Welcome to my writing pages! The main focus of this website is to offer writing tips, prompts, and inspiration to writers, no matter what their genre or skill level. You’ll also find information on my published works and the ones in progress. My schedule for posting is:
Monday Sparks: Writing prompts to fan your creative flame.
Along with my new theme for the month, I have a new author to introduce to you, Rocklyn Grace. Rocklyn has recently published her first Christian novel and writes about creating Christian characters. Welcome, Rocklyn!
I am a new author, and I am a Christian. I decided to enter the world of writing Christian Fiction because when I read that literature, I saw beautifully created characters. I also saw characters who did not strike me as “real” in the scheme of life and living in the world.
On the pendulum, some had the proverbial “thorn in the flesh”; some had other issues concerning prayer, understanding the Bible, or church attendance. On the opposing swing of characters, I saw characters so caught up in spiritual matters that the plot of the novel would be consumed by that which is “unseen”–angels, demons, and such interactions.
Don’t get me wrong here: I loved reading those books.
I noted, however, an opportunity for myself to create a Christian character that might reach a slightly wider audience — an audience that dips into both arenas of believers and unbelievers.
Thus, I crafted my goal: Create reality in my Christian characters. That is, they have the following characteristics:
They are believers who are highly flawed in some way — or many ways.
They do not live easy lives.
They struggle to read the bible sometimes.
They question God even though they are convinced of His existence.
They might struggle to pray or even utter a curse word in between a quick beseech of God for some much-needed grace and mercy.
In fact, one of my characters may outright sin and suffer consequences thereof, but the same character will also experience strength in weakness and the redemption, the table set before him/her found because of walking through death’s shadow.
How much greater the reconciliation when the reality of life is actively engaged by a character, and thereby, a reader.
Here is my crafting process, or the questions I answer for him/her:
What “flaw” will my character struggle with?
How does that affect their actions? Their words?
Their laughter and joy?
How does that affect their interactions with an antagonist? Another protagonist? A parent? A sibling? A husband/wife or fiancé?
How does it affect their reactions to types of trauma to themselves? Toward others?
Ultimately: How does the flaw manifest in everyday situations?
And finally, how does the redemptive power of Jesus rescue, heal, and help the character? How does that affect others around the character?
Once I have my character created — with those questions answered, it’s then a fantastic journey to write their story, let them face challenges, and always find Jesus.
Soaring Eagle dreams of reuniting his family and his western rural tribe despite the dystopian government restrictions that have forced them apart. In his efforts to pursue his goals, his plans are thwarted by his capture and a young woman who saves him from certain execution in the only way the laws of her sector allow: marriage. His entire life is upended, his secrets exposed, and now Soaring Eagle must seek a new pathway to his dream. How can he unite his family without losing the woman he also desires?
If you’ve followed JPC Allen Writes for very long, you know I love names and finding the perfect ones for my characters. For my cozy mystery series, finding character names in the Bible helped me create and organize my characters.
Make Characters Distinct
When I wrote “A Rose from the Ashes”, I had two families of three kids. To help the reader keep the families straight, I chose Bible names for the Malinowski family since I introduce them in a scene set at a church. But I didn’t want to pick popular Bible names–too generic. So I went with Aaron and Micah–and he’s called Micah, not Mike. The third kid in that family has a non-Bible name, but that’s because he has a family name.
One of the most helpful tips I’ve read on naming was in an early edition of Beyond Jason and Jennifer. The authors discussed how parents tend to select similar style names. Parents who name a son Richard are unlikely to pick Rainbow for their daughter. And a girl named Harvest probably won’t have a brother named John.
So, since the Malinowski kids had Bible names, I thought Bible names would make sense for other members of their family. Their grandmother is Lydia and her sister is Martha.
Make Characters Unique
If you want a character to stand out, choose a Bible name that’s been overlooked. Just make sure it’s easily pronounceable. Not many characters are name Adonijah, and there’s a reason for that. I picked Reuel to be the middle name of the Malinowski family name that’s passed from father to son. It’s easy to sound out and it’s not used much–unless you write epic fantasy.
Another approach to finding character names in the Bible is looking at places and words. I know of girls names Selah and Jubilee. You can also go the Puritan route and pick virtue names, like Truth or Providence. Jericho and Bethany have been used for awhile, but what about Sinai or Canaan or Kadesh?
What are your favorite names from the Bible? Has the Bible inspired you to name a child or a character?
Since Christian fiction is my theme for the month, I should provide a definition for what is Christian fiction. To prepare for this post, I tried to find a very helpful blog post I read awhile back. In the process, I found a variety of definitions for the genre, not all of which I agreed with. So the definition I provide here is based on my own writing process and thinking and the definition used by many professionals in the Christian fiction industry.
Many times when I visit a page for a Christian writers group or publisher, they post a list of what they publish or represent. Often this includes they are looking for stories that demonstrate “a Christian worldview.” One publisher I found puts “Evangelical Christian worldview.” Since the Bible is a big book, what does that mean? Below are the basics of that worldview.
Theres is a God and He created the universe and all the people in it.
Sin is to disobey God, and it cuts us off from Him.
Jesus is God’s son and God himself. His choice to take the punishment for our sins gives us a chance to reconcile with God.
When we accept the gift of forgiveness, we spend the rest of our lives learning about God and growing closer to him as well as telling other about the gift.
When we die, we go to live with Him forever.
Christian fiction publishers will likely expect more from a manuscript, such as no graphic content, but if at some point, it deviates from the above list, it’s not a Christian worldview.
As I’ve written in the genre, I’ve discovered two approaches to writing Christian fiction. One is deciding at the outset to that you’re going to write about a Christian theme. Author Francine Rivers took the book of Hosea and moved it to the American West in Redeeming Love. Someone else might want to put a modern spin on the story of Paul. Or construct a plot to demonstrate God’s love or mercy in any genre, whether it’s historical, speculative fiction, or thriller.
The second approach is to write a story with Christian characters, or characters who will become Christian, and see how they handle the situation they are in. This is how I write. I’m a character writer first. I build my main characters and then concoct plots that will test them, develop them, and are a ton of fun to write. My teen detective, Rae Riley, is a Christian because I am and it’s easier for me to imagine how she does life. As I write, a Christian theme may emerge. Or I may start with a theme in mind but it has to work naturally with the story. When I wrote “A Rose from the Ashes,” I’d thought the theme was mercy and forgiveness. That’s there, but about 18 months after I wrote it, I realized it was also a spin on the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Clean reads are not Christian fiction, although most Christian fiction would qualify as clean reads. What are clean reads? These are stories without graphic sex or violence and little to no bad language, but they don’t have Christian themes or characters. Most cozy mysteries in the secular market could be called clean reads because readers expect the violence and any sex to take place off stage and not described in nitty gritty detail. Sweet romance stories fall into this category too.
If you read or write Christian fiction, how do you define it?
The theme for this month is Christian fiction–what it is and how to write it with prompts to inspire or start discussions. Today’s prompt is to get us rolling. What are your favorite Bible verses? I’ve made memes for two of mine.
Since I grew up in Appalachian Ohio and both side of my family come from West Virginia, looking to the hills for God take me back to my childhood. It seems natural to look to them as a reminder of God’s presence and comfort, like the twisty roads that led me over the hills to my grandparents’ house.
I often feel overcome in this life, so I find profound comfort in Jesus’s statement to his disciples during the Last Supper.
Please add your favorite Bille verses in the comments.
Once again this year, I have a new author to introduce to you! I met Alexandra Ely online and I’m so pleased to have her thoughts on mapping the middle. When Alexandra refers to the second act, she’s talking about using the three-act structure to craft a plot. If you’re unfamiliar with this kind of plotting, you can read this post which will give a basic description.
Writing a story is much like mapping a new territory and it’s just as easy to get lost in your own world as it is in the real one. It’s especially easy to get turned around in the middle section of your novel if you’re not prepared. In this post, I’d like to share with you some of the tools I have learned to bring with me when I venture into a new story.
When you reach the beginning of act two, it’s as if you’re standing at a crossroad with multiple options. It can be overwhelming because many of them are plausible paths your characters can take to get them from act one to act three. This was an element of writing that surprised me when I first started.
It was frustrating and slowed me down considerably. I was uncertain which was the “best way”. So many ideas could happen and many of them worked equally well. Often, writing can feel like a waste of time – something we all want to avoid – causing a sense of pressure to get it right the first time. However, I have found this feeling to not be true. The scenes you don’t use are the ones you learn from the most. Not just about the mechanics of writing, but of your characters and story’s world.
Navigating the Middle
Here are two things I have learned that help me navigate and map the vast middle portion.
Brainstorming and outlining: Enjoy the endless possibilities the middle has to offer instead of being overwhelmed. Start by choosing an idea, any one works for brainstorming. See where this path leads. Jot down big picture notes along the way in case you like something specific. Try this with each idea. Soon you will have a map of the many routes your characters could take from act one to act three. The choice then comes down to your favorite. I have found that embracing and exploring the options -instead of being locked into one immediately – makes writing the middle flow smoother.
No scene is a waste of time: Some ideas will lead you to dead ends. I recently wrote such a scene and felt deflated and frustrated afterward. However, I realized that it was as if this idea led me to a vista. Here I could see where I had been and where I wanted to go. It was a vantage point! I was able to identify what didn’t work and why and was able to apply that to the next idea, which ended up working quite well.
Even if an idea leads you down a dead-end path, sometimes we just have to write them for ourselves. This information will not go unused even if it doesn’t make it into the final cut. There is a depth of complexity that aids us as creative writers when we can see any scene from multiple angles. The more you write about your story’s world, whether it be a fantasy realm or not, the stronger your knowledge of it becomes and it will show in the final draft.
While the middle is the largest chunk of your book, I encourage you to tackle all that it has to offer. I hope this helps you to face your current writing struggles and that soon you will find the best-suited path to get you going again. Writing a novel is a journey and adventure like hiking any trail.
Alexandra Ely grew up in the High Desert of California where she played outside, cultivating the imagination she uses for her creative writing to this day. In high school she studied under an old Russian playwright who taught her the delicacies of storytelling. She continued to pursue novel writing in college.
This September Alexandra and her husband will celebrate their ten year wedding anniversary and expect their second baby a few weeks after. Alexandra loves sewing historical fashion, baking sourdough bread, and would like to teach herself calligraphy someday so she can write epic Christmas cards.
Much of her nonfiction writing has been published in both local and national magazines and a prologue to an anthology published internationally. Publication for her fiction work is close at hand. Currently, Alexandra and her writing partner are querying their manuscript and on her own she is editing a second book with intentions to publish as well. You can hear a sample of her novel, The Mermaid Bride, on the Happy London Press podcast and find her personal instagram account @ely_landing and her collaboration account @loftonauthors.