Archive for the ‘The Bubbling Imagination’ Category

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Writing for Young Children

December 15, 2011

Last year I sent my young cousins a leather-bound volume of all seven Narnia books for Christmas.  They were almost the right age for the stories, and to my delight they were read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe this past year, and loved it – so much so that my younger cousin had a Narnia-themed birthday party.

This year I had an interesting idea.  What if I wrote them a book instead, and sent new chapters in serials every week or two?

Many authors through the years wrote books for specific young people, usually but not always their own children.  Tolkien himself wrote The Hobbit for his children, before it was published.  I do not usually write children’s books, tending toward the teen/young adult range, but it is somehow easier to imagine writing a children’s book when I have the readers themselves in mind – and charming readers they are, too!

I feel that the danger in writing for young children is the tendency to want to insert “lessons” into the book.  I firmly believe stories should be told for their own sake, for their own enjoyment, and not to push an agenda (typically).  This is especially important with children’s books; often the lesson is far too obvious, and they see it right away and lose interest in the story, well aware of its intent.   All stories have lessons in them, but they will come out of the woodwork naturally, on their own, if the story is well-told.  I don’t think the author should design or force them.

But it’s amazing how counterintuitive that is!  While planning my serial story today, I had to constantly hand-slap myself for designing morals and messages to employ.  I had a difficult time forcing myself to focus on world-building and characters – usually my first priority – because my imagination kept tangenting into symbolism and “meaningful stuff”.

Perhaps it’s harder when you know your audience personally, and are basing characters off them.  Maybe I’m not meant to be a children’s book author.  Maybe it just takes practice?

Regardless of all these things, I am enjoying the process of planning The Queen in the Wooden Box, and I hope its recipients will enjoy it.  I aim to have the first chapter or two off in the mail to two dear children soon!

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Tuesday Ramblings 12.13.11

December 13, 2011

I apologize for not writing more often. This week has been pretty busy, what with Christmas coming, a cranky baby, and the excitement of a new for-fun story project that has kept me up to late night hours typing away.

Stuck in my head today: The Firefly theme song. “You can’t take the sky from me!”

Deep and important thoughts pondered today: The reality of Christ’s birth, and how it was probably so different from what we imagine. Our pastor preached a couple of weeks ago on how willing Mary and Joseph were to obey God, even though it meant suffering. Imagine! It was supposed to be the happiest time of their lives – the anticipation of their nuptials – and instead they were dealing with the suspicion and social shame of a pregnancy before they were wed. Probably most people thought they were fornicators and liars, maybe some thought they were just plain crazy. Did even their families believe them? Then all this ignominy culminated in a dirty, miserable birthing experience in a stable, of all places. “Silent night / Holy night / All is calm / All is bright” – yeah, right! Mary has to have been a very strong young woman, and Joseph a courageous man. I can’t wait to meet them in glory someday.  (These ramblings were inspired by this posting at The Blazing Center.)

Quote for today:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

Reading this week: Divergent by Veronica Roth. I hope to have a review up of this soon, but unfortunately it is not doing well in holding my attention, so it’s been sitting untouched for several days.

Writing this week: My writing has been all play and no work this week. I’ve been writing what I call a “fall from the sky” story – taking characters from multiple books, movies, and my own stories and putting them all together (as if they had “fallen from the sky”) to see what happens. It’s marvelous fun! I don’t write them very often, but I was inspired by my dream last week where a character from my book found the One Ring and had to destroy it. Here’s an example of what this story is like…*blushes* Hopefully it doesn’t keep its grip on me for too long, because I do need to get back to “real” writing, but I have an audience of at least one person begging me to write more…

Lord Voldemort paced across the empty obsidian chamber, sizing it up with a dim smile of approval. “Yes…this will make excellent headquarters.”

A panting Lucius Malfoy appeared in the doorway, wand in hand. “We have subdued the creatures, my lord,” he announced. “I am not sure we will even need to Imperius them all.”

“Excellent.” Voldemort kicked over the man he had killed mere moments before. The body was still warm. “He was right about one thing,” he mused, leaning over the corpse. “There can only be one Dark Lord. We will overthrow this Sauron, and to do so we must fight him with his own weapons. Find me this Ring our friend here so graciously told us about – and get me Harry Potter. He must not be permitted to find it first.”

He smiled down at Saruman’s stiff body, and wrested the staff from the dead wizard’s hands.

Yes, I know, I’m terrible. Hehe.

Who would win in an epic battle? Voldemort absolutely outmatches Saruman, but could he conquer Sauron as well…? And we haven’t even gotten to the Cybermen yet! I might even throw Darth Vader into the mix for good measure. But I think he’ll find the Force somewhat lacking in Middle-Earth…

Okay, now I’m embarrassed. I don’t call myself a geek, buuuut…

I’m going to hurry off and do something very useful and productive now.

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Captivation and Captivity

November 30, 2011

Contrary to how it may sound, this posting is not about a Jane Austen book.

(Sorry.  😀  Doesn’t it sound like that, though?  Wow, if that was a Jane Austen book, I’d want to read it – it sounds epic.  Okay, moving on in all seriousness…)

Lately I’ve been thinking about the way stories take me back to “The Story”, as we say – the salvation plan of God, the eternal sacrifice of Christ.  Even if books and movies are not explicitly Christian stories or written by Christians, they may still have elements of “The Great Story” in them.

No Greater Love

We see hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of stories with characters who lay down their lives to save others, or in the very least prepare to do so if necessary.  “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13 (ESV).  Even people who don’t believe in Christ’s atonement value this kind of sacrifice.

Within fiction, sometimes these situations can make us view the Cross in a new light, deepening our awe at God’s mercy.  (Warning.  Although I feel like the last person in the world to read/watch the series, I feel I should mention there are Harry Potter spoilers in this section.)  Weird as this may sound, my favorite part of the entire Harry Potter series was when he died.  It was so well-expressed.  As a reader I was brim-full with shocked anticipation and the emotion he experienced as he walked to his own death, knowing he needed to perish if Voldemort was to be defeated.

And when he was actually killed, oddly enough, I felt an immense sense of relief.  It was all over!  He had done it!  It occurred to me to wonder whether Christ had that same sense of relief as He uttered, “It is finished”?  Whether or not Harry’s sacrifice is a Christ-picture is a topic for a whole other posting (honestly, I feel the comparison isn’t as great as it may seem on the surface), but that powerful portrayal of sacrifice made me reflect on Christ’s death for me with more gratitude and awe.  And Harry’s death was only a story.  (End spoilers.)

Aside from the very obvious example of sacrifice, there are many elements of the story of salvation that are echoed in smaller ways in fiction.  Some stories have layers and layers of them.  None are perfect analogies, of course, but they are everywhere.

Being Captured

In my mid-teens I often babysat a young girl who liked to play with her collection of horses.  Of course, I had to play too.  It was the same story every time – there were two horse families, the good one and the evil one.  The evil family would capture one or many of the good horses, and the remaining good guys had to rescue the captives and bring them back home.  Like many children’s games, the cycle could continue indefinitely.  Capture.  Rescue.  Celebrate.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  My eyes are hazing over just thinking about it…  And yet, it was the same kind of game I played with my sister as a child, the same kind of game we played with the neighborhood children, the same kind of Star Wars fanfiction I wrote as a kid.  The theme of “being captured” is even present in most of my stories to this day – but not in endless repetition, thankfully.

What is it about being a prisoner that has such drama for us?  From an early age we are moved by stories of damsels in distress.  My young cousin once declared emphatically that “heroes never get captured by the bad guy” – which amused us, because they so often do.  Many stories hit their deepest, direst point when the protagonist falls into the clutches of the enemy.

(I’m sure you’ve already guessed where I’m going to take this.)

I wonder if our fascination with being captured and escaping has some roots in the human condition?

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…” – Isaiah 61:1

“He looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD,
and in Jerusalem His praise…” – Psalm 102:19-20

Before we come to Christ, we are like prisoners trapped in our sin, blind to our true state and deaf to God.

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’  They answered Him, ‘We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, “You will become free”?’ ” – John 8:31-33

Like the Jews in that passage, perhaps most would say they had never been captives, never been enslaved.  But as those saved in Christ, we know that we once were – and now Christ has bought us our freedom.  I wonder if we all, as even children, sense that cage, and long for liberation?

Just something I’ve been pondering…

Your thoughts?  How about some other examples of themes in stories that echo God’s story of salvation?

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Simmer Starters 11/28

November 28, 2011

Things from today’s newsfeed that captured my interest…

The Art of Play I much enjoyed this inspiring post at The Rabbit Room about creativity, children, and the importance of enjoying one’s creative work. “I will defend and defend the belief that the deepest reality of human life that we must impress upon children is not that life is hard and death is inevitable and they need to get used to sadness and darkness and make the best of it. The deepest reality is joy.  …  Tears are temporary; laughter is eternal.”

Nathan Bransford asks (for the 5th time), “Will You Ever Buy Mostly E-Books”?  As someone who fiercely loves paper books, yet loves the idea of carrying thousands of stories around in a single device, I am fascinated by the future of reading and publishing.  It’s interesting how the number of paper book lovers declines year by year…