‘Writing Believable Fantasy’ (2017)

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“The writer who can’t look into another person’s heart, and find some kinship with it…” might as well go on to Congress. Or join the nooze media.

So what does it take to write believable fantasy?

Writing Believable Fantasy

I only get to see books that are actually published; and a lot of those are bad enough to dry up a good-sized pond. After many years of studying the matter, I don’t know why that should be. Unless it’s simply that so very few people can actually write a good novel, the supply can never catch up to the demand and a lot of pfud gets published because they don’t have anything better.

 

Talkin’ My Books (with Jon Dykstra)

The Last Banquet (Bell Mountain, #4) by Lee Duigon

Jon Dykstra, of Reformed Perspective, did a wonderful job of interweaving some of my blog posts and some of my answers to his questions into a seamless, easy-flowing article. It first appeared in 2017.

After Lewis and Tolkien

I’ve also been asked why I bother writing fantasy while America is being eaten alive by Democrats; but that question doesn’t come up in this article. I’ll have to answer that another time.

For now, Mr. Dykstra’s editorial skills still have me going “Wow!”

I hope he makes you want to read my books.

 

‘Fantasy to Save Your Sanity’ (2014)

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Six years later, I might rephrase this if I were writing it afresh. But one point would still hold it together.

What leftids like to call “reality” isn’t real and the world can get by just fine without it.

Fantasy to Save Your Sanity

Yes, boys ‘n’ girls, we can get by just swimmingly fine without transgender, without “gay” activists, without feminism, without all those other isms they’ve unloaded on us.

And when we write fantasy, we can keep all that rubbish out of it.

‘How to Write a Fantasy Novel’ (2010)

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This piece appeared in Chalcedon’s print magazine in 2010, shortly after Bell Mountain was published. I’ve had a lot of practice writing fantasy novels, since then.

https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/how-to-write-a-fantasy-novel

There’s still a great unmet need for Christian fantasy, especially for Young Adult readers.

My books would appreciate some company!

 

‘After Lewis and Tolkien’ (Comes Me?)

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Jon Dykstra of Reformed Perspective Magazine did a fine job of welding several of my blog posts, and my answers to his questions, into an article about Christian fantasy.

After Lewis and Tolkien

I was especially gratified when he told me how his children loved Bell Mountain as he read it to them. They called it simply “Jack and Ellayne.” I think they were five or six years old at the time–way under the age of the target audience. But I’ve heard this a lot, over the years–mostly from adults.

Anyway, it’s an interesting article and I was very pleasantly surprised to find it available online.

‘Can Fantasy Be Reformed?’ (2014)

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This blog post, back then, resulted in a wonderful article by John Dykstra in Reformed Perspective Magazine–which I’ve been able to locate, and which I’ll re-post for you tomorrow.

Can Fantasy Be Reformed?

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know how I hate fantasy cliches–the Invincible Female Warrior, the Thief With a Heart of Gold, Know-It-All Elves, etc., etc.

Fantasy can be made into a useful tool for Christ’s Kingdom–I’m totally convinced of it. But first it has to be straightened out.

‘My Fantasy Tool Kit’ (2014)

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There are people who don’t like fantasy; but what they really don’t like is bad fantasy, and there’s always more than enough of that to go around.

A lot of the problem is simple to see: the writers just haven’t made their fictional characters seem real.

My Fantasy Tool Kit (1)

There’s really no point in writing unoriginal fantasy featuring cardboard characters who talk and think and act like everybody else’s cardboard characters.

If you’re doing that, you haven’t created a fantasy.

You’ve created a college campus.

‘Literary Crimes: Anachronisms’ (2016)

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Sorta like this King Tut cell phone…

Can a novel set in ancient times–antediluvian times, in fact–be ruined by having its characters frequently spout 21st-century Democrat cliches?

Uh… yeah. Even if it’s only me that thinks so.

Literary Crimes: Anachronisms

I keep saying “Christian fiction” has to be at least as good as, and preferably better than, ordinary secular fiction. But I read so much “Christian” stuff that isn’t, I’m beginning to think no one believes me.

Book Review: ‘Shards of Faith’ by Allison Reid

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I found myself, as I was reading, thinking, “I like this!” I still thought so by the time I’d finished it.

We know author Allison Reid as “Weavingword,” a friend of this blog, and Shards of Faith is a “companion book” to the three books of her Wind Rider Chronicles. Somewhere between a novella and a novel, with a length of some 45,000 words, Shards of Faith takes us back in time to events preceding the main story line. It’s sort of a side trip, focused on Broguean the Bard, who last appeared as a minor character in Book 3, Visions of Light and Shadow.

In Visions Broguean is middle-aged, an entertainer who makes the rounds of taverns, not someone whom most people would take seriously–except it becomes evident that he is hiding behind a carefully constructed facade, and has a secret. In Shards we find out what that secret is.

Broguean has revoked his monk’s vows and left the monastery–run by a corrupt and evil abbot, and a prior who goes on to become the chief villain in the trilogy so far–to become a bard and a heavy drinker. He has abandoned a heritage which seems too high for him: he believes himself to be unworthy of it.

But the leaders of the faithful clergy have not forgotten whom he really is, and wind up recruiting him as a secret agent in their battle against evil men aligned with dark supernatural forces; and the job turns out to be vastly more dangerous than any of them bargained for. In the course of his adventures, Broguean has to come to terms with the conflict between what he is and what he ought to be–and that’s what makes this book special.

Once upon a time an author would have included all this in the main body of the story, via flashbacks, dialogue, etc. That can get messy. The companion book is a way to impart this information without interrupting the flow of the main story. The only problem with it is that if you read it as a stand-alone book, you won’t be reading it in context.

Ms. Reid has come a long way in her mastery of characterization; meanwhile, as usual, her quasi-medieval setting is authentic and convincing. There’s still an awful lot we don’t know about the main story–like, for instance, why the bad guys are calling monsters into the world, what they hope to gain from its destruction–but we hope that will be remedied in the next installment or two.

I like stories in which ordinary, believable people–not superheroes!–are called upon to do extraordinary things: because they have to, there’s no getting out of it, and they make do with the resources that God provides for them, sustained by their faith in His Word. Need I mention that every heroic act in all of human history so far has been performed by a real person, not a superhero?

Even when you’ve got a hero on the scene, even when you’ve got King Arthur, he can’t accomplish much without the help of unnamed, unsung men and women who share his vision, fight for it, work for it, and sacrifice for it. There’s way too much fantasy whose authors don’t get this: but Allison Reid does.

 

‘Do I See It as I Write It?’

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My wife says reading one of my books is like watching a movie. She wants to know, “Do you see it as you write it?”

Do I See It as I Write It?

My books are fantasies about people and places that never existed, so in a literal sense I can’t “see” any of it–I have to imagine it. That might be the toughest thing about writing fantasy in particular and fiction in general: first you try to see what isn’t there, and then you try to make the reader see it. If that sounds easy, well, it ain’t.

The artist, Kirk DouPonce, uses live models for the characters on my books’ covers. I can’t do that. The most I can do is try, in my mind, to cast known actors and actresses as characters in my story. When that works, it works very well.

Try it sometime.