Following up on my Bookwyrm Confessions post from a couple weeks back, Movies I Liked Better Than the Book (and Other Confessions), I’m here with a list of some books I’d love to see made into movies. *gasp* The shock! … Continue reading
I love Diana Wynne Jones books.
One of the things I love about them (besides the brilliant humor, the original fantasy elements, the larger-than-life-characters, and the sheer un-pigeon-hole-able-ness of the books) is the writing.
I love those times when you run across a line and have to stop reading and sit back and stare unseeing at the universe, and think: “Wow.”
I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface, but here are a mere half a dozen of those gems, which personally impacted me or which I feel have something to say about life that we should listen to. 🙂
“There goes Mig with her happy endings again,” Chris said. But I don’t care. I like happy endings. And I asked Chris why something should be truer just because it’s unhappy. He couldn’t answer.
— from Aunt Maria
This one kind of sums up my thoughts on happy endings. XD I really believe that happy endings and eucatastrophe are important in fiction. Life has enough darkness and sorrow. Fiction — especially fantasy — is the place where one can have happy endings that give hope. I’ve often seen it said that happy endings or certain good things in fiction are “unrealistic”. My response is like Mig’s. Why should something be truer just because it’s unhappy?
“When you grow up to be an author and write books, you’ll think you’re making the books up, but they’ll all really be true, somewhere.”
— from Witch Week (Chrestomanci series)
I love this one! It really makes you think, you know? It’s one of the things that really fits with my work-in-progress novel I’m writing, The Other Half of Everything. It also seems to fit in quite well with Tolkien’s idea of a “Tree of Tales”, which he wrote about in his essay On Fairy Stories. I recently read The Game by Diana Wynne Jones, and this quote seems to fit with that too, with the idea of the Mythosphere in that book, where stories are really out there and really true.
“Only thin, weak thinkers despise fairy stories. Each one has a true, strange fact hidden in it, you know, which you can find if you look.”
— from Fire and Hemlock
This one was from Thomas Lynn, one of my favorite characters. I could probably do an entire post about Tom and his sayings in Fire and Hemlock, including one I often quote, about not leaving a book open, lying on its face (the poor thing’s in torment!). But this one is one of my favorites, and I agree with it. I mean, look at the true, strange facts I find in Diana Wynne Jones’ books! I think it’s true of all really good fantasy — real fairy stories.
“Only way I can do something this frightening is to tell myself I’m not doing it!”
— from Howl’s Moving Castle
I mentioned this quote in a guest post I did, all about my writing technique, Draft Zero. But it’s not the only thing I use this “Howling myself into things” method for! I just love this one, because I can apply it to most things I don’t want to do. It really taught me something about myself when I read that. I think many of us relate to Howl on this point more than we would like to admit… Or at least, that’s the case for me! 😉
“Can’t you treat yourself with a bit more consideration?”
“Why should I?” Mordion said […]
“Because you’re a person, of course!” Ann snapped at him. “One person ought to treat another person properly even if the person’s himself!”
“What a strange idea!” Mordion said.
— from Hexwood
This is a rather complex one. It goes on to say, later: “Ann had once more put her finger on something he did not want to think about.” And I’d say, yes, it’s one of those things that, like Mordion, I didn’t really want to think about — but it made me. And that’s one of the things about Diana Wynne Jones books, is they’ll do that to you.
How often am I simply too hard on myself about things, when I would never dream of treating another person that way — only myself? Because, well… I don’t matter, so that’s silly. But… well… it’s not. Because I’m a person too, and I ought to treat another person properly, even if the person’s myself.
And when I’m reading the book, I can see exactly why Mordion feels the way he does, because (not to go into spoilers) the villains are horrendous and Mordion was brought up a certain way, which is why he doesn’t see himself as a person, and it takes Ann snapping at him to make him see this and to realize he is one after all.
But the contrast between Mordion’s terrible life and my own ordinary one, with both of us feeling the same way, is startling, because I have absolutely no excuse, and yet I can see myself saying, with Mordion, “What a strange idea!” And Ann replied: “It’s not strange, it’s common sense!”
“I think we ought to live happily ever after.”
— from Howl’s Moving Castle
Of course this has to be included, last of all! 😉 I don’t think it needs much explaining . . . I can only say that I wholeheartedly agree, Howl!
(All quote images were designed by me, using free images.)
I’m posting this in honor of March Magics 2018, hosted by Kate @ We Be Reading.
What are some of your favorite quotes, from Diana Wynne Jones or otherwise? And what do you think of these? Thanks for reading! ^_^
One of the staples of the Fantasy genre, mentors are often underappreciated (and often quickly dead, at that, but we won’t go into this right now…) but so important — and can have their own very striking personalities as well.
Where would all of our heroes be without mentors?
Well, certainly not saving the world, for one thing; probably not very knowledgeable, for another; and most likely dead, for a third.
In short, they’d be sunk.
So it’s high time we paid homage to some amazing mentors!
Today’s February #FantasyMonth (hosted by Jenelle Schmidt) prompt is “Best mentors in fantasy” and that had me stopping and thinking: “Wait. I have so many favorites!”
Rather than make a little tweet about it and not do these fabulous gentlemen (and ladies!) justice, I decided I’d do a whole post about it instead.
A strong mentor is one you remember vividly and who is knowledgeable about something necessary to the quest or story you find yourself in, and one you’d love to have at your side in a pinch, to help you out of this mess — or at least teach you how to do so yourself.
(I was afraid, when making my list, that I’d have to leave some out for not being from fantasy. But it turns out all the great mentors I can think of ARE from fantasy, so… there you are! This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s most everyone I could think of at the moment.)
So I’d like to share with you twenty of my favorite mentors from page and screen, and I’d divided them into six types of epic mentors. Enjoy!
1. Classic Mentors
You know what I’m talking about. Grey or white hair, often a long beard, sometimes grouchy, or alternately quite merry with twinkling eyes and a sense of humor (sometimes at your own expense…), but very wise and prone to getting you swept away on an adventure you weren’t expecting — and likely didn’t want — but there it is! These elderly gentlemen are wise beyond their already extensive years, and you definitely want them at your side as you step into your adventure.
- Gandalf the Grey/White (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien) — Do I really need to say anything here? Honestly? Gandalf is the epitome of Fantasy Mentor; though he’s not ACTUALLY as grouchy and extreme as people act like he is, and he’s definitely more to be reckoned with than the weak film versions of him. I do like him in the movies, but right now I’m talking about the real, BOOK version of Gandalf. 😉 Wise, dependable, and lit with an inner fire of goodness, whether as the Grey Wanderer or the White Rider, Gandalf is one of the great protectors of Middle-earth, and wherever there’s an effort of Good fighting against Evil, you’ll usually find him at the center of the adventure, guiding the heroes!
- Great Uncle Merry (Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper) — Oh, Great Uncle Merry! He’s one of my favorites. Later revealed in the rest of the Dark is Rising Sequence in a more classic mentor role as Merriman Lyon, I still love him most in the first book, when he’s just the Drew children’s “great uncle” (Gummery, as young Barney calls him), and he makes you feel SAFE, you know? He’s also very wise, and fun, and just the absolute best.
- Thomas Warvold (The Land of Elyon series by Patrick Carman) — I’m going to have to start talking less or we’ll be here all day, so I’ll simply say that Warvold is another classic example of one of the great wise old men — and he rather shapes young Alexa’s adventures, even if he’s not as much a part of them as one would like… He’s great, and I’d love to go to the library in Bridewell and eat strawberry jam on buscuits with him!
- Cosimo Livingstone (The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead) — The great-grandfather of our hero Kit, old Cosimo was my favorite character in this book! The one who starts it all and gets Kit off on his adventure (what did I tell you about these older fellows sweeping heroes off!), Cosimo knows so much and is just fabulous. (I may be stretching the “fantasy” genre a tiny bit on this one, but it’s a rather unpidgeonholeable series, so we’ll just go with that… And of course I needed to include him in this list!)
2. Grizzled Mentors
These are the ones that aren’t quite as old as the Classic Mentors. These are maybe in their fifties or sixties — still seasoned veterans of life, but have a bit of fire. They often have a grizzled appearance: might have a short grey beard or salt-and-pepper stubble, or just hair flecked with grey, and they’re often weatherbeaten and not who you expect them to be. They can be sarcastic or warmhearted (or both) but they’re to be reckoned (but not trifled) with! These are one of my favorite kinds. 😀
- Halt (Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan) — I read the first Ranger’s Apprentice book this month specifically so I could include Halt in this post. XD I’d heard so much about him and I was pretty sure he belonged in my list, so I up and read it. And I was right — he so belongs here! Definitely one of my favorite mentors EVER. ❤ He’s such a great mentor and he’s indescribable, honestly. I just really like him. 😀 (You can read my thoughts on the first Ranger’s Apprentice book in my post from yesterday!)
- Rayad (Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight) — I mean. Anyone who’s read this series should know he belongs here. 😉
- Brom (Eragon movie) — I confess, I haven’t read the book. *cough* But I’m aware that the book-Brom is more of the Classic Mentor type. Anyway, I’m here to talk about movie-Brom, who is great! He’s definitely the grizzled, grouchy, sarcastic mentor type.
- Karn (Ren: The Girl with the Mark – online TV series) — I love Karn! We didn’t get to see a lot of him due to the series only being about 50 minutes, but what we did see was great and he seems like he has huge potential as a mentor, the kind in this category, but a bit more friendly perhaps. XD
- Prince Gwydion (Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander) — I don’t always think of Gwydion as a mentor character, but it fits for this post, and Taran definitely looks up to him. He’s wise and epic and just generally amazing in most ways. Can you imagine having Gwydion as a mentor? That would be awesome.
- Romanov (The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones) — I’ll be honest and say I don’t remember him very well; I read this book from the library while I had the flu, and some of it’s a little vague in my head to say the least… But I do remember that Romanov was absolutely awesome and I think he was this grizzled type and I really liked him.
3. Handsome-Young-Magician Mentors
(Yes, this is a thing; sorry.) These are the charming, somewhat debonaire magicians, who are young, handsome, and completely unexpected in the mentor category, but here they are all the same. I was surprised by how many I found in this category!
- Chrestomanci a.k.a. Christopher Chant (Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones) — Oh, Chrestomanci! How awesome would it be to have him as a mentor? I mean, he’d likely be slightly terrifying, really, with his hard stare and biting sarcasm if he was annoyed with you. But he’s so calm and powerful in a quiet, elegant way, and you’ll often find him in one of his many extravagant dressing-gowns or in a beautifully tailored suit. When you have a magical mishap (er… world-shattering disaster?) and you call Chrestomanci, you know the moment he arrives that everything’s going to be all right.
- Howl (Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones) — What is this? Howl? A mentor? He may be a great many things, but is a mentor really one of them? Well yes, it is — let’s not forget his apprentice, Michael! Howl sometimes may seem irresponsible or dramatic, or dreamily absent, but he actually is a pretty good mentor to Michael and seems to teach him well enough — and he took orphaned Michael in off the streets, so that’s another good quality in a mentor. And Howl being one of the most magical people in Ingary, of course he’s an ideal teacher to have, despite his seeming flaws of character… *cough*
- Mairelon the Magician a.k.a. Richard Merrill (Magician’s Ward by Patricia C. Wrede) — I need to read the first book in this duology, but in the one I read, Mairelon is a great teacher for the heroine — and has some sort of quality rather like Chrestomanci or Howl, which is part of why he fits in here. He doesn’t care about what high society thinks of him, but he’s all gentleman at that, and if anyone can get a street-thief girl turned into a magical lady, it’s him.
- Mr. Wicker (Mr. Wicker’s Window / The Sign of the Seven Seas by Carley Dawson) — A bit different than the three above, he still fit into this category better than any of the other categories. He’s from the 1700s (it’s a time-travel fantasy series), and he and the young hero, Chris, end up on adventures on the high seas or in Asia or Mexico, and he’s very patient and capable and usually has a few tricks up his sleeve — just the one you want to help you out.
4. Young Headstrong Mentors
These are the ones who are epic heroes in their own right, but somehow (against their own wishes, in fact) they find themselves saddled with another, younger hero. They may not have completed their own training, but they’re definitely more qualified than THESE kids, and, well, somebody has to take them in hand… They might be a bit gruff or not get along, but deep down they really care about their pupils… at least eventually. 😉
- Jet Valinor (Sentinel Trilogy by Jamie Foley) — Oh, Jet. The best. 😀 He’s got to rank as “youngest, most awesome hero-in-his-own-right mentor EVER.” XD He has quite the attitude himself, and obviously didn’t want to end up with annoying puppy-dog-like Darien as his apprentice, but he’s pretty good at mentoring… kinda… even if Darien finds HIM annoying. XD It’s like a buddy-story turned mentor-apprentice relationship and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Jet’s awesome in aaaall the ways.
- Kanan Jarrus (Star Wars: Rebels TV show) — I’m sliiightly stretching the “fantasy” genre here, but we’ll call Star Wars science fantasy and go with that. Just because I really, really wanted to list him. XD I know people usually think Obi-Wan or Yoda or maybe Qui-Gon when they think Star Wars mentor, but Kanan is my favorite. (Note: I’m talking about the first season of Star Wars: Rebels here.) He has to put up with Ezra (who I also love) and even though he never completed his Jedi training, he does pretty well with teaching his young Padawan. And he’s just awesome, so.
5. Dragon Mentors
Okay, so I don’t know if there are a lot of these or not. But I realized when I was making a list of my top 20 favorite mentors that two of them were dragons. So this category clearly had to be made. 😉 Grouchy, dangerous, and always with the possibility they could lose their temper and roast or eat you, dragon mentors are actually one of the best kinds of mentors otherwise, because they are often extremely wise, and… well… dragons. That’s a plus right there. (Even if you’re not always sure whose side they’re on. :P)
- Scales (Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones) — Oh my. It’s very hard to talk about this dragon without spoilers, but let’s just say he has a VERY forceful personality, and he’s an excellent (if unexpected) mentor and I love him! (When he puts Kit in his place, it’s great. XD)
- Malcolm Blackfire (Afterlands books by Kyle Robert Shultz) — Still waiting for some more screen (I mean… page) time for Malcolm in other books (*cough*waitiiiing*cough*), but he was apparently Lady Cordelia’s mentor, and he seems like he’d be a great one — plus, he does kind of look after the Mythfits and his school. Malcolm is one of the coolest dragon characters (he can also shapeshift between his dragon/human forms), and while he’s rather gruff and sometimes it seems uncertain whether he’s actually on “our” side, you can tell deep down he’s actually heroic. 😉 MALCOLM’S AWESOME.
6. Lady Mentors
These do exist! As much as we often imagine old bearded men as mentors, there are some amazing ladies who have been incredible mentors in their time. The two I’ve picked are actually extremely different than each other, so I’m not going to generalize their “type” since they don’t really have one, so I’ll discuss them each individually. 😉
- Princess Irene the older (The Princess and the Goblin & The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald) — The “grandmother” of little Princess Irene, and her namesake, this fascinating lady sometimes seems old and other times young and beautiful, but she’s the one to go to for counsel — as young Irene or Curdie often end up doing. Sometimes you won’t want to do what she says needs to be done, but you’ll end up doing it all the same, because it’s right, and she’ll show you why. She’s a classic mentor lady, and so ageless. I’ve always loved this character. 🙂
- Beana (Veiled Rose, Moonblood, and Fallen Star by Anne Elisabeth Stengl) — Well, well. Who would think to find a nanny-goat in this category? Ahem. 😉 Those who’ve read these books will know that Beana is not what she seems! I absolutely LOVE her, and her relationship with Rosie. Beana is just so SOLID, and always knows the right thing to say — even if sometimes it seems a little blunt. XD Where would Rosie be without her Beana to tell her things?
So there you are!
Have you read (or watched) any of these? What do you think of my categories, and do you have any to add? And who are some of YOUR favorite mentors, fantasy or otherwise? 🙂 I’d love to hear what you think! Thanks for reading!
P.S. If you want to read my fantasy flash-fiction short story, Mentor Problems (which was a finalist in a flash-critique session at Realm Makers 2018 Writers Conference), you can pick it up here by subscribing to my newsletter! 🙂
Dear writers who feel depressed,
I know you’re out there. I know because you’re in here, too — in me, sometimes.
Listen, because I have something to say.
Maybe sometimes you don’t feel like a writer. Maybe sometimes you feel like a depressed wannabe-writer who doesn’t-actually-want-to because you feel so down. Maybe you feel depressed that you haven’t finished that first draft, haven’t written in six months (or longer), don’t know how to start, or haven’t perfected your editing skills yet.
Dear writers, I have been there. We have all been depressed writers from time to time. And it’s sad. It should not define us, but sometimes it’s hard to see past it. I understand, but I also believe in hope.
Here are some tips I have for helping you shake off that heavy mantle of depression that’s tripping you up on the road up your mountain of writing.
I’m hardly ever this serious about things on my blog, but it’s a serious topic and my heart bleeds for each of you who is struggling. Because I’ve felt it. So I decided to put my heart out there and say something, for once. Even if nobody wants my heart, at least I’ve tried to give it, right? 🙂
I’m not saying I have all the answers. I definitely don’t. But if even one of these touches your heart and helps you lift your head and move forward a little stronger, to write and do great things, then I will be so very happy. 🙂 Some may seem very simple and obvious, but maybe give them a try anyway.
These are things I’ve been learning help me to shake off depressed-writer moments, and are largely to remind myself of them. Most of them can apply to life-in-general as well, but I’m applying them to writing today, because I’m a writer. 😉
They’ve helped me from time to time. I hope they will help you as well.
(And if you don’t have time to read this whole post, skip to the end and read the ending. :))
Take care of your health.
Yes, this does matter. I say it as one who neglects my own health far too often. Get enough sleep, remember to eat halfway nutritious meals, and be sure to drink enough water. (I could have made this into three separate points, but I’m generalizing and putting these together. Sleep. Food. Water. Most important after air, yes? 😉 Sounds simple, I know, but sometimes I at least don’t take them seriously enough!) Living on caffeine and adrenaline can work for short time periods, but if you do it too much you’re going to burn out, get tired, and not feel the motivation to write. I started drinking ten glasses of water every day, and I’ve felt so much better since then (I used to get headaches a lot, and now I have them much less. And I can’t write with a headache. :P). I know it’s easy to neglect one’s health, because I do it ALL. THE. TIME. Do not be me. Let’s all try to do better about it, okay? Because we’re doing this living-on-this-Earth thing and that seems to require taking care of ourselves… much as I’d like to just read or write 24/7. XD
Yes, this can definitely include going on inspirational walks. Always, always. So much inspiration out there! But it’s more than that, too. We writers, and anyone whose job is sitting at a computer most of the day, do not move around enough. It’s a proven fact that most people nowadays in this digital age do not move enough out of our repeated, unvaried motions, and it’s taken a toll on our musculoskeletal alignment. (Like that word? :P) Have you noticed that your neck and head lean forward most of the time, even when you’re standing? No wonder we’re depressed writers! We’re constantly in postures of dejected sadness, and that DOES send a message to our body to be sad. Try walking around with your head up for a bit and see what happens. I betcha you’ll feel happier. Until relaxing back into our habitual slump. Because unfortunately we can’t just fix this by trying to have better posture; it has to go deeper than that, which is where moving comes in. I’ve only gotten over this at times by doing enough varied stretches, which I learned about after messing my back up in a major way. I managed to escape the pain and fix my back by doing exercises from this book: Pain Free by Pete Egoscue. (Or this one: Pain Free at Your PC.) I recommend it for anyone who uses computers. 🙂 Or… really anyone. I admit I’m not the best about doing it every day, but it makes me feel great, inspires me to move, and that in turn gets me more writing inspiration.
Let go of the past and your guilt and forgive yourself.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had long stretches of time where you haven’t written, and you’ve felt guilty about it. Well, the past is the past, our past failures are OVER, and while of course there will be future failures because we’re all human, they don’t have to be the same ones, and they don’t have to be taken for granted and expected and feared. Any time I think “Well, I haven’t succeeded in finishing a novel in so many years that I guess I won’t be able to do so ever again”, I need to stop and say NO. Our past mistakes and failures do not define us, and we have stepped to the present, toward a future where we don’t have to live in our failures. We can try again, and again, and again, as many times as necessary, but we can’t try if we don’t believe there’s even a chance of succeeding; if we let our pasts define us. FORGIVE YOURSELF. Start over. Writing should be a joy; LIVING should be a joy. No matter the hardships, don’t let your mistakes or struggles define you. This is true of many things, not just writing. Let yourself be more than your past failures.
Starting is the hardest. I know this, because most of the time that I don’t write, I don’t write because I don’t know how to start. As long as you realize this is one of the hardest things, then you can fight it, and at least TRY. Set a timer or something to trick yourself into starting. Tell yourself it doesn’t have to be perfect (because it doesn’t). Just start.
Keep going and don’t you dare ever ever give up.
Remember I said starting is the hardest? Well, keeping going is possibly in that top spot as well. (Shush, they can share and be twins.) I’m not saying you can’t take breaks (because you definitely should), and I’m definitely not saying that if you don’t write for awhile, you should feel guilty. NOT AT ALL. But don’t give up the dream. Keep showing up to write, even if it’s only once a month, even if you find you can’t write for months together because of college or work or family or that amazing multi-volume series you’re reading. But come back. Don’t give up. Don’t say “I don’t think I’m a writer so I shouldn’t try.” That’s rubbish. It may feel like it sometimes — oh, so many times; I know; I’ve been there — but don’t give in to that. Take a break, or accept that in this season of your life, you can’t write at the moment; but do come back. And just keep writing. After starting, continuing is the next-hardest. But do NOT believe that you are a no-good writer who shouldn’t even try anymore, because that is so far from true, and if even a tiny part of you wants to be a writer, then you ARE one. Don’t give in to the doubts. Don’t give up. Keep showing up to write, even if you can’t do it every day (and let’s face it, not many of us can. But we can keep going all the same).
Don’t be afraid.
Another reason, besides the starting issue, that I don’t write much, is that I’m afraid. Of so many things. That I won’t get it right, that I won’t know how to start, that I’ll mess it up somehow, that I won’t know what to say, that I’m neglecting all the potentiality of the story, that someone will interrupt me, etc. etc. etc. So much fear. So don’t be. What’s the worst that happens? So it’s not as good as it could have been? Then keep trying, and it will get better, with time and patience and practice and courage. We writers can be a courageous bunch if we try, braving tired fingers, late nights, harrowing quests, mind-numbing plot-hole construction, battering against writers’ block, wrangling unruly characters, letting others read our hearts on paper, putting one word after another…
WRITER, YOU ARE BRAVE. I believe this, as I believe few other things. So be brave, and do not fear. The darkness cannot have you, because you are shining a light of story in defiance against it.
Get some sunlight.
This might be controversial but just stick with me briefly. Getting a bit of sunshine and Vitamin D is SO IMPORTANT. People who live in cold, northerly places don’t get enough sun in the winter and can get super depressed, so if you’re a writer who spends a lot of time indoors, you are probably not getting enough sun. (*raises hand* Guilty.) Believe it or not, this insufficiency really affects our emotions and can leave us feeling super depressed, which in turn can affect the rest of our lives, including our writing. The sun does NOT actually kill you, I promise. I don’t go outside enough and I know I get depressed when I haven’t had enough sun, which does not help my writing. -_- We were not built to live in caves with no sun; like plants, we need it, people. I don’t believe in sun lotion etc. because I’m a very natural person and I don’t want all sorts of ingredients on my skin because who knows where they’ve been. But if you’re afraid of sunburns, believe me, so am I; I sunburn REALLY bad, but I use coconut oil on my skin and it burns less, and I also use it afterward if I do happen to get a burn, and it really helps. (Coconut oil is amazing. <3) And I get all that lovely sun, which makes me feel so much better. 🙂 And I’m way less likely to want to write if I’m feeling depressed. 😛 (I know I sound like a health-and-outdoors commercial in some of this post, which is hilarious and/or ironic because usually I don’t take care of myself or leave my little writer lair, but I know that I SHOULD, and when I do, it tends to help. 😛 Remember, this post is to tell me things, too!)
Get some metaphorical sunlight too.
And by metaphorical sunlight, I mean some happiness and joy. I know books thrive on the scary and the darkness and all the problems for the protagonists. I know many readers enjoy dark tales, and many writers delight in penning those darkest nights in their stories. But don’t forget the dawn. Don’t forget about metaphorical light. Don’t forget that sometimes we need happy endings. Happy endings — and, well, happiness in general — have gone out of fashion in the world of late. (Though that’s, perhaps, a topic for another time.) But if we focus always on the bad, the dark, the depressing — no wonder everyone’s depressed! So don’t always think only about the darkness — remember that there is light, too, and joy and love and goodness. Read a lighthearted book, or throw in some jokes or an unexpected happy moment for your protagonist, or just think about good things from time to time. It helps. If all you think about is the fact that you’re a depressed writer, you won’t know how to be anything else. So find that sunlight!
“There goes Mig with her happy endings again,” Chris said. But I don’t care. I like happy endings. And I asked Chris why something should be truer just because it’s unhappy. He couldn’t answer.
I’ll briefly touch on this one. For Christian writers, who are depressed about writing etc., try asking God to help you with it. It does make a difference, I promise. 🙂 Pray that you’ll know what to write, that you’ll not feel as down or worried. This is something I neglect often, I’m afraid, but it’s super important. If you’re not the praying type, at least try thinking positively about your writing, okay? It can make a huge difference. 🙂
Take a break.
This may seem counter-intuitive. And sometimes, for me at least, I’m pretty depressed about my writing because I’ve taken too long of an (accidental) break and haven’t written in too long. Writing makes me happy, and I get pretty down if I haven’t in awhile. But sometimes, especially when we’re stuck or not feeling it… take a PURPOSEFUL break. Decide you are not going to write for this week, or this month, or whatever; set that time, and relax and notwrite GUILT-FREE. Just don’t allow yourself to write, and usually (at least for me), we will end up inspired and re-energized and itching to write again once that time is up. Even if it doesn’t happen quite that way, it’s still important to take time where you don’t write and where it’s okay. Recharging is a good thing. So rest sometimes. And don’t worry about it. Come back to writing when you’re done, but do rest.
Know that your story matters.
You matter, and your story matters, and nobody can tell your story like you can. It’s not just your little unimportant scribbling. Subcreating and telling stories and being poets is IMPORTANT. Stories have been around as long as there have been words to tell them with, and something seemingly “frivolous” and “unimportant” as that would. not. be. around. still. if they were not extremely important. I know sometimes our little tales just don’t seem like they matter, but they DO. So do not give in to doubts. Know that writing matters and whether it’s for just yourself, or your family and friends, or the whole world, no matter how big or how small, it’s important, and it’s important to keep telling good stories. I know it’s easy to sink into the trap of thinking that nobody will care, that if we just quietly fade away and don’t write, that it’s okay. But if you have a passion for telling stories, it’s far more important than you believe. So just do your best, and don’t believe in your niggling worries that none of it matters, because it DOES. You are the only you there is out there. Just remember that. 🙂
Don’t try to do it alone.
I forget about this one all too often, but it’s so important. Especially if you’re feeling depressed about your writing (or anything else for that matter), find some good writer friends, or a sister, or somebody, who will be there for you and listen and encourage you. If you don’t think you have anybody, you might be surprised — I know I have. In my darkest, loneliest times as a writer, is when I feel the most alone, but that’s when I discover that I’m not alone after all. When I turn elsewhere for help, that’s when I find it — but you have to look for it — you have to ask. I’m very bad at that, and I’m very much a loner (Tare and I have that in common. *cough*), so if I’m stressed about my writing, I don’t always remember that I have beautiful, kind friends who will listen and encourage me and tell me it’s going to be okay. I don’t usually post about such problems on my blog, but when I have, I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness, love, and support I’ve received from so many of you, and I can’t thank you enough. ❤ Don’t do this writer thing alone — find somebody who will exchange emails with you about your writing, or talk over a coffee about it, or respond to a snippet you’ve written, or just tell you to keep going. Writing can be a solitary business, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. So don’t try to do it on your own. Find someone, or several someones, who will walk that path with you, and lift you up when you fall. 🙂
That’s all I have to say today. Thank you so much for reading.
Dear writers who feel depressed:
I love you. Be loved. Know that you are loved.
And write. Tell stories. Live. Be brave.
Look for the light, because it’s out there. 🙂
the end of all things, Samwise Gamgee the end of the second Silmarillion Awards, wherein we celebrate all things fantasy, Tolkien, and favorite characters, I have a bit to say about these things and their importance to me in my life so far.
So today, the 63rd birthday of The Fellowship of the Ring’s publication, seemed a good time to do so.
*distant cries of “Happy birthday!” and Bilbo saying (un?)complimentary things concerning knowing people half as well as he should like etc.*
*also birthday cake for one and all*
*and 63 still-burning candles to feed to your dragon*
(You’re welcome. I hope he likes wax.)
The following is a somewhat lengthy post that is more of an essay than many posts I’ve written (don’t worry, it’s broken into segments with handy headers, so you might survive), and contains such things as Middle-earth, Diana Wynne Jones, Prydain, Stephen Lawhead, epic heroines, tower metaphors, nostalgia of some books/series that have shaped me, and how wonderful and life-changing Fantasy can be.
If this does not sound like your cup of tea, turn around and flee — for here in the realm of Faerie and Fantasy, truths are hidden behind every tree, characters are noble as can be, fancy runs free, and here . . . there be dragons.
On The Silmarillion
This month, using the Silmarillion Awards as a much-needed excuse, as I was re-reading The Silmarillion for the first time in many years, it startled me how much it felt like coming home. I used to read that book (as well as The Lord of the Rings, etc.) a lot when I was younger and just discovering the amazing worlds of Middle-earth. I lived in Middle-earth and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but I lived in Beleriand in The Silmarillion too, and in a sense that was more “mine” since fewer people were into it than LOTR. The Silmarillion and surrounding mythology was like my special world that I went to live in, learning to write the Tengwar Elvish alphabet in calligraphy, studying maps, creating family trees of all the characters I knew by name…
It’s been a lovely journey, returning there and meeting these long-lost friends in this place I’ve been absent from far too long. I’m also bringing more to it now at a slightly older age, which has been fascinating. I’m aware The Silmarillion might not be for everyone, but it’s extremely special to me. I met it at a younger age and was so immersed in it that I knew all the names so well that returning was like going home and meeting old friends.
On The Tower of Fantasy
I’ve been thinking about the impact Tolkien’s works and other beloved works of fantasy have had on my life. Looking back, I can trace a few books and series that stand out as those important, life-changing, core-of-your-being books that I believe everyone (or all bookworms, at least) have. Those ones that are so much a part of you that, consciously or unconsciously, you are changed by them and they inform much of who you are and what your life is, your tastes in fiction (and in writing, if you’re a writer like me), and form a core part of your heart. They are different through the years, and that’s how I measure parts of my life (about three or four of them so far, I think) — by what was the most ME books I was reading or loving or living at the time.
Imagine your life is a tower that you are slowly building as the years go on. I see those books as the building blocks of the tower of my own life, the stones of my foundations (or at least, for the purposes of this post, the foundation for my love of fantasy in both reading and writing, which is what I’m here to talk about) that come and go in a way as I gain new interests, so that sometimes it feels like betrayal . . . How could you move on? But I can always go back down the winding stairs of the tower and visit them again, and they’ll always be a part of me. They all inform who I am, and what my reading taste is, and how I think, and what I want to be and do, and most especially (for this writer) what I write as well.
I can see blocks of time in this Fantasy Tower of my life.
Level One: Prydain and MacDonald
It started with George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, and Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. I don’t know which were first, I only know, looking back, that they were very early and, I believe, introduced me to Fantasy. Those are at the base of the tower; they were the first, and I read them and was enchanted. I LIVED in those worlds, and I loved those stories and characters so much. I still do, as with all of these. I’m afraid some of my earliest writings bore an uncanny resemblance to both those works, but we all start somewhere, yes? 😉
So, first was my beginning years of loving fantasy, with MacDonald and Prydain. (I believe Narnia came in somewhere around there a little after, and other works of Fantasy, though I don’t know how extreme their influence was.) That’s the first layer of stones at the base of the tower of Fantasy. They’re awhile ago from when I was younger and wasn’t aware of my tower, so it’s a little jumbled and vague, hidden in mists near the ground, and more instinctive than my deeper understanding of the later portions as I grew older, as I look back and remember better.
(Do you know why it’s called “in the mists of time”? Because YOU CAN’T SEE VERY WELL INTO IT. Ahem. Foggy memories… *shakes head*)
Level Two: Tolkien
The next really big thing, which is the largest on the fantasy tower so far, was Tolkien.
I read The Hobbit at one point, and then I later read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was ten or so, I believe. Some writers (and readers) come to Tolkien first, as their big fantasy introduction, but for me I already had the groundwork of fantasy laid; Tolkien served to strengthen it and built the next part of the tower, and was a focus of mine for many years, my absolute favorite. As I mentioned, I was enchanted and fell in love with these books, and went on to read The Silmarillion (several times), as well as reading any other works, finished or unfinished, by Tolkien that I could get my hands on. But not only were these stories, this world, these characters and languages, epic and beautiful and beloved and some of my favorites of all time, but the author himself simply seemed . . . right.
Tolkien was a kindred soul, and I know that sounds pompous to say, but when I read his letters and thoughts, I find myself agreeing with him and thinking “Oh! Yes! I’m just like that!” on so many levels. He and I just agree so well and have such similar temperaments. I’m not saying I’m anywhere near his level of talent or genius etc., I’m merely saying that he and I click, in a way that no other author that I can currently think of who I’ve run across does.
Tolkien’s works remain the next solid layer of my Fantasy tower, a very large portion of it, and still inform so much of my life and core personality and interests today.
Level Three: Diana Wynne Jones
(also concerning strawberry icecream)
Then, in 2012, I read Howl’s Moving Castle on a highly-trusted recommendation, and discovered Diana Wynne Jones. This is the third layer of my Fantasy tower. As some who read my blogs might have noticed, I’ve been very big on DWJ for awhile now. XD I’m captivated by and addicted to her books, particularly certain ones which have just stuck with me really well. I love her writing style and the humor she always had in her books, and her quirky but charming and lovable characters, and the absolute originality of her fantasy, mashed together with other genres to make her books unpigeonholeable (not a word, but should be), as well as how I always learn things about life and the world and people when I read her works. I’ve seen a bit of an influence on my writing as well, wanting to write more whimsical and amusing things.
It’s funny: when I decided Howl’s Moving Castle shared my top-favorite spot with The Lord of the Rings, and have been very DWJ focused, I didn’t realize (until recently) this thing about the Tower of Fantasy, how I can have different stages and favorites; and because I had just come from the Tolkien stage, I felt disloyal to Middle-earth, as if loving something else as well meant that I was betraying it by not loving ONLY it.
But I’ve realized that we have different stages in our lives, and that’s okay — it doesn’t make the previous stages any LESS important or less a part of you, you’re just on a different part of your journey so different things are more important right now. It’s not a betrayal. It’s growth and continuing and layers over the core.
I’ve always thought of myself as the girl who loves Middle-earth and the color green and Celtic music and chocolate and writes medieval fantasy. That’s still at my core and I will always be that person. But lately, if I’ve been a DWJ person who loves the color blue and dabbles in Christian rock or pop and loves strawberry ice cream and writes contemporary fantasy . . . that doesn’t mean I’m not STILL that same person as before too.
Because I can love both, I can have different layers of favorites, different layers of interests, and it doesn’t mean that blue or green or chocolate or strawberry are better than each other, or that in trying other kinds of books, music, and genres, that I’m abandoning the ones I used to have. I can do all of it, and it can all be me.
This is a slight tangent, but I feel like I need to address it while on the subject of moving through different books that are your favorites at the time. It’s okay to have different favorites at different times in your life, and it’s not being disloyal. I’m saying this partly to remind myself (especially when I feel bad about not having re-read some of these favorites in several years; I still plan to sometime), and partly in case anyone is having problems with it like I have. XD
I still interchange LOTR and Howl’s Moving Castle as my “favorite” books (and let’s be honest, sometimes I put Paper Crowns by Mirriam Neal up there because I love it and it’s amazing) but hey, I can have more than one top-favorite, right? 😉
Level Four? (Bright Empires)
It’s always hard to know, while you’re currently on a part of the tower, if something you’re reading is going to be the next part or if it’s just another great fantasy work but not quite a core one. But I think and suspect that, perhaps (time will tell), my latest addition to the Fantasy Tower of my life are Stephen R. Lawhead’s works. I just read his Bright Empires series, and while (like I said) I can’t be sure whether or not they’re the next ring of building blocks for my tower, at the very least, it’s the best series I’ve read in a long time.
Definitely favorites, the Bright Empires books have expanded my mind so much, broadened my horizons, were thoroughly epic, mind-boggling, and fun, with beloved characters, and introduced me to the first heroine in a very long time who I want so hard to be, namely Mina. She inspires me so much. Plus, the books are simply masterpieces. I think very differently after reading these books, I clicked so well with them, and they were absolutely amazing.
Speaking of Mina, let’s talk about heroines for a minute, since the award I hosted was Most Epic Heroine.
Heroines are hard to write, my friends. One strange thing about my personality is that I rarely come across a favorite female character. I think it’s because I’m a girl and I find that it’s harder for an author to write a girl character that I actually like, because I am one and we’re complicated, and the fictional girls often end up either too tough or too wimpy, neither of which I like. I more often am interested in the male characters, who are generally cooler and doing more interesting things. I do run up against female characters that I like sometimes, and that’s often a sign that the author is a good one.
But there have only been a handful that have stood out as my favorites, the ones who at some level I feel like are ME, and at another level I feel like are what I want to be, what I want to become, what I want to take and emulate because they are noble and good and show some part of humanity that I want to BE. They make me want to be a better person, while I also feel like I am them.
And those are basically:
- Princess Irene from The Princess and the Goblin
- Princess Eilonwy from the Chronicles of Prydain
- Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings
- Luthien Tinuviel from The Silmarillion
- Wilhelmina “Mina” Klug from the Bright Empires series.
(I think on some level, I was Lucy from Narnia when I was younger, and many of Diana Wynne Jones’ characters have been instant connections for me, like Sophie and others, as well, though I haven’t thought as much about those for this post; likely because they’re more recent for me but not as mind-blowing as Mina was — who was the character that got me started thinking about all of this — so I haven’t thought them out as much.)
(Also, I find this a good time to mention the dedication in The High King by Lloyd Alexander, which I never understood until now: “For the boys who might have been Taran and the girls who will always be Eilonwy.“)
Of Heroism/Nobility versus Mediocrity/”Realism”
And I think it’s important to have favorite characters one can look up to, have as role models, but still feel you are like them. There’s a sort of connection there that is marvelous. Heroes tend to be more favorites of mine than heroines, and I can learn things from them as well, of course, and they’re simply awesome sometimes, so there’s that; but I can’t exactly BE them, quite the way I can be a heroine like Eilonwy or Mina.
I think these heroines stand out to me partly because it is so rare for me to find a timeless one like that. There are many other noble and wonderful heroines I’ve liked over time, don’t get me wrong! Some even other favorites. But these are my FAVORITE favorites, the ones I want to be like. 🙂
And that’s part of why I’m tired of this “make them relatable and ‘realistic’ by giving them flaws and making them fallen and ordinary” trend in modern writing.
I don’t want mediocre Main Characters. I want Epic Heroines.
If your favorite characters are mediocre, you’ll only want to be mediocre, you’ll only believe that’s how far you can go.
If, on the other hand, your favorite characters are noble and epic and extraordinary, then you’ll want to rise above your ordinary and mediocre, fallen and flawed life, and try to emulate them, to BE them; and these fictional characters who aren’t “real” can change your life and make you a better person. All by being fantastic characters. What’s not to love?
Things These Core Books Have In Common
What do all these books and series have in common? They are Fantasy, yes. But they each hold things that truly resonated with me — not just one thing but all the elements and the whole.
I love the stories. I love the worlds. I love the characters — not only the heroes, not only the heroines, but both, as well as the entire cast of characters, really. They have favorite heroes. I want to be the heroines. I want to live in the books.
“The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.'”
(from The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis)
I also “click” with the authors — when I read things that these authors like Alexander, Tolkien, Jones, and Lawhead say (in fiction and nonfiction) I’ve had these wonderful “me too!” moments, those times when, like in the C.S. Lewis quote above, you form a friendship from a shared thought or feeling. We share the same truth. I feel like they’re kindred souls, and suspect that’s one of the reasons I love their fiction so much. (It’s interesting: when I love an author’s fiction work enough to try out their nonfiction, that’s when I discover my favorite works of nonfiction, essays, etc. It’s happened so many times with these and a couple other authors.)
And I learned things from these favorite, core books. Yes, shocking as it may sound to some, these fiction books, these works of *gasp* fantasy, have taught me so many things that, as I think about it, my mind boggles and I can’t even begin to explain all the things I’ve learned from these wonderful works of literature and art. (I did do a post about a few of those things, awhile back, but that was only scratching the surface.)
Because fantasy is true. These things may not have happened in our world, but they have Truth, and I learn things far better when they’re woven into a tale (a parable, perhaps?) than I can reading some boring textbook. I can see the things unfolding and understand things about the characters and wonder about things and want to learn about them. Fantasy may not always teach “facts” like how big the sun is or how many threes make a dozen (though they might teach that too), but they teach me real things about life and about love and about how people work and how to surmount obstacles and to try to be a better person like my heroes (and heroines).
I don’t know if these fantasy authors try to put these things in their works (I know I certainly don’t, but sometimes things creep in somehow), or if they simply are trying to tell a good story and their worldviews are shining through the particular leaf of the Tree of Tales that they are telling and coming out as good wholesome lessons from the Writer of all Lives, but regardless, I’ve found so much Truth in these and other works of fantasy.
And all of that as a bonus to reading simply amazing fantastical stories about fabulous characters in imaginative worlds. What is not to love? Who would have thought it, but Fantasy is fantastic in all meanings of that word, and that is why I love it as I do.
Plus, I mean, Fantasy has dragons. And there’s the icing on the cake.
*passes around the last of the LOTR birthday celebration cake and breaks out Gandalf’s fireworks to celebrate Middle-earth and Fantasy with a literal bang*
(P.S.: If you have a Fantasy/LOTR themed post this week, feel free to share the link in the linky over on Jenelle’s post!)