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Thursday, December 9, 2010

"The Nature of Fantasy"

One of the literary inspirations that I named in my previous post was The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, and I have been recently rereading my way through the series (it gets more delightful and thought-provoking every time I do). I always read the author's notes and introductions at the beginning of every book I read, and in Mr. Alexander's note on book 3 of the series, The Castle of Llyr, he says this: "The nature of fantasy allows happenings which reveal most clearly our own frailties and our own strengths." I had to stop and smile as I pondered the truth of this statement, because it so perfectly sums up why I love fantasy and why I write fantasy. Fantasy as a genre is a unique vessel for the transmittal of truth. A successful fantasy author will transmit truth in such a fashion that the reader will not even realize that they are being "taught" as they read; they will absorb the truth as a part of the story because that truth found in the story resonates with the moral compass within us all. In order for this resonance to take place, however, the reader must find something with which to relate within the story, and that usually happens through good characterization. Let's face it, nobody in real life is going to find himself or herself actually sucked out of this world and deposited into a new world with magic and magical creatures, right? BUT, somebody might be struggling with a particular issue (such as depression or loneliness) that causes them to relate to a character in a book that is going through the same issue. The beauty of fantasy is that it clearly contains heroes and villains, and the reader should relate to the hero in all of his or her struggles and seek to overcome those struggles as the hero does. The genre removes the reader from real life, however, helping this lesson not to feel overly didactic or too much like a self-help book. To bring this closer to home, I've made it no secret that Darcy in my books is very autobiographical. In a way the first book was a public confession of my early teenage flaws. Some of the most beautiful feedback that I've received on my books has come from parents who have told me that their teenage daughters really relate to Darcy. I think that this must be because Darcy reveals to them their own frailties in a (hopefully) non-offensive manner. My hope would next be, of course, that as Darcy grows and changes in the story, that she would also reveal to my younger readers their strengths as well, and how they might find strength in this life.

My discussion on this quote did not come out exactly as I wanted it to, but I hope that you all get the idea anyhow. My guess is that if you are a reader of fantasy, you will read that quote and, like me, nod and smile to yourself because you know how true it is. I would be interested to read some comments on this!

(I'm inserting a link to Amazon where you can purchase The Chronicles of Prydain if you're interested. They make a great gift for readers of all ages and have a male main character for those of you with sons who think that they would more enjoy reading about a boy than a girl. Just click on the title above.)

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