At the beginning of this year, I taught an English camp in Spain, where I spent most of my daily commutes focused on memorizing the unfamiliar streets. If I took a wrong turn, I might not have been able to reroute myself, so several days passed before I looked beyond the signs and noticed the gorgeous mountain backdrop. Sometimes I slip into the same habit when I’m writing and editing. I miss the big picture because I’m preoccupied with all of the complicated, troublesome scenes.
Former Story Embers Article Writer
Allison Raymond has been captivated by stories for as long as she can remember. She was only eleven years old when she came to recognize writing as God’s purpose for her life. Although many years have passed since that moment, she has never doubted this purpose. Instead, she chooses to spend her time working hard to make her dream of becoming a published novelist a reality.
Allison grew up in Virginia, Illinois, and Oklahoma. She now lives in Missouri, where she is attending college in pursuit of a degree in Secondary English Education. In the future, she hopes to become a high school English teacher to share her passion for storytelling with aspiring young writers. Currently, she shares this passion on her personal blog and in a large number of her daily conversations.
Everyone has favorite genres that they fill shelf after shelf and hour after hour with. One of mine is contemporary fantasy. Yours might be romance and historical fiction. But, outside of binging and overspending on those, you probably read more eclectically. You don’t mind picking up a mystery or fairy-tale retelling when the blurb draws you in. After all, you’ve heard over and over again that diversifying your reading material increases your creativity and understanding of story craft. Reading outside your comfort zone, however, is not nearly as challenging as writing outside your comfort zone.
Who is the best literary villain of all time? Various people would argue that Dracula, Shakespeare’s Richard III, Voldemort, and Sherlock’s rival, Professor Moriarty, are top contenders. But, for me, the answer is clearly Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events.
When you’re crafting a story, believability is paramount. The quality of your prose, the relatability of your characters, and the intensity of your conflicts won’t hold readers’ attention if they can’t accept the sequence of events as representing their own reality. Can you identify the supervillain who’s notorious for thwarting that goal? Her name is Mary Sue.
When you think about the process of worldbuilding, what images form in your mind? Maybe you see a forest of exotic plants and mystical creatures. Or architecture that splices the sky and advanced technology that allows users to perform hundreds of tasks without lifting a finger. Or even a totalitarian regime that controls every citizen, from the rich to the poor. But have you focused on your characters yet?
Although writing may feel isolating, you’re not stranded alone in a desert that spans from page one to “the end.” As Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, once said, “Every writer I know has trouble writing.” All writers go through dry spells, and renewing your love for storytelling is possible. The solution is simple: write even when you’d rather sink into the sand instead of pushing through it, and you’ll stumble upon the oasis you’ve been searching for.
As Christian writers, stories offer us a purpose to fulfill on a daily basis, as well as a pastime that refuels our energy. Whether we’re obsessing over choosing the right theme or admiring the protagonist’s grit in our latest read, one of the reasons we’re passionate about fiction is because we know it has the power to irreversibly change lives. But sometimes we forget that God designed a unique character arc for each of us that predestined when we would meet Him and He’d begin cleansing and shaping us.
When I enrolled in a creative writing class, participating in the assignments presented a dilemma for me. Throughout my life, I’ve gravitated to speculative fiction, because it allows me to explore extraordinary settings where bold characters and dramatic conflicts abound. After years of writing almost exclusively in that genre, its framework became second nature. Then my writing professor challenged me to confine my imagination to the real world and describe common daily experiences like drinking coffee, completing tasks at a job, and taking notes during class.
A book that’s the clone of hundreds of others won’t capture or keep a reader’s attention. Every sentence—the flesh and muscle of a story—must glisten. The most legendary writers, like Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf, are memorable because they honed their own idiosyncrasies into pleasing forms of expression. If you hope to write evocatively, you need to learn how to capitalize on any sentence length.
I started writing as a ten-year-old, inspired by my favorite authors who, in my mind, were the epitome of success. I longed to capture the hearts and imaginations of readers as powerfully as they captured mine. Yet, as I’ve matured as a writer, a bad habit has forced me to reconsider my outlook on success.