Why you should care about fantasy fiction

Image courtesy of Jason Coates

Image courtesy of Jason Coates http://bit.ly/1yPwIZ5

I’ve known a few people (and I’ve heard of more) who say they just don’t like fantasy. When I’ve asked why not, the answer has usually been that they don’t like the orcs and trolls and goblins and elves and dwarves and all that sort of thing. They prefer realistic stories that have to do with the real world.

So why does fantasy exist at all if it’s mere freakish escapism with no connection to reality? Why can’t we get our heads out of the clouds and settle down to something more practical?

I’ll spoil the end for you: I believe that fantasy is eminently practical — that it has much more to do with real life than most people might suspect.

Fantasy reflects our world through a curious sort of lens, and by showing it this way, it helps us see our world all the more clearly. That’s the real magic.

Sometimes this roundabout way is the only way for us to see things about our world that we’ve been blinded to, not because they’re hidden, but because they’re right under our nose. I agree with C.S. Lewis that humans are marked by “the horror and neglect of the obvious.” Fantasy helps us see the good and evil, mercy and cruelty, courage and cowardice, justice and treachery, and wonder and awe in our world more clearly than we might have seen otherwise.

But some people haven’t experienced this. Either they’ve never tried, or they have tried but couldn’t see past the elves, wargs, wizards, nymphs, and the like. It seems people who don’t like fantasy make a great mistake: thinking that these fantastical things are what fantasy is *about.*

All these fay and faerie elements are the skin of fantasy, not its soul.

Of course, bad fantasy might focus on the dragons and gnomes and witches and magic for the sake of the spectacle they provide, and stories like that are hardly worth telling.

What do you think? Does fantasy give us something that can’t be gotten elsewhere? Does it have other value or uses?

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Becoming PRO-fessional: what do you do when your blog doesn’t know what it wants to be?

choices crossroads

The Daily Post has some wonderful advice for beginners (like me) on sprucing your blog up and getting people to read it. The most practical takeaways (according to yours truly):

  1. You need better titles
    1. I can’t think of how to describe this need except to filch some great examples:
      1. The History of Philosophy, in Superhero Comics
      2. Henry James on Aging, Memory, and What Happiness Really Means
      3. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Little-Known, Gorgeous Art
  2. You can shorten your URLs to be more search-engine friendly!
  3. The biggest one, though, is that you should know

WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR BLOG

If you had to make a business card with the name and address of your blog (in a naturally tasteful typeset that perfectly conveys the tone you’re going for) and a tweet-sized statement of what it’s about — what would you put? “Walrus training and gourmet baking”? “Lots of my opinions on whatever I deem important”? “Literally my entire diet in Instagrams”?
(more…)

For my fellow writers: pump your imagery in 10 minutes

frustrated writer

It’s hard to find good creative writing prompts. Most of the ones I’ve seen online are too generic and cliched, and don’t actually inspire you towards good writing practices.

“Write about the ‘fickle finger of Fate.’ ” “Write about something ugly–war, fear, hate, or cruelty–but find the beauty (silver lining) in it.” Bleh.

This one, however, from Method and Madness by Alice LaPlante (p. 69), is a gem for working on imagery. We tend to default to working with visuals only, because these details are the most immediately obvious — but what about all the other ways in which we experience the sensory world? This will help you vividly transport your readers right into the scene.

For best results, I recommend setting a timer for 10 minutes and writing nonstop until it stops — turn your inner editor off!

All set? Good. Here’s the prompt:

…imagine yourself blind and…describe the objects of the world around you without the sense of vision.

Have fun!

NtP out

Want to work from home and be your own boss? Here are 14 glimpses of what it’s like.

It’s reading a two-day-old Times piece with the tagline, “A correspondent gets a lesson in the nuance of Chinese names” and calling it work because you sense it’s somehow important, and following that sense (against all common sense and voices of others and your inner voice telling you to stop wasting time) is all that’s made you any good so far at what you really want to do (that is, the Goal — the reason you’re working from home).

(more…)

Becoming PRO-fessional: getting my fiction mojo

word rose flower

My approach to becoming a professional writer is two-fold:

  1. blogging professionally (duh)
  2. learning to craft literary fiction

I love telling stories, and getting paid to do it would be a nice bonus! Almost three years ago, I got a great start in writing fiction thanks to a great teacher and mentor. I wrote two award-winning short stories (here’s one). Since then, however, I’ve let it languish, and I haven’t produced a single new story.

But that is going to change — and soon. (more…)

Becoming PRO-fessional: engaging the Twitterverse

twitter

How I picture the Twitter

I tend to resist technological change. I still don’t know how to work a DVR, I use a computer made in 2004, and I’d rather carry five pounds of books than a six-ounce e-reader. Most of my tech knowledge comes from exposure through other people. I tend to be suspicious and dismissive of the new, the trending, the latest, and the popular.

But in becoming professional, that’s not gonna fly.

(more…)

Becoming PRO-fessional: baby steps

Writer

Today begins my two-month, full-time journey of developing myself as a professional writer. Think of it as a short-term, unpaid internship at Nathan the Paul, Incorporated. By the end of this time, I’ll have learned/done a lot more about: (more…)

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