Friday, September 30, 2016

Ordinary to Extraordinary

Just a little encouragement for you today...

When I visited Prince Edward Island earlier this month, I was struck by the history of one of my favorite authors, Lucy Maud Montgomery. Best known for writing the Anne of Green Gables series, Montgomery set almost every one of her numerous novels on Prince Edward Island. She lived there for most of her life until she was married at age thirty-six, when she moved to Ontario. She never lived on the Island again, though she did return for frequent visits. 

L. M. Montgomery, 1874-1942
Because of Montgomery’s books, which are beautifully descriptive and full of delightful characters, I had romantic notions of this Canadian island in the far northeast. I tried to shrink them down to a more real-life expectation before I visited, however. It succeeded, I think, because I was able to see P.E.I. for what it was: not a Garden of Eden, but a homey, pleasant island. It’s pretty, and parts are definitely breathtaking, but mostly it felt like home. This taught me something.

You don’t have to live an adventure to write something worth reading, nor do you have to inhabit an exotic locale. Montgomery spent her days among ordinary people and lived on a tame, verdant island, suitable for farmers and fishermen. Yet she wrote extraordinary books in that setting that are still beloved today.

Moreover, she gleaned most of her impressions when she was young. As young as, or younger than, many of us are now. Don’t underestimate the value of childhood experiences. Like Montgomery, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, C. S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and countless beloved others, you and I can glean from our growing-up years and spin timeless stories. And they don’t have to be about what we’ve actually lived; we can love something from history, for example, that we devoured when we were young, and that can contribute to a well-crafted historical novel or fantasy when we’re older. Write what you are passionate about, and with hard work and skill, that story will turn into a worthy book!

Are you more interested in everyday life or in high adventure? What do your favorite authors write about? 

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Where to Find a Good Story Message

(Hello! It’s been a good long while since I last dropped in; life has been crazy busy. [News update: Editing Baker Family Adventure #6!] ~ C.R.)

One of the many invaluable lessons taught by Mr. Douglas Bond on the Oxford Creative Writing Masterclass was that the moral lessons we incorporate into our writing should be things that we need, not what we think our audience needs. If we write what we need, the lesson will come over as sincere, not bombastic or contrived.

Weaving a moral into a story should be a subtle thing, and its development will be organic if it’s a situation you’re thinking through at the time of writing. This helps ensure it arises naturally from the story.

So … how do you figure out what truth you personally need to internalize? You could spend a lot of time pondering, reflecting, and of course praying about it (which I’m not at all suggesting is unnecessary!), but today I’d like to suggest a little shortcut that has served me very well over the stories I’ve worked on and just recurred to me yesterday (such that I can’t wait to get back to my project and incorporate it).

Where can you turn for dozens of ideas for a ‘moral’ for your story?


I’ve got to tell you, some of the sermons I’ve heard have blown my mind, got me in the gut, or focused me on a Scripture or area of personal weakness I'd never seen in quite the same way before. Because my writing projects take at least several months to complete, I hear dozens of Sunday sermons or midweek Bible studies in the course of one project, and there’s usually at least one concept that really stands out as one I need to grapple with personally … and sometimes it’s a neat fit into whatever I’m writing.

That prompts me to search out the Scriptures, do research into that topic, and explore its ramifications by projecting it into the story world. It takes time and serious thought, but then … presto! My story has more substance, I’ve learned and grown in the process, and perhaps readers will learn from the moral message without feeling Bible-bashed. Win-win-win.

What about you? Where do you turn for ideas on a message to incorporate into your story? Or do you prefer to write the story and see what message materializes as you go?

Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her website or Facebook page to find out more.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Historical Hints

Hey ya'll! It's Amanda again!

Historical fiction. It has to be my favorite genre! Not only do I enjoy reading it, I also enjoy writing it. And as I have read and written it, there have been a lot of things that I've noticed. Sometimes it is simple things that will make or break your story.

1800 - You have this kid who says cool.
Actually, it wouldn't be a kid at all -- it would be a child. And "cool" is totally out of his century.

1750 - All of the families have 2-3 children.
Depending on the culture, some of the families would have had 2-3 children, but that was probably due to deaths of children (during childbirth, as infants). Otherwise, if you're speaking English culture, families would have had larger families.

1550 - "I'm just kidding."
What? Your character is having a baby goat? Nay. He would be in jest.

980 - "This is my dad."
The first known use of "dad" is 15th century (how do I know that? Simple online search). He would most likely be "Father."

How does your character dress? How do they speak? How do they interact with others? What do they call their grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles? How do they spend their days? What is their occupation? The answers to all of these questions help set the tone of your historical fiction novel.

What is the terrain? What do the houses look like? Are the streets crowded and dirty or clean and free of clutter? The more you describe, the more the reader "feels at home" in your story.

What did they eat? Did they have crackers then? Soup? Bread bowls? Salads? Dressing? You could omit these details, or you could do a little research and make your story authentic.

She looked around the parlor.
What did she see? Were there couches (or were they called sofas or settees)? Did the windows have curtains or drapes? What were the colors? The ambience?  Going from the parlor, what is in the kitchen? A butter churn? What about the barn? Are the walls lined with tack?

Things to Remember
Don't assume. Do not assume that a published fictional book is accurate. It might be a good place to start with research, but don't use it as the encyclopedia.

Research pays off. But be sure that you're researching in the right places. The internet has great sources and the library has great books, but anyone today can have a website or publish a book. Check your information -- if you find 2-3 places that say the same thing, chances are you're pretty accurate. And remember: the best place to find solid information is in original documents, newspapers, etc.

Read books that were published in your era. If you're writing in the 19th century, you have a world of books you can obtain that were written in the 19th century! And who would better know their century than those authors?

Writing historical fiction is the best tool to learning history -- and you will unearth some pretty amazing treasures as you research! Don't let the magnitude of work discourage you from writing. Learn as you go, and be willing to test your historical authenticity.

What makes a historical fiction novel authentic to you? What hints do you have for writing historical fiction?


Amanda Tero is a homeschool graduate who desires to provide God-honoring, family-friendly reading material. She has enjoyed writing since before ten years old, but it has only been since 2013 that she began seriously pursuing writing again – starting with some short stories that she wrote for her sisters as a gift. Her mom encouraged her to try selling the stories she published, and since then, she has begun actively writing short stories, novellas, and novels. If something she has written draws an individual into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, it is worth it!