good morning, cyberspace!
A long, long time ago, I saw something floating around the blogosphere in which bloggers were spilling all their dirty secrets and revealing common themes found within their manuscripts. I wish with all my heart that I could find those original posts again, but for the life of me I’m unable to track any of them down. (although I DO believe that Christine Smith did one of them?? I just??? cannot seem to find it????? *much confusion*) I think it was started as an original blog concept and then turned into a sort-of-tag, but to be perfectly frank with you all, I honestly have no clue what the origins of said posts were. I just know that it looked like fun, and when I had the idea for this post a few weeks ago, I realized that I’d seen it somewhere before. That, unfortunately, was as far as my brain would take me, for I’ve since been unable to find someone to credit the idea with.
But I digress. If you remember seeing these posts–or even have links to said posts–please feel free to shoot them at me so I can properly credit whoever came up with this concept! For the time being, however, I guess we’re moving on. XD
I’ve been in the writing industry for *quickly counts on fingertips* 10 years now. Ish. My first novel was completed at the tender age of 12, and many, many scribblings had been scribbled and typed before that. During all this time, it would make sense that I’d start to notice patterns within my manuscripts–certain little similarities which make me pause and think, “huh… sure seems like I’ve seen that before…” before prattling on aimlessly as I always do. And I would absolutely be lying if I said I haven’t–on more than one occasion–realized I’d used a particular plot thread or theme or character archetype in a previous book before inserting it yet again into my newest WIP.
I can’t help it, folks. There are just certain things that make my heart squish with all the writerly feels, and I’ll be darned if I don’t continuously find ways to incorporate them into my stories.
So today, I figured I’d make a list of just a few of these common threads in order to bring you all an inexhaustive list of what it takes to write a Kenzie Keene Original!
Because who doesn’t want to emulate my writing style? That’s what I’d like to know.
UPDATE!: As I’d hoped, some of my lovely friends found where this thing originated! Supposedly it started as a twitter tag (which???? HOW DID I MISS THE TWITTER TAG. That sounds so fun??), #HowYouKnowIWroteIt, and was eventually brought over to the blogs!! Thank you SO much to Jenelle and Christine for finding this, and you can read both of THEIR blog posts of a similar nature by clicking on their names!!! (you guys are the best and I love you so dearly)
YOU MIGHT BE READING A KENZIE KEENE BOOK IF…
- there’s death and/or mutilation within the first 3 chapters
Or, in the case of everlost, within the first chapter. Because clearly this sets a tone that readers will find comforting and acceptable and will 100% not scare them off at all.
- one of the main characters is a young child (typically a girl) with a penchant for
Adaline, Annalora, Shelby…
From my three main novels come three young girls who will 10/10 destroy an entire city block in order to protect those they love. Or, in Annalora’s case (The Girl and The Goblin King, for those wondering where this particular child hails from) an entire universe.
Aha… This story is a fun one to write, guys.
- the main character–or one of–is male. and also severely snarky and/or clueless
I have so many of these, guys. XD In fact, I don’t think it would be a Kenzie book at this point if it didn’t include an entirely clueless, snarky, and potentially unreliable male narrator. Probably the most well-known of these is Thao from everlost, but I also have Ed and Fitz (Project Sunset), Todd (The Girl and The Goblin King), Peter (everlost again), and Finnigan (N/A).
- there are multiple points-of-view
Sometimes–very infrequently, but sometimes–people ask me how I write such large books. “Why are your novels hundreds of thousands of words long, Kenzie?” they ask, their eyes round and innocent and completely oblivious to the true horror of watching your manuscript grow to the size of a small rhinoceros. And every time I sort of flail awkwardly, not truly knowing how to answer. But I think I’ve finally hit on the reason for it all, and that, my friends, is the above bullet point.
I have too many POV’s per book. everlost, which is 150k+ words, had four unique POV’s, and within each one I tried to create a personal character arc and storyline. It was a beautiful chaotic mess, and I have since come to the conclusion that in future stories–to rid myself of horrifying word counts–to cut points-of-view down to two at the most. Maybe three if I’m feeling particularly auspicious.
Project Sunset had two POV’s, and the first draft of that novel came out at around 120k–still large, but far more acceptable. The Girl and The Goblin King has exactly one, and I’m shooting for a goal of 90,000 words.
Actually, speaking of large word counts…
- it has 150k+ words
*points dejectedly towards above checkpoint*
- there’s light romance (read: none)
I’m not huge on writing romance (which is strange, coming from a hopeless romantic, but I digress). I understand that this is something that makes the publishing industry–and even the movie industry–go round and round and round, but to be honest, I find it far more fun to write other things. Things like goblins and fairies and
death shadowy creatures with big teeth. I prefer to focus on the adventure aspect of story, and if I have any romance whatsoever, it typically comes in the form of–
- a random Scottish man is pining after a prim Englishwoman
Most people are probably like ????? right about now. After all, this seems like a very specific thing to write into one’s stories. But after two stories organically producing characters built upon this precise metric, I feel like it’s a little too coincidental not to note it down.
And also can someone please help me figure out where all the Scotts are coming from, because they’re getting a wee bit out of hand and I’m frightened.
- the mentor dies
I’m sure this is less a “Kenzie thing”, and more a “fantasy genre” thing, but I still feel it’s worth noting. Mentors die. No one likes it. No one looks forward to it (unless it’s a really idiotic mentor, which … that’s a whole thing in and of itself). But it happens and it’s there and it’s a wonderful motivator for the final act of a story. And so, to become the cliche I’ve always been destined to become, I tend to milk this particular trope for all it’s worth.
You just can’t dodge the facts, friends.
- found family/fierce friendships
I’m a sucker for a good found family, okay? There’s just something so wholesome and pure about a group of complete strangers coming together and saving the world and–GASP–learning to love each other like the weird little family that they are.
everlost, Project Sunset, and The Girl and The Goblin King all use this particular thread (albeit differently) and I’m not sorry about it in the SLIGHTEST. It’s one of my favorites, and it will continue to be one of my favorites until the day that I stop obsessing over Jim Moriarty.
(i.e. this will never happen #yeet)
Yeah…. Unashamedly, I tend to write some stellar bromances into my novels. Peter and Thao, Ed and Fitz, Sam and Eugene… Fierce bro friendships make me uncannily happy, guys. I cannot explain it. XD
- fairytale elements & retellings
I feel like I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it until the day I die: I adore fairytales and fairytale retellings. I simply cannot get enough of them! And, more specifically, I love writing fairytales and fairytale retellings.
I’ve often said that The Girl and The Goblin King is a fairytale of my own making, and *cough cough* I may or may not have written a secret fairytale retelling in the past. Fairytales are something I’m just so passionate about: the magic, the whimsy, the forests filled with secrets and twinkly twilight atmosphere. Whimsical stories will always have my heart, and I’d be extremely disappointed in myself if someday I discovered that I didn’t love them as deeply as I do now.
- villains you love to hate
This one’s a wee bit newer. (for anyone who’s read everlost, you will probably know I struggled a wee bit with the antagonist) But within my more recent manuscripts, I feel as though I’ve locked in on my own particular brand of villain.
I’m especially excited for the villain of The Girl and The Goblin King. I technically haven’t even written him yet, but–with any luck–that will soon change. And I am SO. EXCITED. to finally get to meet this guy! He’s so creepy and weird and charming and 10/10 will murder your uncle for a piece of chocolate cake.
- themes of brokenness, forgiveness, and redemption
And last but not least, we have reached our final point for what it takes to write a Kenzie book!
I think, more often than not, writers often infuse their stories with the themes they’ve experienced personally. As for me, I’ve had many instances in which I’ve dealt with the three themes above, and I think it shows in the stories I create. I love writing about how broken things can still shine–how their brokenness can actually make them shine brighter. I love themes of forgiveness, of finding yourself after you thought you were broken beyond repair and would never return to the you that you were Before. I love redemption arcs.
I love stories which show the cracks of human nature and the all-encompassing forgiveness of God.
And I think, in the end, that’s why I write these books. Because I’ve experienced the failure, the collapse, the darkness which grows in your heart when you feel the furthest from grace that you’ve ever felt. And I’ve felt the release, the understanding that there is Hope in a world which is nothing but darkness and shadow. I’ve been broken and forgiven. I’ve fallen and have been helped up. And it’s a beautiful wonderful magical thing–something I want to share with everyone who reads my words.
And while I understand that you can’t write the same theme into every story, I also know that there’s hardly a day that goes by in which God doesn’t show me His grace through even the smallest of things. And if He can continue to find new ways to show me His love, why can’t I do the same in my novels?
talk to me, peasants!
Let’s talk common themes! What sorts of things do you find reoccurring within your stories? Are you a writer who tends to write the same–or similar–themes into your novels, or do you prefer a fresh start with each and every WIP? Are you a fan of Found Family? Bromance? CHARMING VILLAINS??? As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS! down in the comments below! And until next time…
*flings cookies in the air and disappears*
featured photo by Fang-Wei Lin on Unsplash
17 thoughts on “You Might Be Reading A Kenzie Keene Book If….”
OH MY GOODNESS. I ADORE POSTS LIKE THISSSS. When I saw the title of this post on my dashboard I was internally squealing! And okay, when you mentioned that I may have done a post like this before, my first reaction was, “Did I???” Because my brain is the equivalent of Dory’s from Finding Nemo. XD BUT then it did start feeling familiar and I poked around my blog and APPARENTLY I DID. All the way back in 2019, right here: https://christinesmithauthor.com/2019/05/seven-story-elements-i-love-to-write/ And in said post I mentioned that I got the idea from a Twitter tag. Which…I also have no memory of, but maybe that’s where this whole thing originated? I DON’T EVEN KNOW. But either way, I love love looooove posts like this and getting a Kenzie one is THE BEST THING EVER.
You write so many fun thiiiings!!! I honestly love that you have destructive children. That’s just way too much fun. XD And YES to snarky and/or clueless characters! I am here for them. HERE FOR IT. I also suffer from woefully enormous wordcounts and a ridiculous amount of POVs, all of which are characters who demand full stories and arcs and the works. IT’S A PROBLEM. But but but…I LIKE books with multiple POVs! I just gotta…learn how to trim down those wordcounts. Somehow. Someway….*laughs hysterically and then collapses*
Light romance, yessss! I love that you do that! That was actually something I put in my list as well! Like, if I’m gonna put romance it’s gonna be slow burn. And when I say “slow” I mean it could be 5 to 37 years before said characters declare or even HINT their love for one another. I’m just…not big on putting a lot of romance. Why waste page time on romance when you COULD be focusing on monsters and murder???
BUT ALSO. The fact that “a random Scottish man is pining after a prim Englishwoman” is a thing you keep doing is the best thing ever and I 100% approve. That just sounds way too adorable. I love it. LOVE IT!
AND FOUND FAMILY IS MY FAVORITE THING EVER. ALSO BROMANCES. Oh my GOODNESS do I love me some bromances! And OF COURSE you know I’m allllll about fairy tales.
Everything you said about your themes just… *clutches heart* SO BEAUTIFUL. So, so beautiful! It’s wonderful that those are the themes you like to touch on because they mean something to you personally. And that just makes your books so much more personal and meaningful. Those are actually themes I often fall into as well! I have a lot of broken characters who need forgiveness and redemption. But like you were pointing out, that’s the theme of ALL our lives. That’s the theme of the history of the world. We’re all broken people that need redemption, that needed God’s sacrifice to forgive us of our sins and build us back up. So it is only natural those things would crop up in our stories again and again. <3
Okay, this comment is getting ridiculous. If you can't tell, I LOVED THIS POST!!!! And all your stories just AWK. They sound like e v e r y t h i n g. Every time you talk about them I get so excited. You create the most amazing thingssss!
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Oh my WORD. I remembered something from 2019???? This is honestly unbelievable to me and my own marshmallow brain. XD BUT DUDE. At least my brain has its priorities straight! Remembering Christine posts is literally the only thing I need to store in my memory banks, tbh. XD I will absolutely add your link to the top of this post!! I was hoping someone would be able to nab some links for me! I tried searching on your blog, but I couldn’t yield any results. :((
Oh my goodness, SAME!!! Multiple POV’s make my reader (and writer!) heart so happy! But unfortunately it is so so hard for me to slice those wordcounts. *nervous laughter* If you ever figure out how to do it, PLEASE let me know! I’m dying from tremendous 100k+ novels over here. XD
“Why waste page time on romance when you COULD be focusing on monsters and murder???” << and this right here is my new favorite quote of ever. XD YES!! I'm SO glad someone agrees with me on this!!! Like I'm all for a little bit of romance (goodness knows my obsession with Carswell Thorne is a LEEEETLE too much sometimes XD) but please PLEASE do not make it the sole focus of the story! The characters are still worthy of being written even if they DON'T fall in love, and I want to hear about the adventure and dragon-slaying (or befriending!) much more than I want to read about a fine set of eyes. (#prideandprejudicereference oops XD) (although, to be fair, I ADORE P&P and literally read that just for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth…so like…clearly I'm just a hypocrite. XD)
OKAY BUT THE SCOTTISH THING. I just…I don't even know where it's coming from at this point. I blame that period of time when I kept watching movies with scottish protagonists (*cough*davidtennant*cough*) but I digress. It was a strange time in my life. I do not regret it for a second. XD
Oh my goodness!! Christine, you have NO clue how much this means to me!! Just…all of this. It is such a wonderful thing to be a part of this community and to have a friend like you who GETS it. And the fact that you also write similar themes is just!!!! That makes my heart so so happy! (and also makes me even MORE excited to read your books, which is quite a problem since I'm already over-the-moon excited for them!!)
NONSENSE. Your comments are literally the highlights of my day!!! Reading them and responding just fills me with so much happiness and sunshine… I honestly adore you. <3333
Based on what I’m hearing…I need a Kenzie Keene book in my life yesterday.
Death and/or mutilation within the first 3 chapters is legitimately one of my favorite things. Because I’m the worst. XD
I am HERE for young girls destroying the world. So here.
Also the long books.
LIGHT ROMANCE THANK YOU
The specificity of the Scottish man/Englishwoman makes me smile.
(But please stop killing the mentor. Please.)
FOUND FAMILY ALL THE WAY.
And your themes sounds lovely and amazing as well! I can’t say it any better than Christine, so I won’t try, but those themes are so universal and so personal at once…they’re lovely to write and read.
See? I need these yesterday!
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Okay, but the killing of the mentor is….definitely an issue, and I realize this, but WOOT it’s a great motivator!! Like what better way to kick the protagonist into action than by destroying the one person he holds most dear? (………aha….oh dear, I think I’ve got some things to work through. XD)
Okay, but MEEP this whole comment just makes me so so happy!!! I’m so glad you like light romance, too!!!!! I’m wondering if that’s something more and more people are interested in reading? I feel like a lot of YA got oversaturated with the high-fantasy concepts which slowly deteriorated into romance, so perhaps we’re finally realizing all the potential that was unfortunately missed… XD
I loved this, and now I want your books…
Your themes are awesome. I can get down with bromance, found family, snark, villians you love to hate (‘will 10/10 kill your uncle for a piece of chocolate cake’), and grace shown to broken people. ❤️.
I also write multiple POVs, (probably too many in fact).
I usually have a romantic relationship in my projects, and for some reason, the girl tends to be the edgy/agressive one and the guy is the more chill/stable one. But then I’m like ‘oh look, villians’. It also took me a bit to come up with a villian who didn’t want the throne…
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Oh my goodness, thank you so so much!!! (and dude. I want my books, too. I really don’t understand why the hobgoblins under my bed can’t be USEFUL and write them for me. :(( )
Yessss!! I just ADORE those themes, and I’m so glad you like them, too!!! (also killing your uncle for a piece of cake? TOTALLY WORTH IT. Probably. Depends on the cake. XD)
Okay, but I actually love the ships in books with the girl being super high-maintenance and the guy’s just kind of like….there. Chilling. Completely oblivious of the fact that his precious cinnamon roll of a girl just totally slaughtered a whole city. XD ALSO “oh look, villains’ is a MOOD. YES. XD
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Awww, I love these types of posts! I see Christine already answered your original question, but yes, this started as a Twitter Tag #HowYouKnowIWroteIt and then some of us decided to bring it over to the blog-o-verse. I should revisit this and do another one, because my post: https://www.jenelleschmidt.com/blog/10-things-i-love-to-write mostly dealt with 30,000-foot general topics and themes I like to write about. But I could do another one about more specific things… because there are some that keep cropping up that I’ve noticed lately. :)
We shall see.
Oh goodness… I am now 10/10 terrified to read any of your stories. WHY MUST THE MENTOR ALWAYS DIE? (not that I’m not… ahem… slightly guilty of this myself at times….) So much death and destruction.
But then you won me over completely at the end with your themes of hope and forgiveness and now I MUST READ A KENZIE BOOK!!!!!!!
MEEP! You should definitely revisit it if you want!! It’s such a fun topic to think about, and I genuinely had some breakthrough moments where I realized just how many similarities I have in my writing. XD (it’s…not always a good thing, actually. but it was funny to discover! XD) Also THANK YOU!!! I was so confused as to where this thing originated!!!! I added an amendment to the post, so thank you SO much!!!
Okay but like…it really is such a good protagonist motivator. XD AND WAIT. THE MENTORS DIE IN YOUR BOOKS???? *begins panicking* Tbh, I find that a lot of the things I write I don’t necessarily enjoy reading because it is TOO PAINFUL, ACK. Like cliffhanger endings. And main characters dying. XD
MEEP!!! I am so glad I won you over eventually!!! Thank you so so much for reading, Jenelle!!!! <333
I adore all of these things. Especially girl with a penchant for destruction, unreliable snarky male characters, bromance, and villains you love to hate! All fantastic!
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MEEP!! Yesssss! Girls with a penchant for destruction are SO wildly underrated! We definitely need more of them! And snarky male leads?? THE BEST. XD
Thank you so so much for reading, Skye!!! <333
I love this! Unreliable, snarky, and clueless is a character type I love writing, too. And I LOVE FAIRY TALE RETELLINGS. SO MUCH. I wish I could read your books!
I’m going to have to take this post idea for myself, aren’t I. Hmm.
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UGH FAIRYTALE RETELLINGS!!!! My absolute favorite!!! I honestly just cannot get enough of them! OH MY GOODNESS, YES!!!! PLEASE steal this!! I would absolutely love to see what kinds of things make up a Becky story!!!!! <333
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I’m glad I’m not the only one who writes almost exclusively male narrators XD I don’t know what it is, it’s just so much more fun to write guys than girls to me?? Idek it’s a problem XD
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Oh my goodness, YES!!! I’m so glad you understand this feeling. XD It’s such a strange concept but it’s so much easier for me to understand my male leads than it is my females!
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*waltzes in two months late*
Oh my goodness, this post was soooo much fun. I had a blast reading this. 1, I got to learn more about your amazing stories, 2, see what you like to write about, and 3 see how much we have in common with writing. Which speaking of… I believe I write about found family, villains you love to hate, bromance and about the themes of brokenness, forgiveness, and redemption too. But it’s hard to know for sure because I have terrible memory and a lot of my stories at the moment are just head canon and could changed by the time I sit down to write them. But one thing I know for sure is that I like writing from the male POVs more than females, the strong woman trope (but written with flaws of course cause I don’t need a perfect character please and thank you) and sarcastic characters (mainly males) who are secretly broken and likely traumatized but pretend they are perfectly okay. XD XD XD
This is such a fun idea. I might do it… maybe. XD
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Dude!!! Oh my goodness, I resonate with ALL of these tropes! Strong female (but still flawed) characters are SO GOOD. Aslo, it is so nice to find someone else who shares my love of villainy and found family?? I just ADORE those tropes. They make my heart happy. XD
Ooh!! PLEASE PLEASE DO IT!! It would make me so happy to see all of your favorite tropes and character types in one post!!! <333
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*writes it down on my TBW list* Okay, I will! :D I can’t guarantee it will happen soon, but it will happen!!!
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