When was the last time a book REALLY resonated with you? The book that, rather than end up in this summer’s yard sale is actually rubber-banded together because you’ve literally read it to pieces but can’t find a replacement copy anywhere? The one you can recite entire passages from? The one you recommend to everyone and their cousin?
What makes that book so special? So powerful? have you ever stopped to think about where the magic comes from? How the author pulls character and theme and emotion and drama all together?
For me, I grew up with epic fantasy and sci fi — from reading CS Lewis and Tolkien to watching Star Wars. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized they all have a common thread–a scholar/teacher named Joseph Campbell. the eminent mythology expert of the 20th century. The man who made it his life’s work to study stories and storytelling, the universal themes, what all cultures’ storytelling and mythology have in common. Why people are still drawn over and over to the good-defeats-evil, David-beats-Goliath, good-guy-always-gets-the-girl HEA. There’s so much chaos and negativity in the world that it’s great to be able to curl up with a tale and know the good guys are gonna win.
“And they lived Happily Ever After. THE END.”
What do you look for in a story? Great characters you can identify with? Believable problems and solutions? Exotic locales? Grand adventures? Tales that weave emotion through every page, where you laugh and cry and worry and wonder along with the characters?
See if this pattern looks familiar:
- Little hero/ine in a sucky spot, wants things to change
- Little hero/ine think “What can I do? It’s too big for me”
- Last straw breaks the camel’s back and little hero/ine thinks “Enough already” and off s/he goes to change things
- Meets their ideal hero/ine, sparks fly
- Various adventure, mayhem & disasters ensue, w/betrayal & death & rescues & lessons learned
- Hero & Heroine fall in love but it’ll never work (see above various & sundry complications)
- Black moment when all hope is lost
- Wondrous solving of the problem, character growth & triumphant return (this is where the villain gets his/her butt kicked)
- THE END
The above template is my variation on “The Hero’s Journey” by Joseph Campbell, the Holy Grail of storytelling. It’s a wondrous journey with infinite variety. An adventure, an escape with fabulously real lands (even if they’re not real at all), weird food, bad weather, horrific villains with evil plans, the occasional noble death, brave and sassy heroines and smoking hot heroes. Any combination of the above. Anything goes!
The magic’s in the journey–and the triumph in the end.
Ever cheer at the end of a movie? Ever hug a book you’ve just finished reading? Ever write an author to say “This book changed me/my life”?
Ever frantically search for a rubber band to keep from losing one single page of the third copy of your favorite book? (Okay, THAT book for me is Barbara Hambly’s “The Ladies of Mandrigyn” from DelRey, 1984, ISBN 0345309197)
So I cut my teeth on epic fantasy–Tolkien and Terry Brooks and LOTR and Willow. As a writer, I have my award-winning Guardians of Light fantasy romance series with Samhain Publishing. I love books where stuff happens.
Growing up reading Terry Brooks and Mercedes Lackey, the minute I discovered romance novels it was inevitable I’d write fantasy romance. A history buff, from Ancient Greece thru Dark Ages thru Medieval, I’m a Navy brat & cop’s kid and the only vet tech in a family of nurses. It all comes together–fantasy, action, romance, heroics and lots of critters!
My newest release is Riever’s Heart, Bk 5 in Guardians of Light series, coming 9/27/11. The hero Daq Aryk is a human riever, barbarian. Prince of thieves. He dreams of becoming more, uniting his fractious clans into a single nation. Talk about your uphill battle!
Never doubt the power of a dream. With the strength of will to see it through, anything is possible!