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!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Realms of Faerie: Forests

{I apologize for the delay in getting this post out--I'm sure you know how summers can be, especially with those nagging fantasy projects you've been wanting to accomplish}

This is the second post in our series on realms of Faerie. Last time we talked about castles; now, we're moving into the realm of nature to cover forests.

Forests of all shapes and sizes abound in every proper fantastic world. The Enchanted Forest of Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles is a prime example of such a forest, brimming with worthy woodkeeper's sons, damsels in distress, dragons, and magical enchantments of every sort. You know the type, I'm sure.

As far as faith goes, forests do not typically pose a problem to Christianity. After all, God was the One who created forests in the first place! In fact, we can even say that by creating forests in our imagination, we are reflecting the nature of our Creator God. Pretty neat!

But there's some bad news too. Unfortunately, in fantasy these days, forests often go through the same uses over and over again: a place of refuge for bandits or the big bad wolf, somewhere to gather herbs of healing, a dangerous area through which the long-suffering hero must travel, the ideal location for a poor widow's cottage, and so on.

And, if that weren't bad enough, these forests often consist--dare I say--of trees just like the ones around us {maples, birches, aspen, and so on}, and, further, forest animals suspiciously like the ones we see every day {do I need to mention the word "deer"?}.

Clearly, we need to up the ante on our forest originality!

Need a gentle nudge to get your little gray cells thinking in the right direction? Here are a few things to think of when crafting fantasy forests.

1. Color: Maybe color doesn't matter in the least in your story. So what? Go ahead, make your forest an unusual shade of titanium gray, dove white, or perfume pink, and I guarantee it'll make you think a little deeper about the structure, biology, and cosmology of your fantasy universe as a whole! Just compare it to our forests in autumn or spring--and, really, who needs a boring old green forest?

2. Type of tree: The first thought that comes to mind when I hear the word "tree" is a tall object with branches and leaves. But not necessarily! What if you had a forest made of poles, like a bamboo forest? Or if you had a forest made of gigantic mushrooms? Or a forest of large, fluffy objects that grow on stems {think Dr. Seuss}? The possibilities are literally endless!

3. Use of forest: Honesty, you do not need a forest to conceal your poor dear kidnapped princess. There are so many more clever alternatives involving toothpicks and particularly skilled swordsmen--not to mention imagination. But, let's say you do need that forest for the princess. What if, at the same time, you made the forest come to life, as with the Ents and trees in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? Then your princess not only faces the task of getting away from her captors, but also somehow befriending or battling the trees to get out. Much more original, aye?

I certainly hope that those are enough questions to get you thinking the best ways to combat boring old forests. I'll also post some public domain pictures below for further inspiration :)