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The Writer’s Tag – A Sort of Resume

I love tags and memes.  Have I mentioned that?  So when I came across Lana’s post, and saw that she tagged any reader who wanted to do it, I was immediately interested.

The tag covers all kinds of subjects, which is why it feels like a unique writer’s resume–but a fun resume.  🙂

What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

Genres – Mostly Crossover!

Half the stories I write or plan to write are genre crossovers.  The story set in the tropics in the year 1781 looks at face value like a high-seas and island adventure with the necessary pirates.  But it’s actually a mystery, one with an island setting (and therefore called “Island Mystery” at the moment.  Aren’t I clever? 🙂 )  The semi-western story has the trappings of a typical pioneer story–but it’s actually a fantasy-of-manners set in the 1820s–30s west/southwest.  And with an emphasis on politics.  My British political novel looks like…well, a political novel–and it is, but it’s technically alternate history and social critique.  And my steampunk story looks like any number of genres, but is a solid combo of steampunk, social sci-fi, hard sci-fic, and social critique.

Now that I think about it, a lot of my stories could be listed under “social critique” as well.

The funny thing is, I didn’t plan on writing genre crossovers–I just thought, “Hey, what if X historical event happened differently?  And I’m annoyed by Y, so let’s make that a plot point as well.”  Or whatever.

The only problem is how to market these stories.  I read an article that recommended putting it like this: “It’s a (particular genre), but folks who like (other genre) might also enjoy it.”  Except that my crossovers thus far have been so solidly blended that to market one genre would ignore another key foundation of the story.  I’ll figure it out, hopefully before I publish anything.

Styles – It Varies

Really, this varies with the story setting and time period.  If the story is set in 1830s America, I try to match the general style of language in letters and diaries from the time.  If the story is set in the 1890s (such as my steampunk story), I try to match the style of novels written during the turn of the century.  I read a lot of period fiction written during the same decade of my story to get an idea of the style of the day.

However, the writing styles I aspire to generally are Dickens, Bronte, and Tolkien.

Topics – Rather Obscure

If any of you readers know of stories with these kinds of topics, feel free to say so!

Settings in the 1820s–30s

British, American, Irish, you name it–a lot of my stories are set in these decades. I think it’s my tendency to explore the ignored questions/aspects of history; compared to the more popular Regency, Victorian, and Wild West eras, the 1820s–30s are slightly obscure.  Which baffles me, because interesting things were happening socially and politically in both England and America!  On the other hand, I have a taste for social mechanisms and political complexities, so this could be a personal preference thing.  Speaking of…

Politics

I cannot keep politics out of my stories.  I’ve tried.  It keeps slipping in.  Of the 10 novels I’m planning/writing, only 3 don’t feature politics…and even then one of those three might make political statements in the subtext.

Tejanos (Mexican Texians)

This began after I watched the 2004 film The Alamo and re-read the American Girl Josefina stories.  Now, at least five stories feature Mexican characters!

Multitudinous Character Casts

Blame Dickens and Tolkien for this one.  I’m not afraid to cut characters who end up being superfluous (though they often reappear in a different story), but I definitely start with a large cast.

Couples who marry long before the story ends

This happens in nearly every story!  It’s just more interesting to see how the couple pursues their goals with a significant other.  Anyway, romance in my stories often contributes to the main plot–usually as a further exploration of a character’s values, goals, and motives–but at the same time isn’t the ultimate point.

As such, I’ve wondered whether to keep who-ends-up-with-whom a secret.  One the one hand, it’s almost pointless if the couple gets together before the end.  On the other, I do like to be careful about spoilers.  What do you readers think?


How long have you been writing?

Officially since I was 12 or 13; un-officially all my life.  I’ve been making up stories as long as I can remember, usually adventures with the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings characters.  One of my favorite stories to play was having these characters stumble into our world around the time the movies were released, and me and my other friends having to keep them hidden–otherwise, fans of the movies would freak out and mob them, or blackmail them, or try to turn them into celebrities.

When I was little, I did write and illustrate a six-book series (in the style of the American Girls books) starring me and my 100-Acre Wood friends.  These stories were published by School Scissors & Stapler, Inc., despite having no plot whatsoever, only vignettes that somehow connected in my six-year-old-mind.  🙂

Then at age 12, I got a idea about a some kids who stumble into another world (so original!) and journey across the mountains with grown-up comrades.  It seemed like the best idea ever, so I began to write it down, and never looked back.  Even though that story never panned out, it gave me the discipline and momentum to write more stories!


Why do you write?

Because I have stories in my imagination that I want to read someday!  I also love exploring my own thoughts and ideas and intriguing concepts through writing (one of many reasons why I cannot write a short story–simply not enough time to flesh out a concept!).

I also love creating and playing with characters.  They provide a good mirror of reality, and often help me see life in a new way.


When is the best time to write?

I grab any time available.  I prefer to write in the early morning (don’t laugh; I do prefer this even if my habits are night-owlish) and definitely prefer silence and solitude.  However, I’ve learned to tune out my surroundings–closing my eyes helps and helps me focus on my mental image–and stick earbuds in to block noise.  🙂


What parts of writing do you love, and what parts do you hate?

Love:

  • That flash of inspiration for a character idea/story idea I know is good
  • On a similar note, the thrill of a new idea
  • Ideas coming together, especially after a struggle to get them there
  • Creating and developing characters
  • Writing a scene I know is awesome!
  • Writing more than I thought I would during the allotted time
  • Getting other people interested in my ideas and getting great feedback
  • Exploring my own ideas, clarifying my thinking through writing, and inspiring myself by it!
  • Writing characters I absolutely love
  • Writing fun or fluffy scenes as a break from dark or dangerous plot threads

Hate:

  • Short stories.  Not enough to work with, people; come on, give me concepts to flesh out!
  • Having to write scenes that are boring, but necessary to the plot
  • Having to cut a plot or character I like (though I often re-use them in another story)
  • When the characters won’t talk to me and explain what they want to do in the story!
  • Non-writers assuming that (a) I’ll have a book finished fairly soon and (b) I’ll definitely get it published
  • Repeated questions about when the book will be finished and published
  • Consistently having to say “no, not finished yet” to the above questions
  • Knowing people are judging/confused about this
  • No, I’m not annoyed by that; why do you ask?
  • Having a whole day/hour/block of time to write and NO IDEAS
  • Writing slower than I expected to

How do you overcome writer’s block?

One of two ways: muscle through it, or take a break.

I  start with the first and often ask, “Okay, what is the problem?  Why is writing this character so hard/planning this segment so difficult?”  After a little thinking, I’m usually able to realize that I’m forcing the character into a box rather than letting him do his own thing, or that I don’t know the character well enough, or that there isn’t enough conflict in this part of the story, or that a plot thread doesn’t contribute to the point.  Identifying the problem shows me what to focus on instead, e.g. I need to get to know this character better, or to remove those ideas that don’t contribute.

If I’ve tried all that and remain stuck, I take a break.  I’ll get unstuck eventually.   🙂


Are you working on something at this moment?

Yes, the semi-western (with a working title of Gentle Fire).  I also jot ideas for other stories as they come!


What are your writing goals this year?

Well, I intended to finish a draft of Gentle Fire  by the end of the year…but the year is half over and I’ve barely started.  Not sure whether to keep that ambition and get as close as possible to the goal, or to drop it in favor of something more attainable.  Beyond that, I’m really not sure; new health problems have cropped up, and I need to manage the symptoms and work around difficult nights/days.  So I generally take it day by day, e.g. today, I’ll do a little character development and draft the rest of that scene, and then we’ll see.

Okay, I tag Julia and Bella, if they’re interested!

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Overcoming Perfectionism While Drawing

This ties in to my first “Writing Tips for Perfectionist” post, though I’m applying the principle to artwork, not writing.  (But I’ll post about applying the principle to writing later!)  This particular post is a cross between a colored pencil walk through and an anti-perfectionism tutorial.  🙂

While reading about the triumph of the Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I got such a vivid mental picture of the scene–with such dynamic perspective and atmosphere– that I had to capture it.  The first sketch…

…only the angle didn’t match my mental image (from the perspective of a viewer looking up the hill at the crowd). After a few more attempts, I realized the drawing needed to be taller than wider.  Sketch #2:

Only that still didn’t match my mental image, which was as sharp as a photograph and as dramatic as any Romantic painting.

So then I considered what I ultimately wanted to capture. Definitely the contrast between the torchlight/smoke and the moonlight.  Also the colors of cool night clashing with red torches; and the grotesque, undefined shapes of the crowd; and the upward perspective (to emphasize the seeming triumph); and the Witch with her crown on.

With that in mind, I refined the sketch, primarily the landscape and the key figures.

I fiddled with the composition to make sure the Witch and the stone table stood out…

The background crowd is just scribbles, because detailed depictions of each creature are not the point.  The sheer mass/numbers of them are.

I also held the sketch up to a mirror to reflect the image backward and check that nothing was abnormally crooked.  (The Witch was a little crooked, but it wasn’t noticeable unless you were looking for it, so I left the pose alone.)

I added the base colors and colored and rendered the stone table.  The color palette will be cool and dark with most of the detail on the Witch and the stone table.  (The dark green lines are there to remind me of the steepness of the hill so that I can shade it properly.)

The main light source is the moon, but I scribbled red over the crowd in places to show reflected torchlight.

Once the base colors were in place, I started darkening the sky (you can see the shadows in the upper left-hand corner).  The mass of creatures remained loose scribbles.  Later, I picked out highlights here and add shadows there to suggest creatures all grouped together, but only a few figures in the foreground were detailed.

An added bonus of knowing what I ultimately want for this drawing is that I’m not second-guessing my colors and composition.  Or pausing to assess how “good” it is–all I focused on are the colors and values and general composition.

The sky and torches are finished; the crowd got a little more rendering–though they’re still just varied scribbles at this point, except for the giant to the far left–and the stone table and the Witch have gotten a little more detailed.  I also started adding shadows under the stone table.

I somehow got green pencil shavings under my fingernails.  It’s both funny and perplexing–it’s never happened before!

Here, I added more darkness and shadows to the crowd, darkened some of the reflected red light, and began to pick out very general shapes near the front of the crowd.  You should be able to tell that it’s a mass of people grouped together, and that they aren’t ordinary people due to the giant on the left and the spider-shaped thing on the far right.  But you can’t see any detail when you look closely, and that’s okay.  I’m still going for a general atmosphere rather than photograph-sharp clarity.

I darkened and rendered the slope of the hill and added details to the Witch’s hair and robes.  The crowd got a few more shadows and a few highlights–I realized that the creatures under the moon were  darker than the ones on the left, further away from the moon.  Oops.  So I erased the right-hand crowed a bit, added the red highlights and deeper shadows to indicate contrast.  Still no detail, just general light and shadow.

And this drawing actually doesn’t have the dramatic angle perspective that my mental picture does.  But that’s okay, because I’m pleased with the colors and atmosphere!

After this stage, I set the drawing aside for the night and looked at it again the next morning.  The crowd needed a bit more rending to further suggest a group of creatures, and the atmosphere could use a few more torches.  The Witch also needed more detail–but not too much, since she’s so far away from the viewer.

I scribbled carefully in the crowd to suggest more shadows, and I added some torches and smoke in the background (they turned out very dark red/black, as I had to draw over the indigo sky).  Then I tried to render the Witch a bit more–but  detail was actually impossible, because she’s so far away.

I managed to erase the details I’d tried to draw, and I added a few red highlights on her hair and dress.  I also added a faint red mouth–but that’s all the detail that figure needed.

I then darkened some of the red highlights on the crowd.  After that, it seemed that the picture could use a little more tweaking…but since I didn’t know specifically where, and since the drawing had the atmosphere I imagined–I decided it was done!

 

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Further Narnia Musings – Of Logic, Motives, and More Headcanons

I’m re-reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and noticing new details, even though I’ve read and loved the books for 17 years.  For instance, the other day, I dissected Edmund’s argument to Peter in Chapter Six:

“Hush!  Not so loud,” said Edmund; “there’s no good frightening the girls.  But have you realized what we’re doing?” … “We’re following a guide we know nothing about.  How do we know which side that bird is on?  Why shouldn’t it be leading us into a trap?”

“That’s a nasty idea.  Still—a robin, you know.  They’re good birds in all the stories I’ve ever read.  I’m sure a robin wouldn’t be on the wrong side.”

“If it comes to that, which is the right side?  How do we know that the Fauns are in the right and the Queen (yes, I’ve been told she’s a witch) is in the wrong?  We don’t really know anything about either.”

“The Faun saved Lucy.”

“He said he did.  But how do we know?”

Edmund’s arguments seem to hint that seeking evidence and understanding presuppositions is the realm of skeptics, and that blind faith the habit of religious people.  And his first point is sound—they knew nothing about the guide (and Peter’s counter-argument is not that strong).  But look closely at the rest of Edmund’s argument—and his motives for making it.

Edmund has already sided with the Witch.  In fact, he knows she’s a Witch and knows she is dangerous; yet he doesn’t want to admit he’s wrong or give up his desire for glory (and more Turkish Delight).  His argument that “we don’t really know anything about either” is incorrect.  Yes, the children could seek more information about the situation.  But Edmund knew what the Witch had promised him and what she wanted in exchange.  And Lewis later reveals that his “beliefs” about the Queen were just an excuse: deep down, Edmund knew the Witch is bad and cruel.

He goes on to say that the Faun “said he [saved Lucy].  But how do we know?”  This is also incorrect.  Lucy said the Faun had saved her.  And Lucy had told the truth about Narnia, and Peter and Susan testified to the professor that Lucy always told the truth.  The strength of her word should have been reason enough to believe that the Faun did indeed save her.  Furthermore, the children had found Tumnus’s cave destroyed and a note inside condemning him for harboring spies and fraternizing with humans—which corroborated Lucy’s account and provided the children with more information about who the Witch was.

Thus, Edmund’s argument appears solid, but he deliberately omitted some information and misrepresented the rest.  And yes, the children would do well to gather more information about the situation.  But they were not operating on blind faith.  They did have evidence—and the testimony of someone who never lied.

And I don’t believe Lewis implied that seeking proof is wrong.  Peter says only moments later to Mr. Beaver, “Not meaning to be rude [about determining whether he’s a friend] … but you see, we’re strangers.”  And to this, Mr. Beaver shows his token of truth: the handkerchief Lucy had given to Mr. Tumnus.  Lucy recognizes it, and if it had any monogram or distinctive feature, the others should also have recognized it as hers.  (In fact, it makes sense that there was some kind of identification on the handkerchief; a plain white one could belong to anyone, and that handkerchief had passed through a couple of hands already.  It must have had something that made Lucy recognize it as hers.)  It’s common sense to gather evidence and discern it—but in this case, Edmund simply didn’t want to admit that the Witch (and therefore himself), was wrong.

Even while under the sway of the Witch, however, Edmund put together an argument that at least looked solid—and he did have valid points about following a guide they knew nothing about and the chance of getting back home (although perhaps he wanted to weaken Peter’s faith in who was right, as Edmund intended to bring his siblings to the Witch, not back home).  This and other details scattered through the series created my belief that Edmund is the logical one, not Susan.  Susan is practical and sensible—but Edmund generally sees (and points out) what should be obvious.  He seems to be the thinker sort, but without being stereotypically quiet.  If anything, he speaks his mind and is incredibly straightforward.

Head canon set #4:

Caspian doesn’t lose his temper often, but he he does, it ain’t pretty. (Canon-based; see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.)

He is easygoing by nature, but also stands firm when necessary.

Susan is what we call an “old soul”.   Lewis says she was “no good at schoolwork (though otherwise very old for her age).”

She also likes to dance, and she’s good at it.

Edmund couldn’t care less about this, so Peter usually dances with Susan when she wants to.

Susan is the tidiest of the four, and she gets frustrated with her siblings for leaving their stuff out.

Edmund, for instance, leaves his books and papers literally anywhere.

That said, he usually remembers where he puts his belongings.

When he forgets (or when somebody moves them), he gripes about the problem until the missing items are located.

Peter can’t be bothered to tidy all his stuff, though he’s often in a hurry or just preoccupied.

And he has a nasty habit of letting dirty socks pile up under the bed.

Needless to say, the boys’ room is a mess.

Which drives Susan nuts.

Lucy also makes a mess when she works on a project; she works best in creative chaos.

Contrary to the Pevensies, Caspian is actually rather tidy.

Lucy’s favorite color is purple: not dark purple, but a soft lavender shade.

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T-Swift Book Tag!

Bella tagged me the other day for this really creative tag—one using titles of various Taylor Swift songs.  And I’m a sucker for blog tags, so this is going to be fun!

1. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

(Pick a book or series that you were pretty sure you were in love with, but then wanted to break up with)

This was a fantasy series, and a fantasy series written by a Christian.  So the stories wouldn’t have demonic magic and other fantasy elements I objected to, right?

Well…no, there weren’t any of those elements.  But the writing style was hard to read; there was so much description (repeat: so much description) in the prologue that I actually lost my mental image of the scene.  A form of sensory overload, I guess.  The writing style continued flowery and redundant through the rest of the story, and it read as an attempted mimicry of Tolkien’s simple grandeur.  (Spoiler alert: it failed.)  The writing was so bad in some parts, that I took a pencil and actually struck through phrases and rewrote them in the margins.  That soothed my tortured editor’s soul.

And out of the 15+ characters, I half-liked only one and truly liked only two—and one of those two characters was a really minor one.  I did enjoy this series reading it for the first time while the twists of the story were new.  But when I read it a second time, I could barely get through the first ten chapters.  Definitely never getting back together, and if I read this series again, it will be only to review it.

2. Red

(Pick a book with a RED cover)

REEED!  THE BLOOD OF ANGRY MEEEEEN!  BL–oh, wait.  Although that’s not too far off the mark…

I never thought I would like The Hunger Games series.  But though Suzanne Collins wrote some pretty dark and depressing twists, they serve a purpose in the story—they make a point about humanity.  Nobody decent ever wins the Games because in a gladiator style fight-to-the-death contest, nobody really can.  She’s brutally honest about how each Victor bought his or her freedom at a dear price, and were often haunted the rest of their lives by what happened during their fight in each Hunger Games.  She did not create a world that a young, feisty teen heroine could escape with nary a scratch, physical or moral.  If anything, her characters are struggling to survive in a world that makes beasts of them all—and fighting for survival more than anything else.

But the story isn’t nonstop darkness either.  The exception to all the points above is Peeta Mellark.  Peeta chooses not stoop to the level of the shallow Capitol citizens or the Tributes and Victors so desperate for survival.  And his actions show the other characters that they can do the right thing regardless of circumstances, that they can choose another path.  Most of them don’t, but Peeta’s example is still there, as a silent contrast to the mistakes everyone else makes.

3. The Best Day

(Pick a book that makes you feel nostalgic)

Long before The Lord of the Rings hit the bookshelves, Professor Tolkien made up a wondrous world for his children: the world of the North Pole, home of Father Christmas.  Letters were left by the fireplace on Christmas Eve, written in shaky old handwriting, that related the anecdotes of Father Christmas, his assistant the North Polar Bear, the Red and Green Elves, and various other characters.

I love this book because of those funny anecdotes, Tolkien’s style of writing, and the pictures that accompany the letters.  I read this book every Christmas, and I often read parts of it to my brothers as well—they laugh heartily at some of the rhymes at the end!

4. Love Story

(Pick a book with forbidden love)

Can I skip this one?  Stories built around romance aren’t my thing, and forbidden romance strikes me as awfully melodramatic.  I would rather read about a couple who marries early in the story and learns to love each other and put up with each other on a daily basis (and not as a comedy either.)

Which is why I’m writing such a story.  🙂

5. I Knew You Were Trouble

(Pick a book with a bad character you couldn’t help but love)

Heh.  Bad behavior in fictional characters instantly severs my respect.  (Same thing happens with real people.)  But one character I’m fascinated by (though certainly don’t love) is Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights.

Heathcliff is rotten to the core, but intelligent, cunning, forceful, and charismatic enough to get away with it.  He’s often described as “gipsy” brown, but nobody really knows his ethnicity.  Which adds to the mystery of who he is—and on that note, nobody knows who his parents were.  (People have speculated that Heathcliff is Mr. Earnshaw’s illegitimate son, but given the way the Emily Bronte portrayed Heathclif’s character and influence, I think she purposefully kept his parentage a mystery for the sake of mystery.  Anyway, if Heathcliff was Mr. Earnshaw’s son, even illegitimately, that revelation could have been a game-changer for the plot—for instance, the romance would become near-incest.  The Brontes were messed up, but not that messed up.)

So Heathcliff is intriguing because of the mysteries surrounding him and because of the forcefulness of his character and cunning.  Being passionately in love does not dull this man’s wits; rather, it sharpens them.  Unfortunately for the rest of the characters.  Ladies, do you really want to crush on a guy who nearly bashed in the head of a five-year-old as revenge on the kid’s father?  You might want to change the caption of your Pinterest pins from “Heathcliff my Love” to “get this guy a restraining order, pronto.”  Although odds are, he would ignore that piece of paper.  Heathcliff is a fascinating character, but a terrifying one.  It’s almost like watching a tornado—you want to get out of there, yet you can’t look away.

6. Innocent

(Pick a book that someone ruined the ending for)

Actually, I tend to spoil the books myself.  If I’m not sure a book will be worth my time, I look up reviews before buying it (therefore running into multiple spoilers).  Or if I don’t really care about the story, but kinda want to know what happens, I’ll skip ahead and read a bit.  (So naughty.)

A book that fell into the first category, was The Ale Boy’s Feast.

That cover art, though…

I loved the first book in the series, skipped the second because I disagreed with some plot elements, liked the third book, but wasn’t sure this last would be worth my time.  So I tracked down enough reviews to get a basic idea of what happens .  I finally decided to take the risk—and boy, was it worth it!  And the story still revealed twists that I hadn’t anticipated.

A book in the second category (don’t care enough to finish; curious enough to peek ahead) was Two Crosses.  I really didn’t care about the characters but vaguely wanted to know what happened.  So I skipped ahead a bit to read.  And got freaked out by one of the story twists, and then lost interest and never finished the book.

7. Everything Has Changed

(Pick a character from a book who goes through extensive character development)

You knew this was coming–Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities

Sydney first appears in such a slovenly state that he looks almost debauched.  Second impressions don’t change this image; he’s drunk, rude, and apathetic about his work and his life.  Or rather, he seems to be apathetic.  Early on, Dickens shows us flashes of remorse, humanity, and lost hope that keeps readers from writing Sydney off as a hopeless case.  (And unlike Heathcliff, there is nothing charismatic about him either.)  Through hints dropped through the story, we learn that Sydney was once a bright young student, but lost hope or lost purpose, and came to hate himself, to drink because of it, and to despise himself further.

But through Charles Darnay’s silent example, and Lucie Manett’s compassion and kindness, Sydney begins to see himself in a newer light: to see himself for what he is, but also to see what he could be.  Neither Charles nor Lucie writes him off as hopeless; they treat him as a normal human being while not glossing over his faults either; this creates a very clear mirror for Sydney to appraise himself.  Lucie’s compassion and kindness touch him in particular; and he begins to hope again.

He makes little efforts never to appear drunk before the Darnay family, but he does not actually change his habits and behavior until near the end of the story.  When conflict is at its hardest for the Darnays and their friends, Sydney sets in motion a selfless plot, sticks to it like steel, and remembers Scripture for the first time in years while wandering the streets of Paris.  I really can’t describe his transformation with justice; read the book yourself.

8. You Belong With Me

(Pick your most anticipated book release)

My own novels.  🙂

Hoho, sorry, couldn’t resist.  Only that won’t be for another 17 years.

One book I anticipated before its release was Rachel Starr Thomson’s Coming Day, the final book in her Seventh World Trilogy.

I’ll probably always have nostalgic and grateful feelings for this series because I read it while writing my first trilogy.  Reading these books and keeping up with Rachel’s blog gave 17-year-old novice writer me the encouragement to keep plugging away.

9. Forever and Always

(Pick your favorite book couple)

I have to say Jane and Rochester from Jane Eyre.  What I like about this pairing is that they fall in love, not because of their looks (she was plain, he was “ugly” according to the male beauty standards of the day), but because of their intelligence, and because of their personalities.  Falling in love also happens overtime and in very mundane ways.  And they must go through trials before they can be together.  While these difficulties are indeed external, they reflect the important need for internal change.  Jane has to fix her priorities (she confesses that she’d made an idol of Rochester), and Rochester must be humbled before they can be together.

I complained about melodramatic forbidden love earlier, even though, to a degree, the romance in Jane Eyre is exactly that.  But Bronte got away with it because she made me care about both characters, and because Jane’s and Rochester’s actions grow organically, out of the circumstances and personalities already established.

BONUS QUESTIONS! (Added by Bella)

10. Never Grow Up

(A book you read when you’re feeling sad/emotional)

This book is hilarious, guys.  A series of personal anecdotes by the authors (cousins, who were both home schooled) shows just how funny mishaps, accidents, and family quirks can be if you look at them with the right attitude.  The authors describe their crazy, fun, hectic life with good humor and a wise outlook on life.  When I first read this book, I laughed out loud at every other paragraph!

11. Begin Again

(A book you’ve read multiple times but always go back to it because it’s that good)

The Chronicles of Narnia, and…

The Lord of the Rings!  I grew up with these books, and I’ve been reading them for 17 years (in the case of the Narnia books) and 13 years (in the case of LotR).  And every time I reread them, I notice something new, either about the characters, the story themes, the writing style, the symbolism, or…I could go on, but I’d like to keep these descriptions short.  🙂

12. Starlight

(A book you hid in bed with/fell asleep reading)

This one, but only because I just wanted to finish and be done with it.  No offense to the author, but 3/4 of the way through, I still didn’t understand what the point was.

13. I Know Places

(The number one book you would take on a long trip away from home)

Going to borrow one of Bella’s answers and say The Hobbit.  Maybe because journeying is a prime theme of the book?  Or maybe because, like Bilbo, I would rather be home than abroad.  Unless the destination was San Antonio, Texas, in which case, I’m off like a shot from an 18-pounder.

Look at this gorgeous edition my grandmother bought me!

14. Change

(A book you’ve never read but want and plan to)

I want to read this one only because it looks like an interesting social critique/commentary, as well as a remark on human nature.

I also want to read Watership Down someday; Julia recommended it, and it’s her favorite book.  (I would showcase a picture, but our copy seems to have disappeared.)

BONUS QUESTIONS 2!  (Added by Christine)

15. Long Live

(A modern book you think should be a classic or a classic that should be more widely read today)

First category:

Part adventure and part mystery, this story is about four children recruited as secret agents by kindly Mr. Benedict.  He suspects that the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened is hiding a dreadful secret, and since it is an academy for children, child agents are the only ones who have a chance.  That, and children are so easily overlooked by adults that his team should be able to find critical information before it’s too late.

The mystery grows darker and deeper as the story goes on–and though the book was written for children, and children are the heroes, adults will find this story very deep and thought-provoking.  Particularly how the students and staff on the island are manipulated by very cunning mind control.  When I first read this story, I couldn’t put it down, and I think it deserves to become a classic.

Second category (classic that should be more widely read):

This is Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone.  (You can’t tell by cover; this edition is from 1944.)  It’s one of the most confounding mysteries I’ve ever read, with false clues and red herrings galore.  The whole reason the mystery of the stolen diamond arose is pretty mundane—but the red herrings, and misleading clues are what make it so fascinating.  Also the fact that each part of the story has a different narrator, and, just as in real life, you kinda have to sift motives and figure out just how colored everyone’s perspective is.  And even the most biased narrations reveal new story layers and clues that carry over into the next bit.

I think this one should be more widely read because of the unique narrative style and the twists and turns the mystery takes.

16. Mean

(A book you have a personal vendetta against for whatever reason)

Hoo boy.  I actually have a long list of books that annoy/anger me.  But the top series for this category would be the Elsie Dinsmore books (the Life of Faith reboots, that is; I’ve never read the originals).

Elsie annoys me because she’s too perfect at age eight for me to relate to.  I get that the writers are trying to set an example, but come on.  That amount of perfection in an eight-year-old is bound to make us hate her.  Because unlike Elsie, the rest of us have a sin nature.

Okay, I’m being snarky.  But Elsie never really messes up or makes serious mistakes that she has to learn from—her struggles are usually inflicted upon her by the other characters.  And she’s so spiritually mature at age eight that there’s no room for growth or improvement.  That, I think, is the fatal flaw of the series.  In real life, sanctification and growing more like Christ is a process, learned through studying the Bible, observing others, making mistakes, going through trials, and so on.  Stories intended to enlighten and encourage should reflect that, should show that growth process rather than portray near-perfection at the start.  And yes, there’s a place for setting an example via a noble character (Frodo Baggins from LotR is one of my favorite characters of all time), but here on this earth, nobody is going to attain perfection.  And I think stories should reflect that, but should also show characters striving to be more like Christ.

17.  Safe & Sound

(A “comfort book”)

Definitely the American Girl Josefina series!  I love Josefina’s character: sweet, but determined; shy, but with a spine of steel and high hopes.  She has such close, loving relationships with her sisters and her father, and the rancho where they live is a setting both unique and familiar–it’s pretty much a farm, just set in the Spanish West world.  I love the descriptions of weaving blankets, celebrating Christmas, trading in Santa Fe, the New Mexico summers and fandangos.

I had so much fun with this tag!  Thanks to Bella for tagging me!

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Even More Narnia Musings

I’ve been thinking about the characters on and off all weekend, about their amazing differences and strengths.  I even created character boards on Pinterest for Peter, Susan, Edmund, Lucy, and Caspian.  And I’ll probably create more Narnia character boards later.

I also want to read the books again soon and draw the characters.  It’s about time somebody drew Caspian with blond hair–I’ve seen only one artist do that (artist Dawn D. Davidson, although I can’t find her DeviantArt account now.  She must have deactivated it).

Headcanon collection #3:

  • Never underestimate how righteously indignant Edmund can get on behalf of his friends and family.
  • He can be found with a book half the time.
  • The other half of the time, he’s out and about, playing sports or going somewhere important.
  • Edmund’s middle name is James.  (I’ve had that headcanon ever since I was a kid!)
  • He decided to go to Oxford after graduating school.
  • Caspian wears this silver pendant thing while sailing on the Dawn Treader.  No idea why; he just likes it.
  • Once Caspian becomes close to the Pevensies, he lets himself be far more cheerful and informal* and generally says what he thinks.
  • And the Pevensies are the only friends he can do that with.  (Doctor Cornelius was more of a guide and tutor than a comrade).
  • Caspian prefers casual or informal outfits to court finery.  He never feels fully himself when all dressed up.
  • Susan is kinesthetic** (a hands-on learner).  One reason she’s so good at archery, but not much good at schoolwork.
  • She is also good at handling interpersonal conflict.  She’s gracious yet focused.
  • There are times, however, when she gets very annoyed with others’ stubbornness and rudeness.
  • Susan likes wearing simple but pretty sweaters.
  • Lucy likes to paint with watercolors.  And always makes a huge mess on the table with her papers and paints.
  • Paint often ends up in Lucy’s hair.
  • Susan insists on combing Lucy’s hair after a painting episode and scrubbing out any color.
  • Therefore, Lucy took to cleaning up her paints in record time and fleeing the general area until Susan was thoroughly involved in something else.
  • Which is how Lucy made it out the door once with a streak of purple paint in her yellow hair.
  • Actually, she cleans her art mess only half the time.  The other half finds her abandoning the project for another interesting activity.  (She would get distracted while waiting for the paint to dry.)
  • Similar incidents of books/playthings/games/projects abandoned in this manner can usually be traced to Lucy.
  • If Peter needs the dining room table when Lucy’s paints are out, he (gently) pushes the paint supplies to the middle of the table and uses the cleared end.
  • Edmund just sets his books and papers amid the mess and works around it.
  • Peter hates visiting the Scrubbs (before Eustace was un-dragoned, especially).  There’s very little to do, the food is revolting, and he always gets the idea that Aunt Alberta judges his parents for their lifestyle choices–among other things, the schools they chose for their children, the storybooks they let them read, and the activities they let them do.
  • Not to mention that Eustace acts as though he is superior to his elder cousins because of his great knowledge of Facts.  Peter knows good and well that Eustace would be overwhelmed by any real scrape, and tries to keep an eye on him whenever there’s a possibility of something going wrong.
  • Aunt Alberta dislikes Peter because of his take-charge and protective nature.  She fears he will grow up to be a demeaning sort of person.
  • Susan tries to be gracious and welcoming whenever her cousins come over, and listens patiently (if reluctantly) to Eustace’s endless recitation of Facts and Aunt Alberta’s feminist lectures.
  • Edmund hides when his cousins come over.
  • Lucy finds his hiding places and joins him.  Before LWW, this was the only thing he would willingly share with his little sister.
  • Occasionally, Peter finds their hiding places and requires that his siblings come out and be polite to their guests, while admitting it was the last thing he wanted to do himself.  But that made no difference–they had to be respectful.
  • Other times, however, Peter just lets them hide, not wanting to subject them to this rot.

*Canon based, actually.  Look at the difference between his behavior around his men, the governor of the Lone Islands, and Ramandu and his daughter, and his behavior around the Pevensies.

**Also canon based.  Lewis said she was not much good at schoolwork (though otherwise old for her age)–and that she was good at more hands-on activities.

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More Narnia Musings

It occurred to me the other day that Lewis never stated the race of the Telmarines.  All he said was that they were pirates who roamed the south seas.  They could have been of any nationality.  But since Caspian is described (in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) as blond, and his aunt Prunaprismia is described as red-haired, that seems to indicate European heritage.

But the Telmarines probably had south seas native heritage mixed in, as Prince Caspian says that these pirates “took the native women for wives.”  On the other hand, Lewis generally specified if someone’s coloring was darker (or in the case of the White Witch, lighter) than the European norm.  Which seems into indicate that the Telmarines may have at least looked more European than anything else.

On a different note, I’ve seen some misconceptions about the Pevensies floating around.  Namely, that Edmund is a sassy prankster, that Peter is the more level-headed, grounded one, and that Susan is the logical, down-to-earth one.  I think this is all from movie influence.  The books’ descriptions are different.  Peter, to start with, is not only bold and adventurous, he’s the one who totally understands a kid’s propensity to hide and play jokes.  He even points out how Lucy could do it better: “You’ll have to hide longer than that if you want people to start looking for you.”

Edmund, on the other hand, is straightforward (“If you’re not still too high and mighty to talk to me, I’ve something to say which you’d better listen to”), logical, and down-to-earth.  In LWW, he points out that they were following a guide they knew nothing about, and probably couldn’t get home from there.  In PC, he was bugged by the unexplained fact that Cair Paravel had become a ruin in a single year–and he’s the one who figures out the time difference between the worlds.  His plan for following the coast and the streams to Aslan’s How was incredibly simple and logical–he just forgot to factor in geographical changes because of that time difference.  (He was also still a kid; give him a break.)  In VDT, he is said to have read several detective stories, and he’s the one who pointed out the strangeness of the finding clothes and weapons scattered on one island, but no body and no bones and no signs of a fight.  Nowhere in the books do I see evidence that Edmund would be a sassy prankster; and he grew up to be a “graver, quieter man than Peter”.

Susan is practical, but not inherently logical.  In fact, in some instances, she is downright illogical; in PC, she is too afraid to see Aslan at first, even after Lucy had been twice proven right, and (as time went by) the testimony of the siblings who could see Aslan should have convinced her.

More head canons:

  • Susan loves reading her mother’s old Good Housekeeping magazines.
  • She also taught herself to knit to help the war effort.
  • Her outfits are simple and stylish, but she doesn’t pay that much attention to her looks (Lewis doesn’t describe her as focused on appearance until The Last Battle).
  • Peter is dedicated and responsible, but if a duty isn’t pressing, he pauses to have some fun with his siblings.
  • I see Peter being, not focused on his looks, but after that first trip to Narnia, a more or less neat and/or sharp dresser.
  • Edmund, by contrast, couldn’t care less about his appearance and dress, and even while a King of Narnia, favored a simpler style.
  • Edmund is somewhat bookish.
  • He also has a sweet tooth (though this is based in canon: in PC, the trees’ food looks so much like chocolate that he tries a piece of it).
  • Lucy is the only morning person of the four of them.  Edmund is the hardest to wake up in the morning.
  • Lucy goes barefoot whenever possible in the summer.
  • She also likes climbing trees.
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Random Narnia Musings

I thought about the Narnia Chronicles last night and the characters (really need to read the books again)–and I realized something interesting about Prince Caspian.  There is a time gap between the end of the duel and battle and the gathering in which Aslan sends the Pevensies back to England.  The book says:

Next day messengers (who were chiefly squirrels and birds) were sent all over the country with a proclamation …

All over the country, mind you, which must have taken some time.  Lewis doesn’t specify how long that time gap is, but it had to be lengthy enough for the messengers to travel throughout Narnia, for the Telmarines to talk over the  matter among themselves, and then for the Telmarines to travel to the glade of Aslan’s gathering on the appointed day.  I’d estimate two to three weeks, since humans can’t travel as fast as birds and squirrels.

And during that time–I totally see Caspian making friends with the Pevensies, spending any available time with them.  Lewis doesn’t say this directly, but since Caspian was so interested in the old Kings and Queens, he would want to get to know them.  Certainly by The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Caspian and the younger Pevensies greet each other like old friends, and he and Lucy have no recorded interaction in Prince Caspian.

So I totally see Caspian bonding with the Pevensies more quickly than he’d bonded with anyone in his life before, asking questions about their lives during the Golden Age (and getting confused about some events because the siblings would interrupt and correct each other during the narrations), and learning bits and pieces about their world.   Susan and Lucy would no doubt feel sorry for his lonely childhood, and would go out of their way to make him feel accepted and welcomed among the four of them.  I could actually see Caspian bonding more with Lucy than with Susan (*glares at Walden Media adaptation*) because they share idealism and faith and hope.  And Lucy would tell Caspian everything she knew about Aslan.

I could also see Caspian still thinking himself insufficient to be king (the feeling probably didn’t disperse instantly), but Lucy would comfort him by reminding him that Aslan would always give him wisdom.  Caspian would no doubt look up to Peter as a mentor and guide (*glares at WM adaptation again), a role Peter would recognize and take seriously.  He was willing to leave Narnia in Caspian’s hands, but he would want to make sure this young prince was equipped for the responsibility.

But I could also see Caspian just having fun with the siblings.  And sometimes feeling it was all surreal, talking with the old Kings and Queens out of the stories; but the next moment, laughing with them like he’d known them all their lives.

Headcanons:

  • Caspian is totally the sort to want friends over for the holidays.  If the Pevensies stayed in Narnia or could travel between the worlds, he would definitely have them over for Christmas.
  • Caspian picks up British phrases from the Pevensies, and those phrases slip into his speech from time to time.  Sometimes without his even realizing it.
  • The five of them had a good laugh over how lost the Pevensies got en route to Aslan’s How and the basic geographical errors they all made.  With Trumpkin cheerfully explaining how grumpy, stubborn, and air-headed these Kings and Queens were during parts of the journey.  Caspian is half appalled at this cheek and half amused by it.
  • He finally works up the courage to ask Edmund to have a sparring match with him.  It’s a close match, but Edmund wins.  And then shows Caspian a few sword fighting tricks that had been forgotten since the Golden Age.
  • Though the Kings and Queens were legends of history, it had been forgotten how the four children came to Narnia in the first place.  Caspian asks about this one day, and Lucy tells him the tale (only briefly mentioning how her siblings did not believe her discovery at first) and shows him the all their gifts from Father Christmas.  Caspian is intrigued by this origin of the Horn and the cordial and the other weapons the Kings and Queens carried.
  • Those weeks between the final battle and the farewells are some of the most solemn, but also the happiest, of Caspian’s life.

So. Many. Feels.

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Picture Saturday: Year-End Art Meme!

First off, a schedule change: I might move my Picture Saturday posts to another day of the week, as I often have a lot of time to draw on Saturday and Sunday.  It makes no sense to post before I have the most time to draw, but I haven’t yet decided which day to show the week’s artwork.

On a totally different note, I went through my folder and sketchbooks the other day and found a shamefully large number of unfinished sketches.  So I’m going to make an effort to finish those before taking on too many new drawings.

And leaving “too many” unspecified creates a handy loophole to exploit.  🙂

Until I get the old stuff finished, all I have to show this week are two paintings.  The first is a freehand…

…meaning, remember, that there’s no line art.  I adapted the landscape from a photograph on my “West, Pioneer!” Pinterest board, and I think the painting turned out pretty well.

The other painting is this…

…one that I rendered in colored pencil, but thought would also look good in watercolor.  And I like the watercolor version better than the pencil version.  Not bad for my first time painting a Mexican character!

But since that’s not much art, I decided to create a year-end art meme.  Feel free to fill it out yourself if you want, but I officially tag Julia, Bella, and Treskie!

Rules:

1.) Insert a picture of your artwork (or quote, if you’re a creative writer) from this year to answer each question.  If, however, you don’t have a picture or scan, or don’t have one of good quality, you can describe the piece.

2.) Drawings and paintings aren’t the only artwork to showcase–you can include pictures of sculptures, jewelry, sewing, knitting, set design, dance, quotes from your writing, anything that requires creative energy.

3.) Tag someone else!

First piece of artwork/writing/performance done in 2016

A colored pencil sketch of the yellow and green rings from The Magician’s Nephew.  I like the way the lighting on the green ring turned out.

Last piece of artwork/writing/performance done in 2016

This one.

Unless I sketch something else right before midnight.

A new medium/style/technique you tried this year

White pencil on toned paper!  I love this mixed media combination because it creates easy shadows and highlights, and it’s easy to sketch on because the colored paper hides accidental dark marks better than white paper would.

For those of you just joining us, those characters are Sydney Carton and little Lucie from A Tale of Two Cities.

A pose you’d never drawn before (or just something in your creative field you’ve never done before)

Actually, I drew several new poses this year:

This is Charles Darnay from A Tale of Two Cities.  I drew a lot of TTC fanart this year.

I discovered with this picture that colored pencil also works on toned paper.

The piece of artwork that others liked the most

Probably this one of Micheal Maguire that I drew for Gingersnap.

Your personal favorite piece from 2016! (Explain why!)

This one, hands down.  It’s my personal favorite because, come on, it’s cute!  (Can I say that even though I drew it?)  Also because I managed to draw a baby that actually looks like a smiling baby and not some weird, more-horrifiying-than-cute humanoid face.  And thirdly, because I drew two of my characters in a pose I’d never tried before, and it turned out “surprisingly okay,” in the words of Sherlock.  🙂

3 things to improve in your artwork in 2017

1.)  Well, I want to improve my colored pencil technique.  It often ends up sketchy when I wanted it smooth, and I often can’t get smoothly blended colors or really dark shadows.  Maybe I need to learn better control?  I dunno.

2.)  Learn sketch more quickly.  The jury’s still out on whether I can but just get caught up in drawing/perfecting details, or whether I truly need to learn this.

3.)  Further polish my watercolor technique.  Specifically, learn to layer color better and to paint a little more loosely without refining details into oblivion.

I’m a perfectionist, in case you couldn’t tell.

Other things to improve: more complex poses, more varied facial expressions on fanart and my character drawings, more figures in one drawing, and more complicated backgrounds.

3 new things to try in 2017 (such as styles, mediums, poses, backgrounds, character to draw, contests to enter)

1.)  More fluid and watery watercolor technique (without obsessing over depicting perfect details).

2.)  Draw and refine my characters’ appearances, facial expressions, and activities.

3.)  Drawing and painting bokah (out-of-focus backgrounds) with an in-focus foreground object.

What do you enjoy most about creating?

The moment when the messy sketch begins to look like the image or character I want!  And of course, the finished product!

 

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Picture Saturday

Picture Saturday turned into a great motivator–in order to have artwork to post, I worked diligently this week and sketched without nit-picking too much.  This perfectionist has entered a new era.  🙂

So, the art from this week…

 

45-Peter Pevensie

This is how I picture Peter Pevensie.  I tried to make him look 13–14 years old, and he ended up looking a little older.  So maybe this is during The Voyage of the Dawn Treader or something.  Anyway, I borrowed another idea from Treskie: minimal coloring on a graphite drawing.  In my imagination, each of the Pevensies has a color that matches his or her personality, and blue has always been Peter’s color.

I’ve read fanfics in which Peter is the more mature, level-headed brother, and Edmund is the sassy, fun, prankster.  I think this is an influence from the Walden Media movies, and in the books, their attributes are just the opposite.  I mean, Peter is mature, but he’s also the adventurous explorer and the one who understands a kid’s propensity to hide and play jokes.  Not a prankster, but definitely the fun one.  Edmund always struck me as more of a thinker, a little more serious, and in Dawn Treader, he is stated to have read several detective stories.  And he’s the one who comes closest to solving the mystery of the missing lord on that island.

 

46-Susan Pevensie

Susan Pevensie!  (And I finally started to move away from profiles.)  Green is Susan’s color, and I modeled her outfit after one of the jumpers from my Molly McIntire paper dolls.  Paper doll outfits inspire me a good deal.  Susan ended up looking closer to 12-13 than mid-teens, so yay!  I want to draw the Pevensies as children because, well, they were when their story started.  Not good-looking teens.  *glares at WM adaptation*  In the book Journey Into Narnia, author Katherine Lindskoog says that in LWW, Peter was 13, Susan was 12, Edmund was 10, and Lucy was 8.  I don’t know where she got that information, but based on the way the kids act, those ages are a good estimate.

A few more notes about Susan: people condemn Lewis for the fate he wrote Susan in The Last Battle.  I was upset about it myself as a child.  But the common grown-up complaint is that “nylons and lipstick” represent sexuality, and because Susan cared about these, therefore, Lewis judged finding your sexuality.  Others say he quit caring about Susan and so threw her under the bus.  Still others say he wanted to include that whole “forgetting Narnia” warning, and Susan drew the short straw.

I don’t think any of that is accurate, and you have to look at the whole Narnia canon to understand Lewis’s point.  I mean, in The Last Battle itself, Lewis describes the Narnian clothes that not only look good but feel comfortable.  And if you think about it all, the Pevensies grew up while they reigned as kings and queens, and most of the other characters from Dawn Treader onward are grown-ups.  Growing up isn’t the problem, and looking nice isn’t the problem.  But ignoring the truth is.  Whether nylons and lipstick does represent sexuality, or simply vanity, or social aspirations, or whatever, Susan deliberately turned away from the truth she knew, and that is what Lewis condemned.

Also, Jill is the one who mentioned the nylons and lipstick at all, and she is not much of a girly-girl.  Polly and Edmund, however, specify the problem as Susan’s attitude.

I wanted to draw all four Pevensies this week, but at least I finished two.  Maybe I’ll finish Edmund and Lucy next week.

 

47-Peach Doodle

A peach on a tree–and I once again used a middle color to transition between dark and light tones and to smooth and blend all the colors.  This technique really works.  The technique for the background is the “scribble with different colors” method.  Not terribly sophisticated, but it also works.  🙂

 

49-Desert Sunset

A desert sunset, referenced from a photo I found on my The Horse and his Boy Pinterest board.  The colors of the photo were so beautiful, I just had to capture the landscape in pencil.

 

50-Sunlit Strand

Doodle of a sea strand at high noon, I guess.  I like drawing landscapes and plants in colored pencil.

 

51-Sydney, discouraged

I felt like it had been a while since I drew Sydney Carton, so I remedied that.  The rough, sketchiness of it mirrors the emotion, I think.  I’d like to say this was a thought-out, artistic choice, and it kinda was–after my attempt to draw a contemplative look failed, and the hands on the clock inched toward midnight.  🙂

 

48-Durant & Baby Luke

And then my absolute favorite drawing!  *melts into a puddle*  This is my character, Durant, holding his nephew Luke. (And yeah, the baby is a boy, though it’s hard to tell at sight, thanks to the 19th century habit of dressing both boys and girls in long clothes for the first few years.)

Anyway, Durant adores his nephews.  It’s the cutest thing.  And he adores his niece as well, but she wasn’t born at the time the picture takes place.

 

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Writers’ Camp: Day 5

Bring Out the Books! Everyone will share certain Authors and series that are their personal favorite and explain why they like them, how they were inspired by them, and how others might be inspired.

I touched on this subject in previous Writers’ Camp posts, so I’ll keep it brief here.  C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien have been two favorite authors ever since I read their stories (at age 7 and 9), and lately, I’ve added Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte to the list.  Of course, I have other favorite authors, and I love individual stories of less-favored authors, but these four are my primary inspirations.

C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories inspired me to write in the first place.  His world and its parallels to ours made so much sense and was so exciting, that it was just natural to create my own.  My first story actually featured four children entering another world through a portal.  It wasn’t plagiarism, however, because instead of a wardrobe, they went through a closet.  🙂

Lewis understood children very well, understood not only how they behave, but how they think, and that is probably one reason his stories appealed to me–they felt real.  (The fact that the kids were often the heroes helped.)  He also understood theology well enough to make it simple yet deep for his young audience.

He did it, however, without shoving his point down your throat.  I read The Magician’s Nephew late last year and marveled at how powerful it was.  I wondered: how did he do it?  How did he make such an impact without using literary neon signs denoting SOMETHING IMPORTANT AND PARALLEL TO CHRISTIANITY GET IT??  And I think the answer is: he wrote about what he believed.  Pure and simple.  Not defensively, not necessarily to persuade.  What he believed true, he treated as truth in his stories.

Tolkien inspires me because of his epic tale and how deeply it resounds with reality as well.  In fact, Tolkien too wrote about what he believed (not allegorically, as Lewis did); what he thought right, noble, virtuous (or, conversely, bad) his characters enacted.  Pride, for instance, is always the fatal flaw in Tolkien’s world, from Melkor, to Feanor, to Turin, to Boromir.  Always, always, always.  Conversely, humility is the greatest virtue: the only reason Sam resists the Ring is because of his humility and his love for his master.

And on that note, let me address a pet peeve: everyone holds Eowyn up as a strong woman–and she is–but they cite the wrong action to support this.  Fighting like a man and defeating the Witch-King do not make her strong.  In the Houses of Healing, Gandalf tells Eomer:

“…she, born in the body of a maid, had a spirit and courage at least the match of yours.  Yet she was doomed to wait upon an old man, whom she loved as a father, and watch him falling into a mean dishonored dotage; and her part seemed to her more ignoble than that of the staff he leaned on.

Think you that Wormtongue had poison only for Theoden’s ears?  Dotard!  What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek and their brats roll on the floor among their dogs?  Saruman spoke them, the teacher of Wormtongue.  Though I do not doubt that Wormtongue at home wrapped their meaning in terms more cunning.”

Aragorn adds that Eowyn loved him only as an ideal, as a hope of glory and renown.  Thus, pride prompted Eowyn to seek Aragorn’s favor; and pride caused her to desire a brave death in battle when this first wish was denied.  Her true valor in defeating the Witch-King was not being able to fight like a man, but defending her uncle and king.

In fact, Eowyn’s true strengths get overlooked.  She is dutiful–she tended King Theoden in his sickness, and she does so without complaint, self-controlled to the point that Eomer had no idea what was going on in her mind.  Aragorn tells Eomer that if her love for her brother and her uncle had not restrained her, she might have uttered words similar to Wormtongue’s.  She is described by Hama the guard as “fearless and high hearted” and was loved by all the people of Rohan.  She is competent enough in leadership and politics to take command of Rohan while Theoden is at Helm’s deep.  And she cares deeply about both her brother and her uncle, as seen by her actions to care for and protect them.  And later, once she understands the truth about her heart, she renounces her pride and her high desires and seeks to be a healer, not a queen.

Oh, and I ripped off Tolkien too, as a young writer, with no idea how he made all his ideas and plot threads and descriptions work.  Now that I’m older, I love examining his work and finding out how he pulled off all these techniques that are no longer popular in the writing world.  For instance, Tolkien is famous for inserting long songs and poetry in LotR, but I noticed he doesn’t start with reams of poetry.  The first few poems and songs are relatively short, and once you’ve gotten interested in the world and the characters, he puts in longer songs.

I’m not going to elaborate about Dickens and Bronte here.  For one thing, I gave Bronte a lengthy paragraph in my Day 3 post.  For another, I will definitely talk more about Dickens later.  🙂