Monday, August 31, 2009

Magic and Fantasy (Part 2)

Our next author is someone you just might have heard of: C.S. Lewis. He is one of my personal favorites--hence the reason I'll be talking about him today.

If you haven't heard of him, then I'm pretty sure you've heard of his most famous series of books: "The Chronicles of Narnia."

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. With Disney's recent releases of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" and "Prince Caspian," there are few who haven't heard of that series.

What few do know, however, is that "The Chronicles of Narnia" is an allegory about the Christian faith for children. Do you think that C.S. Lewis may have wanted to distance himself from pagan magic? You better believe it. Those who possessed "magic" were the witch and Aslan.

Magic was by no means the central theme of the books. And it was not attributed to nature, a "spirit realm," and could not be acquired through special worship or rituals. Instead, "magic" was attributed to the major players of good and evil.

Why is all this important? Well, as you shall see when I review my third author next week, how magic is presented is pivotal to the theme and feel of the story.

As a Christian author, I, like C.S. Lewis, do not want to be associated with paganism or spiritism, though I still do want to write fantasy. This genre is not closed to just those who write about magic wielding wizards and a group of gods and goddesses who play with the lives of the hero/heroine. There is a way to write strictly fantasy, but not abandon your morals. Tolkien and Lewis led the way in this and are considered the masters in the genre.

Stay tuned for a different perspective on fantasy by author, Terry Goodkind, next week.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Magic and Fantasy (Part 1)

Is it necessary to have a magical element in a fantasy story? Well that depends, really. You're probably wondering what I mean by that, so lets take a look at some fairly well known fantasy authors.

I think it's pretty safe to assume that when you see the name, J.R.R Tolkien you automatically think of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. But do you also think of magic and/or paganism? Well, I certainly hope not, and I'm willing to bet Tolkien would have hoped not too. He went through a lot of care to keep magic, for the most part, out of his novel. What do I mean by "for the most part?" If you've read "The Lord of the Rings," you may have noticed that the word "magic" made its appearance from time to time. But who did it typically come from? The hobbits, Gimli, and sometimes even men. What about the wielders of this supposed magic? Well, when asked about it, they were usually pretty emphatic that it wasn't magic at all. Now wait a second! You might be saying. Gandalf and Saruman were wizards! And they certainly used magic! Hmm...this actually requires some deeper reading...

"The Silmarillion" is a very detailed look at the world of Middle Earth and even beyond. It's full of Elves, Men, Dwarves, and Valar. What? Valar? Yes indeed. They were in "The Lord of the Rings" too. Anyone remember Tom Bombadil? He's better known as Tulkas in "The Silmarillion," and he's a Valar. The Valar, with the help and guidance of Eru, created Middle Earth. And there aren't just Valar, there are Maiar too. I could go into a very detailed explanation of what these beings actually represent, but let's keep this particular post as short as possible (it's already getting pretty long and I haven't even gotten to the other two authors). What you need to know is that Gandalf, Saruman, and Sauron are Maiar.

This all is just a long, roundabout way of saying that those who are accused of using magic are done so by those who don't know any better.

You may be thinking that this doesn't change the fact that some of those characters had special abilities. And you would be right. But you have to stop and see where those abilities are coming from. Are they coming from special potions, rituals, sayings, etc.? Or are they coming from some supreme being who doesn't give the ability to just a rare few, but to all within a certain race?

There is a difference and I'll go into why in Parts 2 and 3.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

When it Rains, it Pours

My battalion arrived in Iraq in September, the hottest and driest month of the year. When the commander of the company my company was replacing explained what to expect from the rainy season, he poured a bottle of water on the ground. Needless to say, we were all very skeptical. I mean, come on, this is Iraq we're talking about! Surely the man had to be exaggerating just a little bit. Alas, he was not exaggerating at all. When the rainy season finally came, it made light of the old saying: when it rains, it pours.

Well, lately the ideas pouring out of my mind have been very similar to the rainy season in Iraq. Just as the dry season in that country would surely lead you to believe that not a drop of rain would ever again fall from the sky, the rainy season will make you convinced that you'll never see dry ground again. And that's the way I feel right now.

Just the other day, while watching the news, a great idea for a novel popped into my head. It is unlike anything I have ever written. In fact, it's not even fantasy, but a thriller. Obviously, I haven't started writing it yet because I still need to finish Aurumenas, but it's always exciting to write a novel when you know you have another one to take its place as soon as you're finished.

And speaking of Aurumenas (because remember, I said it was pouring), new subplots and twists have been popping into my head; ideas that I never would have guessed when starting, but seem to fit perfectly in the direction my characters have taken me.

Needless to say, this is the part of writing that every writer lives for. We persevere through the dry patches because we know our hard work will eventually pay off.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Some Good News to Share!

I recently entered a short story contest on the WD forum. To be honest, I almost didn't submit anything, but I'm glad I did because I ended up placing first! This just goes to show you that, no matter what, you need to get your work out there; don't let excuses get in the way.

Here I was, on the day of the deadline (yes, I am a procrastinator) writing out the first few words of my story. I didn't finish it that night. I got about a third of the way through the story and decided the drivel wasn't worth the wasted space or anyone's precious time in reading it. I went to bed without another thought. The next day, I discovered that the deadline had been pushed back a few days. It was then that I smacked myself around a bit and resolved to finish my story.

I didn't finish it that day, or the next day. In fact, I didn't even work on it. No, it wasn't even until the day before the deadline that I decided to look at it again. It was still drivel, but it was my drivel and I sat behind my computer until that story was done! After a few small edits, I sent it away hoping and praying that I would get more than one vote (my own). As it turned out, I got a few more than one.

We are always our own worst critics. Now, after this small victory, I can allow myself to look at that story and admit that it's actually pretty good. I'm glad I decided to put myself out there and enter that contest. I just hope that this situation will always remind me that, no matter what, I need to push forward and submit, submit, submit!!

And I certianly hope that this story will inspire you to do the same.