1. Bainespal says:

    I like to think of fantasy as an expression of what we know to be real in life but do not see on the surface.  I certainly read high fantasy because I want to feel significant and to imagine that all the dull things that I experience everyday are really, secretly, unfolding epics.

    Anyways, this is an encouraging article. 🙂

    • Fantasy allows us to see the truth from a FRESH perspective . . . otherwise, we tend to get to comfortable with the truth and don’t see it anymore. It’s such a beautiful genre, isn’t it? 🙂

  2. Galadriel says:

    I loved Heatless and Veiled Rose, and am looking forward to reading the others when I can find copies. What you say about being tagged the Next Whoever is so true; I never want to be labeled that, only me.

  3. Lostariel says:

    Your work didn’t remind me of Tolkien, and heaven forbid it should remind anyone of Twilight. What it did do is sweep me away. Moonblood is out already? I need to find it now.
    Oh, and thank you for this. 🙂 

    • You’re welcome, Lostariel. I hope you will enjoy MOONBLOOD. My home town book store up in WI has advance copies, but I don’t think anyone else will have it for a couple of weeks. Very soon now!

  4. Kessie says:

    Great article! I do think it’s unfair to be tagged “the next so and so”, but even in chess circles, they’re always looking for “the next Bobby Fisher”. We just work by comparing things to other things.
    Stephen King has that great quote about all fantasy writers are trying to bring back Frodo and Sam from the Gray Havens, because Tolkien is no longer around to do it for them. On some level I think he’s right. We love that world, so we go on to create our own worlds that we love just as much.
    I know I don’t want to be the next Tolkien. That’s setting the bar WAY too high and I’m not that smart. But I can be me and write the things that I enjoy reading. Maybe someday someone else will enjoy them too. 🙂

    • Yup. And comparisons ARE great marketing tools. People like to make connections, and it does sometimes help to drive the right readers to the right books. It can just feel a little uncomfortable to the authors in questions! 🙂

      Like I said, I don’t think we need another Tolkien. We need creative writers who are willing to study the classics, make intelligent connections to the past and the present, and bring THEMSELVES wholeheartedly into their work! Those are stories I want to read! 🙂  

  5. Good thoughts!  I think it’s interesting how different authors project their personality into their stories in different ways.  I was just talking to a friend last night about a similar topic, telling her that none of my protagonists are meant to be “me”, but most of them have qualities and traits I can identify with.  They may have very different personalities or habits from me, personally, but I can relate to them each in their own way.  My friend, on the other hand, projects herself more directly into her works; I would say that both of her WIP’s protagonists are strongly based off of her.  They see the world the way she does, or they are meant to be a wishful version of herself, the person she would like to be.  Although that’s not the way I write, I think that’s neat, because her stories are definitely an expression of her as a person.  🙂

    • The nice thing is, everybody in this world is made up of SO MANY bits and pieces. It’s not difficult to take a tiny piece of oneself, put it into a new context, and see fascinating and three dimensional character emerge that is not YOU, per se, that was born from you and your experience. And ultimately, even the characters we base off of other people are only based off of our PERSPECTIVE on other people, which makes them just as much a part of us.

      Sigh . . . I just love writing fiction! So many interesting possibilities . . . 🙂 

  6. Thanks for this great article, Anne Elisabeth. I like the fact that you started with the idea of universal themes. There’s nothing to personalize if we don’t first get a grasp of what it is we as people are fighting for — purpose, belonging, love, security, hope, significance, and so on.

    Your post makes a great companion piece with one of our features, “The Next C. S. Lewis?” In addition, I think what you say here makes the point I tried to bring out in my comment to John Otte’s Wednesday post, “Done to Death,” about fantasy tropes that have been over-utilized. In my view, it’s not that these tropes have been around and around and around as much as it is that they haven’t been personalized. They feel like hash rehashed because … well, they are.

    Think about all the Arthurian legend stories. How can we tolerate one more? And yet, along comes Stephen Lawhead and re-imagines the whole thing (see his King Raven series), and suddenly it doesn’t feel tired and overdone. Same with Bryan Davis’s use of it in his first Dragons in Our Midst books.

    Something is only overdone, I think, if it lacks this personal touch which sets it apart from those we have already read.


  7. Hello all! Nice to see all these comments. Sorry I haven’t been jumping into the conversation . . . been out of town for my brother’s wedding. Lots of rushing around, as you can imagine! I’m glad you found this article interesting and encouraging.

  8. J.L. Mbewe says:

    I enjoyed your post. Yes, nothing is new under the sun, but I love how we can make it our own. I’ve never thought about it like that before. Kind of gives a person some confidence because we aren’t those writers. Just how to go about doing that…

    I think as writers we do sew a little of ourselves into our characters without realizing it, but perhaps we need to be a little more purposeful in sewing those seeds verses the characters arising organically from our imaginations. Otherwise they might end up looking like the characters we adore from our favorite books.

  9. […] J.L. Mbewe: I enjoyed your post. Yes, nothing is new under the sun, but I love how we can… 11:38 pm, March 4, 2012 […]

  10. TheQuietPen says:

    Very nicely written.  Putting pieces of my personal experiences into characters is very important, but I used to be scared that I was “Mary Sue-ing” them as a way of self-glorification.  I ended up creating a heroine who was so purposefully different from myself that she ended up being an artificial, uninteresting character.  God showed me that my personal experiences are more universal than I think, and with a few trusty beta-readers to catch major issues, I should be free to pour something of myself into them.

    And now for something completely different: I love your titles and book covers.  They are beautiful, evocative, and add to the book’s “pick-up-it-tiveness”–speaking as an avid reader and a former bookseller.    

    • Hi, TheQuietPen! I know what you mean about Mary-Sueing . . . striking that balance can certainly be a task sometimes! I hope you will continue to find that exciting place of bringing yourself but allowing the character to have his/her own life as well.

      And thanks for your kind comments! I wish I could take some small credit for those covers . . . but alas, all praise is really due the Bethany House art department! The titles I can claim as my own, at least. I was a bookseller not that long ago myself, and I was thrilled to see what Bethany House did for me. They are awesome folks! 🙂

  11. […] Speculative Faith back in March and she wrote a great article highlighting this very topic called, Bringing the Personal to the Universal. Concerning the similar themes and tropes you find in fantasy stories, she […]

  12. […] Faith back in March of 2012, and she wrote a great article highlighting this very topic called, Bringing the Personal to the Universal. Concerning the similar themes and tropes you find in fantasy stories, she […]

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