Thursday, December 29, 2011

How to Set Writing Goals for the New Year (That You'll Actually Accomplish)

If you're anything like me, you've spent the past few days thinking/worrying about the coming year. Maybe you made some New Year's Resolutions (speaking of which, if you've ever managed to keep any, I'm impressed). Or perhaps you looked back over the past year and thought of all the changes--great and small--that have occurred in your life.

The new year is an excellent time to re-commit to your writing. Perhaps you've become listless at the thought of your most recent project. Well, here's a ready-made opportunity to revitalize this aspect of your life! You could commit to writing every day or at set times each week or month.

No matter what you decide, however, there's one very important aspect that you must not ignore: if you make a promise to yourself to write, you must write. There's no getting around this important fact. If you let yourself down now, not only will you get no writing done, but you'll also fail yourself. If you break this promise and resolution, how are you to trust yourself in the future? You compromise your very self-respect.

Of course, if you decide on an unattainable goal, then you are setting yourself up for failure. Your goal should be "SMART"--that is, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

To make your goal specific, think small. A specific goal would be something like, "I want to write 500 words on my current story _____ every Wednesday and Saturday." A broad goal would be, "I want to write more in 2012." Do you see how making the goal specific could help you achieve it more easily?

To make your goal measurable, think in terms of landmarks--hours spent writing or word count. "I want to write 500 words" is measurable, because you can measure the quantity "500 words." Same with "I want to write for thirty minutes." You either write for that amount of time or you don't.

Next, your goal should be attainable. This is pretty self-explanatory--for example, "becoming a rocket scientist" if you flunked science is not very attainable, whereas "writing thirty minutes once a week" is attainable if you've been writing fifteen minutes each week. That doesn't mean your goals should be difficult--by definition, a goal is something that's a little ways outside of your reach, so that you have to strive to attain it. Just make sure it's possible to attain.

The next category, realistic, is actually one of the hardest to measure. On the one hand, if you set your goal too low, then you won't really be motivated to achieve it. However, if it's way too high, then there's no way you can attain it. So, for this one, it's really up to you. How much energy can you commit to this goal? How much time do you have on your hands? Are you both willing and able to achieve the goal?

Finally, you should make your goal timely. This just means to set a time frame for your goal. "I want to write 500 words someday" is a lot less motivating than "I want to write 500 words within the next 7 days." When you have a deadline, you will begin to strategize exactly how you want to accomplish it within the time frame you set.

So, again, remember--make your writing goals this new year "SMART" goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. And when you've decided on them, why don't you tell me what goals you set? Enjoy setting and achieving your goals!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Have you finished decorating the tree? Baked Christmas cookies (and eaten them too, I hope)? Visited your relatives? Wrapped presents? Cooked Christmas dinner (or will soon)?

Even more than that, perhaps you've spared a few moments to write a poem or the next chapter in your novel. You may have made time to read that book that you borrowed from the library three times...the one that you never quite got around to finishing. Maybe you researched a pesky place name that you never were certain you got right in chapter five.

I hope, no matter how you've spent your holiday season thus far, that you've been able to do something truly heartwarming. It may be just sitting still beside your now-decorated tree and absorbing the magical atmosphere. For me, I made Christmas ornaments for my older relatives by painting and decorating wooden snowflakes. It could be as simple as watching "Charlie Brown's Christmas" once again. For each one of us, there is something special that will warm our hearts--that will make us, however briefly, just a little bit happier. I pray that you will find this joy over this Christmas.

Now, with Christmas only two days away, it's time once again to be reminded of what we are celebrating. After all, we all know that holidays are about more than simply presents and packages and trees and lights and vacation and leisure, as delightful as all of these things may seem. Sometimes a gentle story in a child's voice is the best reminder of what we truly celebrate:

May God bless you abundantly, and may you may be a blessing to others during this season. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why Humor Will Make or Break Your Story

You may think that humor is an unnecessary nuisance when writing your story. You want your stories to be serious, full of deep life lessons and morals which people can apply to their lives. You may, indeed, believe that books would be more enjoyable without humor. In fact, you might wonder why I'm writing a post about humor at all.

On the other hand, you might be a compulsive comedian. Your writing may be littered with thousands of second-rate riddles and characters who seem to crack a joke at every opportunity. You believe that humor will engage your readers and make them enjoy their experience in your world. What could be wrong with that?

As it turns out, both of these views are a little...extreme. If you write without any humor at all, what's to stop the story from being dry and stuffy? And if you use too much humor, your reader will wonder whether even you think of your writing seriously.

In my view, at least a sprinkle of humor is absolutely necessary in every story. Yes, you heard right--every story.

"But," you might say, "I want to be like the great authors! Tolkien never used humor!"

Oh really? Then how do you explain Merry and Pippin, archetypal jokesters who had me laughing from the first few pages? If you're not convinced, here's a little except to tantalize your funny bone:
Aragorn: "Gentlemen, we do not stop till nightfall." Pippin: "What about breakfast?" Aragorn: "You've already had it." Pippin: "We've had one, yes. What about second breakfast?" Merry: "I don't think he knows about second breakfast, Pip." Pippin: "What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn't he?" Merry: "I wouldn't count on it. ” 
Examples of humor abound across all reams of fantastic literature--Fred and George, the beloved Weasley twins from the Harry Potter series; even Mr. and Mrs. Beaver from C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The recent Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan is chock full of humorous references to modern life. If you think a fantasy book doesn't have humor in it, then look closer--I'd bet that, more likely than not, it does.

Now, none of that is to advocate for a book that's completely fun and games. As writers, we strive to give our readers a powerful emotional experience, one that will make them laugh and cry, shout with joy and scream with fear.

What is the mark of a truly great book? That it can plumb the depths and soar to the heights of human emotions. That's the kind of book that, when readers put it down at last, they'll sigh and say, "Now that was a good read." That's the kind of book that we're trying to write, and that's the kind of book that a touch of humor can help us create.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holidays in Fantasy

Twinkling fairy-lights, a crackling fire, the whisper of snowflakes falling from the sky…this season feels like stepping into fairyland. There’s a wintery chill in the air and a mug of hot cocoa in my hand. It’s the time to dream, to imagine, to relax, to write, and to curl up with a good book.

But before you go snuggle up with that book, there are a few things to ponder during this season in particular.

First, let’s begin with Christ. During the holiday—or Holy Day—of Christmas, we want to remember the reason for celebration: the birth of Christ, the One who gives us passion to write. John 1 tells us a beautiful story of Christ’s coming.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
How truly wonderful it is to step back and reflect on Christ, our savior and the true “reason for the season.”

There’s another aspect of the holidays, too, that fantasy writers can use to extend the depth of our stories. We often compose a storyworld complete with languages and cultures. But what about holidays? Every culture on earth has days when it stops to rest and celebrate—and every fantasy culture should have holidays, too.
Here’s a few things to think about when creating holidays for your fantasy cultures:
  • What values does this holiday celebrate? In Japan, the codomo-no-hi festival (children’s day) honors the growth of boys from children into powerful young men who are strong enough to swim upstream in the currents of life. Our own Thanksgiving Day in the Unites States helps us to think back over our life and be thankful for the blessings God’s given us. What values in your culture might you develop into a holiday?
  • History: Often, celebrations are tied to important events in the history of the nation. Countries all over the world celebrate some form of Independence Day. Other important historical events—battles, establishment of cities, and more—can all prompt holidays. What events in your fantasy nations could spark a day of celebration?

So now, with all that said, have a glorious, happy, writing-filled holiday!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christian Authors' Takes on Fantasy

After a short break with the post, "In the Aftermath of NaNoWriMo," we're back with the series on Faith and Fantasy. Today's post is a collection of quotes from famous Christian authors regarding writing, Christianity, and fantasy.

First, let's begin with J.R.R. Tolkien, widely regarded as the father of modern fantasy. He had this to say about fantasy/"myth":
“We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed, only by myth-making, only by becoming 'sub-creator' and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer, however shakily, towards the true harbour.”
Francis Schaeffer, a Christian theologist and apologist, had this to say of the imagination required to write fantasy. 
“The Christian is the really free man – he is free to have imagination. This too is our heritage. The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.”
The prolific historical fantasy author Stephen R. Lawhead says the following of stories: 
“Perhaps it is how we are made: perhaps words of truth reach us best through the heart, and stories and songs are the language of the heart.”

Finally, let me conclude with a powerful word and warning on "creating" fantasy from C.S. Lewis.
"'Creation' as applied to human authorship seems to me to be an entirely misleading term. We rearrange elements He has provided. There is not a vestige of real creativity de novo in us. Try to imagine a new primary colour, a third sex, a fourth dimension, or even a monster which does not consist of bits and parts of existing animals stuck together. Nothing happens. And that surely is why our works never mean to others quite what we intended: because we are recombining elements made by Him and already containing His meanings."

Any thoughts on these quotes? What is the difference between "sub-creating" and "creating"? Have you seen the distinction in your own writing?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

In the Aftermath of NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo, an abbreviation of national novel writing month, is a fast-paced challenge that attracts thousands of aspiring novelists each year. All through November--national novel writing month--writers across the globe scribble and type madly, trying to reach the ever-distant goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month.

This year was my first time to participate in the--to put it politely--insanity. I loved it. However, I had no clue how to go about the process. Now, having learned (painfully) from my mistakes, I am better prepared to answer the question, "How on earth do you write a novel in a month? (And have a life?)"

The answer, believe it or not, is rather simple. Two steps: first, have a plan; second, write consistently every day.

As it happens, those two steps are keys for any writing. I know that writing is a controversial art; each writer passionately defends his or her favored methods and means of writing. However, for most writers, following these two steps can ease the transition from NaNoWriMo to normal life plus writing, and from normal life into normal life plus writing.

First, plan the plot of your story. Plan hard and plan well. Plan a brilliant, surprising, and paradigm-shifting story. Easier said than done, right? Well, think of it this way: would you rather try to insert random bits of intelligent plot while writing off the top of your head? (That, by the way, was my attempt this year. Not recommended.)

What, then? By planning out at least a rough outline of your story--especially as regards plot, climax, and characters--you can write more easily. Think of it this way: as you write, would you rather have your attention divided between planning the story and writing the story, or would it be simpler to plan separately (beforehand) and write afterward?

Okay, glad you're with me there. (If not, tell me why, please!) Now that we've decided to plan, though, how to go about the task? Rough outlines? Bubble chart? The Dreaded Formal Outline of Doom?

Every writer has his or her own special secret tricks for planning. Personally, I've found Randy Ingermannson's Snowflake Method to be quite helpful. However, other people like to free write and still others use post-its and tissues for notes. The methods are only as wide as your imagination! Do some research, practice, and figure out your favorite methods.

Next is the second step in the process: writing consistently. Here, I must be quite severe. No matter your preferred writing style, you will never write a novel if you never write. It's as simple as that.

During November, my goal was to write 1,500 words a day (more than I'd ever written consistently in my life, to be perfectly honest). That really pushed my limits. I needed to find very creative methods to write--such as, for example, waking up early on Thanksgiving day to write for an hour before going over to relatives' to celebrate.

I would encourage you to set your goal so that it's a little bit out of your reach. By straining and working hard to reach that goal, you push yourself and develop writing muscles. Set a promise to yourself--a few paragraphs, a page. Then follow through. You will always have some extra time each day. So be proactive. Grab that time by the ears and write!

If you think, "But I could never write that much every single day!", then challenge yourself to do it for a week. Be extremely severe with yourself. Find the time to write somewhere--it is possible. Then reward yourself when you accomplish your goal. Once you've proven to yourself that it's possible to write, even in your busy life, then you have no excuse.

So go! Plan! Write!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What Would Jesus Say? Fantasy, Writing, & the Bible

You can never get enough of God's word, period. In my last blog post (Magic: 5 Questions to Ask & Answer), we only really skimmed the surface of what the Bible has to say about writing and fantasy. So, today, you get the treat of a whole post exclusively devoted to digging in the Scriptures for guidance about magic, faerie, writing, and everything in between!

1. What is fantasy, really?

Before we really plunge into the discussion, let's build the framework by defining fantasy itself. According to good ole' Google, fantasy is "the faculty of imagining things that are impossible or improbable."

Well, when you look at it that way, the Bible is simply stuffed with fantasy!

Now I don't mean to imply that any of the history of the Bible did not take place--quite the contrary. No matter how "improbable/impossible," the events of the Bible really did occur. However, what is "fantastic" in the Bible is found, for example, in Revelation 12:9, which says, "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan." This is fantasy at its best and purest: using the fantastic to help us visualize something in our own reality.

2. Magic

Let's continue by building on what we learned last time about magic. There were some passages I didn't have time to cover, so here they are.

First, Leviticus 19:31 tells us, "God told His people, 'Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.'" In addition, Deuteronomy 18:10-12 warns, “There shall not be found among you anyone who…practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD.”

"But wait," you say. "I thought you said magic was okay last time?"

Sorry for the confusion, folks. Let's make this really clear: magic from evil sources (apart from God’s power) is evil in God's sight. This should be all the more encouragement for you to think deeply about what source the magic in your writings comes from.

3. What's in a Name?

Next, what about specific terms like "wizard" or "seer"? Can we use those, or Are they inherently evil?

In a way, yes, seers and wizards are "evil." As defined Biblically, wizards and seers were/are pagans who used various unbiblical sacrifices to see into the future and preform unnatural "miracles."

Well, funny thing about these terms: the Bible doesn't only use them to describe pagans. Oddly enough, the term "seer" is used in the Bible to describe both good guys and bad guys, saved and unsaved alike (see I Samuel 9:9, II Samuel 15:27, and II Samuel 24:11). Similarly, the term "prophet" is used to describe both pagan prophets like Balaam and Israelite prophets like Isaiah.

4. A Note on Talents

In general terms, if God has given you the desire to write, then don't ignore that call. But be warned by the fate of the third servant in Jesus' parable of the talents: "'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.'"

This passage actually tells us a lot about the Biblical nature of "talents": your talents include all the resources God has given you (including time, energy, Internet connection, or anything else), and the use of those resources in the way God calls us to (whether that's writing or plumbing or something else entirely). So if God gave you a keyboard and time, plus the desire to write, then, Biblically, you'd better follow His call and start writing!

And another thing--if you're worried that you don't have enough skill to write, then stop worrying now. If you are a great writer, than that's fabulous. But don't be discouraged if you're not. If God has called you to write, then you must practice and hone your writing until you do have skill. Practice, as the old mantra says, makes perfect.

5. Final Warnings

As fantasy writers, it's especially important for us to remember the grave warning that Isaiah delivers in Isaiah 5:20. He writes, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

When we imagine and create, we must be particularly careful that our words clearly define darkness and light. Even in fantasy, there is evil and there is good. There is what glorifies God and what does not. And, as writers, we have the grave task of preserving this distinction.

So, with those weighty thoughts in mind, go and write!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Magic: 5 Questions to Ask & Answer

First, what is magic? Merriam-Webster defines magic as, "the use of means (e.g. charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces." In other words, magic is something that can't be explained through modern-day earth's science. Magic is the impossible.

On the surface, it may seem as though magic is a power that contradicts God's supremacy over all the forces of the universe. But is magic truly evil or contradictory to the Bible? Can we fantasy writers actually include magic in their stories? What follows is five of the most important questions for you to consider and answer when it comes to writing magic.

1. What is the source of Magic?

Let's consider each situation separately. First, what if magic was created by God, and thus "good"? Well, there are theological implications and complications to consider in this instance (we'll get to those later), but on the surface level, I don't see a problem with magic stemming from God.

Next is magic from nature--either through genetics (which would stem back to God's creation, clearly), or through scientific laws rather like the force of gravity (in which case, it also goes back to God's original creation as including the possibility for magic). As long as the proper glory for this "natural phenomenon" is given to God, again, there's no inherent problem with this form of magic.

Now we get trickier. What if magic was created by men or came through advanced technology? This portrayal of magic, if executed with care, could provide an excellent foundation for exploring questions of man's power versus God's power. Or, on the flip side, we can reason that since God created man with the capacity to "create" magic, then God ultimately created magic.

Last but not least, magic can be caused by Satan and/or the forces of evil. Modern-day Wiccans and other people serving Satanic powers clearly illustrate this point. Evil powers are out there, and they have the power to harm. This is a clearly Biblical principle, and could be used Biblically in a story.

2. Is magic moral, immoral, or amoral?

Let's consider the first possibility: magic could be completely good, only able to be used for good by good people. It would be almost akin to the gifts and insight of the Holy Spirit, which are for Christians alone and can never be evil. However, this approach might not work very well in a story, since every story needs conflict, and conflict is often a result of the hero's powerlessness. A "righteous magic" might thus give too much power to the hero.

What if magic was immoral? What if magic was all bad, and could only be used for evil by evil people?  In this case, the magic would be a result of evil forces, or perhaps a good force twisted in the Fall. This possibility could work quite nicely in giving the villain powers above the hero. However, it must be used carefully so as not to imply that evil has all the power and good can do nothing.

The last case--magic as amoral--is the most common among fantasy authors, for good reason. In this last case, magic acts like a force of nature, used by good people and bad people for good or evil purposes. If magic is amoral, it levels the playing ground, allowing heroes and villains to fight it out not based on an imbalance of power but through strength, intelligence, character, and other means of struggle.

3. What are the limitations on magic?

All magic needs limits. It's just like the real world--some things are just plain impossible. If anyone can do anything with magic, the world is not believable. After all, all forces in nature are governed by scientific laws. Magic should be too.

Here are a few examples to get you thinking: in the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini, magic drains a person's strength. The more difficult the magic, the more strength it drains. Thus, in Paolini's world, certain acts--for example, raising the dead--are beyond the strength of magicians.

In Harry Potter, magicians study and memorize spells and movements, practicing them carefully over their 7-year-long education at Hogwarts. Also, certain spells require rare or illegal ingredients, which makes them hard or impossible to execute (consider, for example, Voldemort's horcruxes, which require murder to create and yet deliver him with a form of "eternal life").

4. Does magic provide salvation?

This question may sound obvious, but, believe me, it's not. We must recognize and clarify that, however powerful the magic may be, no magic can be used in place of Christ's saving power. Forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and eternal life (however you sculpt these in your work) can be attained only through the perfect sacrifice of God's Son.

However, you could use this concept to explore the effects of relying on magic as a crutch and form of salvation rather than relying on God's power.

5. Final Word: What does the Bible say about magic?

Note that all cultures who had so-called "magicians" (Egyptians, Babylonians, etc.) are condemned in the Bible. They profess to have power from idols, which as we know are truly powerless. Let's not take these powerless pagan magicians as our role models!

Acts 19:19 also warns against magic, saying that after conversion, "A number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all." This is clearly a strong warning against hastily or thoughtlessly including unbiblical magic in any written work.

And, as a final note, let's remember that God's power always trumps all other powers, magical or otherwise. As Daniel 1:20 tells us, speaking of Daniel and his companions who served the Lord, "And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom."

This is clearly an issue that needs a lot of prayer, so pray hard and think deeply. God bless as you embark on the journey of writing magic in fantasy!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fantasy & Faith: An Introduction

To begin our new series on Fantasy & Faith, here's a one of the very first posts from this blog. This post is actually the crux of this site: Christ as reflected in the realm of Faerie and the genre of fantasy.


Here's the bottom line: God is the Master Storyteller.

Not only is He the Word {John 1:1}, but God created using words {Genesis 1}. Also, God chose to let His Word, the Bible, be written partly as story & narrative. Jesus Christ taught the crowds using parables, or "imaginary" - but meaningful - stories. 

So we see that God is first among all writers, and as such, all writers take their cue from God Himself. An amazing responsibility indeed.


What about fantasy and faith?

First, fantasy is defined as "The activity of imagining things that are impossible or improbable."

With that in mind, some of the Bible seems like fantasy - just look at the dragon in Revelation, the fiery serpents in the wilderness in Numbers, and seemingly "magical" events like water turning into wine throughout the Bible. But what both writers and readers of fantasy should remember is that, in God's hands, the "impossible" is always "possible."


What does that mean for us, though?

Well, as fantasy writers, we can know that imagining the "impossible" is actually a reflection of God's own creative power and God's perfect imagination. So dream big, create, write, read, & delight in mirroring a small sliver of the nature of God.

Two final words:

1 Corinthians 10:31 ~ "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

Colossians 3:17 ~ "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

Thanks be to God!


Saturday, September 24, 2011


Guess what? We've now finished the blog series on Realms of Faerie! Let's think back a moment on all the topics we've covered:







Now, what next? Well, since we've covered some basics to look for when writing fantasy, we're moving on to look at a much deeper, divisive topic: Fantasy and Faith. Lots of people oppose writing fantasy on moral grounds. Why do they think so? What does the Bible say? Is magic wrong? All this and more is coming right up!

Realms of Faerie: Sky

On to the next element of the natural world! Today, our focus will be on sky, and everything wrapped up in it--clouds, stars, sun, moon, air.

Faith & the Sky

Psalm 19:1 really sets the stage for our whole discussion: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork."

Truly, the sky and air is an example par excellence of the beauty of God's creation. Just looking at the light and warmth of the sun, feeling the breath of wind on my cheek, everything points to God's mastery as Creator.

Psalm 147:4 says, "He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names." What a stunning example of God's power! Also a great idea for writing, too; giving stars names and valuing each individually could come in handy in a story!

Stars and sky can also be signs of future events--for example, the great star that heralded Christ's birth. However, we've got to remember that, as beautiful and powerful as the sky, sun, and stars are, they are mere reflections of God's glory and power (and not very good reflections, at that).

Writing & the Sky

The sky gives writers an amazing freedom to create and specialize. You've only got to put your imagination to work, and--voila!--the sky in your world is created, unique and important. A few tips, as usual:

1. Constellations ~ in any culture, stars and signs of the sky are important. They can represent that culture's great legends, and symbolize light and hope. C. S. Lewis created the constellations the ship, the leopard, and the hammer. J. R. R. Tolkien created many different named stars--Earendil's Star (attached to a very long legend, too), Valacirca, and many others.

2. Beings in the Heavens ~ C. S. Lewis created star-beings, which were stars that could assume a humanoid form and even marry (for example, Prince/King Caspian's wife was a star-being). Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time contains beings that used to be stars, but sacrificed their star-form and became other creatures in an effort to vanquish the dark. The possibilities are vast and varied, so create!

3. Clouds ~ Got any special formations? Deer-shaped? Special colors? Perhaps blue clouds represent coming evil?

4. Moon & Sun ~ One? Multiple? None? Try changing it up from the normal and expected. It might give that vital dash of life to a dragging story!

That's all for now, but don't be shy--dream and create!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Realms of Faerie: Fire

Fire is not technically a "realm," no. However, flames--as with the other elements--are essential ingredients to a well-crafted fantasy world. Thus, we'll be covering flames, both Biblically and technically, in our post today.

What is fire? Scientifically, fire is a rapid, persistent chemical change that releases heat and light and is accompanied by flame. In the simplest terms, fire is energy. Heat is a tangible form of that energy; light is a visible form of the energy. Fire. Energy.

Next, how does the Bible address and portray fire?

In various places, fire is a judgment from God. We see fire and sulfur raining down on unrepentant Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24), the plague of hail and fire on the Egyptians (Exodus 9:24), and the ultimate fiery destruction of this earth in Revelation 20. Fire is something to be feared.

Fire also signifies God's presence. God spoke to Moses out of a fiery bush. God accompanied the Israelites through the wilderness in the form of a pillar of smoke in the day and a pillar of fire at night. Hebrews 12:29 says, "Our God is a consuming fire." Fire is a symbol of God's power, glory, and light.

Therefore, fire is clearly holy, and we should treat it with utmost care in our writing, especially as a sign of God Himself.

What about writing fire and flames?

Well, writing fire may seem straightforward. Flames flickering around a cozy campfire, sparks scintillating in the air, the gentle scent of woodsmoke wafting on the breeze... But, please, let's not sacrifice originality and expression here! We have imaginations for a reason!

A few tips to get you started:

1. Color. Color. Color. Let's just get this straight--the first thing to change, the most obvious and easily changed, is color. Color is a fundamental building block of the world; shift it, and originality is born. So what color shall your fire be? Will it burn a mellow grass green at the edges, deepening into a heart of dark forest emerald? Or would you rather have hot pink flames and a white core? It's up to you!

2. Power and intensity: how damaging is fire in your world? Can it be controlled by anyone? Can it be controlled by everyone?

3. Sentience: interesting to play around with. Is your fire at all conscious? Does it have thoughts? Can it speak? If it could, what would it say? Can it act on its own? What if fire could communicate with a particular sect of human beings...then brakes out of control, leaving it up to the humans to conquer it--using both effective communication and physical weapons? Experiment, and you may be surprised at the result!

4. Shapes: fire is usually conceived as a flickering triangle/tongue of light. But it could be so much more! What about round flames? Individual scuttling flames? Flames that take on the appearance of people or things (as in the Chronicles of Narnia book/movie, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)? Explore and create!

5. Sounds: sure, flames can hiss and pop and crackle. But what if? What if? What if they...whispered? Sang? Chirped? Twittered? Whistled?

So, please, pick up your pencils and perform spectacular feats of imagination and flickering flames today!


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Realms of Faerie: Oceans

Oceans are wild and restless creatures, full of mystery, danger, and strange allure. As Fanny Crosby said, "Can ye fathom the ocean, dark and deep, / where the mighty waves and the grandeur sweep?"

Because of their power and strength, combined with delicate mystery, oceans have been popular throughout the history of fantasy. Almost every fantastic world has one; chances are, the one you're writing now contains at least one stormy deep. Perhaps this may be because our own world is so full of oceans--they cover 70 percent of the earth, after all.

Now what about writing oceans in light of Christian truth?

First, when God created the world, Genesis 1:2 tells us, "The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." So, during creation, the world was watery and shapeless.

We also know that God judged the world through water once, with the Flood. Genesis 7:19, 22 says, "The water prevailed more and more upon the land, so that all the high hills everywhere under the sky were covered. ... Of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died."

However, God promised never again to send such a flood {Genesis 8:21}. When His final judgment comes, it will be with fire--but more on that next time :) .

Additionally, Jesus is our living water; those who drink of Him shall no longer thirst, but find spiritual refreshment, renewal, and life through Him {see John 7:37-39}.

What do all these verses add up to? How can we apply them to our writing? Well, if you're really interested, I suggest you dig deeper into the topic of Biblical water--believe me, there's lots more to discover! However, in general, water is our life-source, and, in a physical way, provides continued survival. None of us would last long without water. In the same way, on a spiritual level, we all need Christ's living waters to quench our inner thirst and to survive with life eternally. Pretty deep stuff, certainly, but crucial.

So, when writing oceans, be sure to reflect Jesus' life-sustaining spiritual waters through them!

Now for the nitty-gritty of imagining and writing oceans:

1. Color! {always consider color when creating anything. it stimulates the imagination immensely} Does your ocean come in typical shades of aqua to teal to grey to green? Or is it more of a reddish-orange ocean? Is it pure white? Any symbolic significance of the color?

2. Weather Patterns: what does a flat sea symbolize or reveal about your world? Do the waves form patterns? For example, what if secret messages were written in the waves that only certain birds could see and decipher?

3. Life: What creatures make your ocean their home? Is it the usual suspects of clownfish, turtles, and mermaids, or did you throw in a few bird/fish creatures, plus a kraken or two? Mostly tropical marine life? Deep water darkness creepy sharp teeth fishy creatures? Come up with some water-creature of your own to reflect your ideas about the ocean!

Enjoy writing!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Realms of Faerie: Mountains

Let me get this here, up front: this post will cover more than mountains. Lots more.

Because, you see, mountains are made of stones--big chunks of solid minerals, hard and gritty or chalky and light. And these stones, indeed, compose the very foundation of any earth, fantasy or otherwise. So, clearly, mountains and the stones beneath them are pretty important in fashioning your fantasy world!

Let's begin with the Christian point of view. Psalm 18:2 says, "The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." {NIV}

That's pretty straightforward, right? When we think of rocks, in their firmness and solidity, we are to be reminded of God, who is our perfect shield and solid fortress. So when we create our own rocks and stones as the foundation of our fantasy world, we have a heavy task to shoulder and a weighty responsibility to carry in representing the full truth of God's nature.

Who would've thought that even the lowly pebble had a message of God's grace embedded in its atoms?

Now for writing rocks and mountains.

The main thing to keep in mind, as with all fantasy writing, is to be original. How to do that, though? Sometimes the mind just seems inadequate for imagination!

As usual, I've written a few launching pads for your thoughts on rock and stone. If you'd like some additional inspiration, I would highly recommend reading Shannon Hale's young adult novel, Princess Academy. An extremely key aspect of that book is the particular kind of stone, linder, harvested in a local quarry, which enables a rural mountain community to face and overcome dangers of many sorts. Very instructive to those interested in writing rocks.

1. Composition: smooth and shiny or rough and gritty? Light and full of air or heavy and dense? Knotted and eroded or in some pearl-like "perfect" state? Chalky and powdery or smooth and glass-like?

2. Color: ah, joy! I love color! Unusual colors give a huge zing of life and energy to any sagging fantasy world. For a hint of what I mean, take a look at the rocks of our own world--those gorgeous reddish canyon rocks of Colorado's Garden of the Gods, or the clear crystals buried in underground caverns beneath our feet, and even jemstones like turquoise, emerald, ruby. The color or colorless possibilities are, as always, limitless.

3. Unique features: This includes the mountain ranges in your realm, as well as any unusual peaks that have their own name and history. Also included are any strange rock features anywhere in your land--fabulous undersea caves filled with salt crystals or volcanic arches made of cooled lava and the like. Dream big, expand your world's history, and create! But be warned: this is no small task. Do not rush the geography of your world.

Well, that's it for now! Enjoy writing!