian homeschool student who wants to live in a world where rain is colorful and mint chocolate chip ice cream is acceptable for daily consumption. But she is contented to live in one where dogs exist, fireworks are a regular occurrence, and trees are climbable objects. She began scribbling out fiction and keeping a journal at around age seven, and last she checked, hasn’t stopped. Aside from obsessing over the arrangement of words and fantasizing about maple-syrup-coated beavertails, Cindy spends her time playing piano, looking at pictures of outer space, loudly singing along to music, exploring the dictionary, attempting Highland dancing, and reading. She hopes to someday publish a book of her own, learn to skateboard without getting scraped, and witness the aurora borealis in the Yukon. Most of all, she wants to live her life colorfully and passionately for the glory of a good God and to point to her Creator as the source of all joy.

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…]

Profile photo of Gabrielle
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.