1. Amen, amen, amen, and amen! Well said and a great lesson for all of us. 

  2. Amy Timco says:

    I couldn’t agree more!

  3. Galadriel says:

    Amen! Even though I know why marketers do it,  it will NEVER appear on any of my writing if I have anything to say about it.

  4. I get your point and agree to an extent. I’ve read the hype, too, and been disappointed. Shadowmancer was hyped as hotter than Potter, and what a joke that was. It’s so poorly written that it made me embarrassed for the Christians who gave it five-star reviews on Amazon. 

    But I think comparisons CAN be helpful. The only time they are not helpful, I think, is when they are false. I often say at the end of a book report: People who liked A and B will also like this book. And once I said that Jonathan Rogers was a mix between CS Lewis and Mark Twain. I think the comparisons  I make offer readers an easy way to figure out if thy would like the book or author. 

    Someday I hope that Jonathan Rogers is so well known that people will talking about new writers being the next Jonathan Rogers, but for now, he’s not that well known so in order to help him become well known I’m trying to convince people to give him a shot by telling them who he reminds me of. I’m confident that people who like CS Lewis and Mark Twain will like Jonathan’s books.

    Sorry for bringing down to a personal level. I just couldn’t resist taking this opportunity to put Jonathan’s name out there again. 🙂 He’s such a good writer.

    But seriously, I don’t think we can live without comparisons. When we submit to agents and editors we have to give them a way to quickly know who we are writing like and which audiences will like us. And it make sense that they want to put that kind of stuff on the cover of books, too, to try to snap readers up in the few seconds they have before the reader moves on to the next book. 

    You’re absolutely right to say that we should be happy to be the people God made us to be. I agree with that completely. And I agree, mostly, that we should be pretty careful with our comparisons and avoid hype. But I don’t think we need to do away completely with using comparisons as shorthand ways of telling people what authors or books are like.  

  5. Carol, Amy, Galadriel, thanks for your encouraging comments. I really appreciate it.

    Sally, you make a good point about comparisons. I think the problem is in comparing oneself (or an author we’re reviewing or promoting) with arguably the best in the business. Hands down, people believed Michael Jordan was the best in the game when he (first) retired. So to tout anyone as “the next” is essentially saying, Here’s the “new best.” That’s a statement that should be used sparingly (I think I used it myself this summer about Andrew Peterson).

    The thing that amazes me the most, however, is when the comparison is made and there is nothing in the writing or story that seems similar. It’s a marketing ploy that backfires, I believe.

    To say, If you like stories like Wrinkle in Time then you’ll like . . . seems different to me from an author to author comparison. It’s identifying a type of story and certainly needs to be done for agents and editors. I can see that readers could benefit from that kind of comparison too.


    • Galadriel says:

      Agreed. I used “cross between” more easily than the next. For example, Mistmantle Chronicles is a cross between Narnia and Redwell, because it’s got the Redwall setting but more Narnian characters, and it’s still got its own great flavor.

  6. Another reason to avoid some Lewis comparisons is they don’t help readers and authors explore new worlds — with newer, original, different beauties and truths, about the same original Story (God’s) or its application.

    Though I absolutely know that we can never tire of the main message of the Gospel, that God Himself died in place of sinners, and though I never tire of the “supposal” of that kind of story, and others, in The Chronicles of Narnia (especially the first) … it does grow wearisome, in other stories. Sometimes.

    Another created-world, another Christ stand-in, another prophesied child’s arrival …

    Well, not so much that. I don’t mind that so much. In fact, I’m writing a WIP with similar premises, though different, so obviously I don’t dislike it one hundred percent.

    I think, rather, it’s the rehashed themes that are so familiar to seem redundant. When one tries to imitate Lewis, overmuch — rather than the things mentioned above, like Sally said, about following in his tradition and such — we’re not exploring further frontiers of fiction. We’re only repeating what Lewis said, in ways similar to how he said it. As artists, it could be hacketry; as Christians, it may not be exercising God’s gifts.

    One could, for example, take a quote of Lewis’s, something that he happened to say very well because of his background and gifts and training, and simply repeat it, or “clone” it, for our own works, and not explore or expand on that same beauty or truth.

    Otherwise, we’re not actually following in the tradition of trying to sneak God’s truths and beauties past “watchful dragons” — especially our own serpentine sentries! Instead, we’re setting up a whole new set of “dragons.” We’re chewing on the same processed meats whose original inspiration is flavorful by itself, and might not need imitators, while we are perhaps wrongfully wary of other kinds of genres and stories — without here’s-your-next-C.S.-Lewis claims — that could offer new themes and beauty-and-truth reflections.

    Of course, it’s often hard to expand upon Lewis’s work, in the way that he built on the work of others, and not simply repeat it. Example 1: very likely my own attempt to expand, and apply in a different cultural context, his “watchful dragons” metaphor …

  7. Great thoughts!  While I admire C.S. Lewis, Rosemary Sutcliff, Tolkien, and other great authors whose works I enjoy, I’d rather be THE Bethany A. Jennings, not an imitation of another writer.  🙂

    I have to say, though, I enjoy trying to describe my books as “cross betweens”.  I usually can’t, but if I can I think it’s fun to see what stories have shaped my own, however subtly.

  8. Timothy Stone says:

    In reference to your comment Stephen and a Facebook comments on this article, I am reposting my comments herein. I think that you hit the nail on the head for balance. Copying someone else is bad, but refusing to ever use the same ideas as someone for fear of copying them, is also bad, and leads to very boring works.

    Copycatting (plagiarism) is not good. That should be obvious to everyone. Sometimes I think that we call things plagiarism that are simply using established ideas. Tolkien and Lewis pretty much invented and inaugurated modern fantasy. To outright copy them like *coughEragonandfirstShannarabookonlycough* is not good. It is using the scenes to illicit a response that you are not imaginative enough to come up with yourself.

    However, they also used many medieval and fantasy archetypes in a fantasy setting. I just fear that too often we expect people to guard against having ANY similarities to Lewis and Tolkien. If we dispense with the conventions and motifs that they invented and/put forth, we are going to have some rather droll and boring books, as the interesting ideas will be off-limits. In other words, purposeful is bad, but if it is not the goal of the author, and is part of their own story, then maybe it’s not so bad. Just my thought.

    • Timothy, I think you’ve said some very important things that speak to the issue of the favorite accusation leveled at fantasy — it’s derivative. I’ve posted on that subject from time to time because I think that’s largely a facetious argument. I use the analogy with books in the romance genre. Do we accuse one of those of being derivative because it’s about a man and woman meeting and falling in love?

      However, I think the issue I spoke to in this article — writers, reviewers, PR people identifying a writer as the “next C. S. Lewis” — is a different matter. In this case, the issue has more to do with quality, style, staying power, because Lewis is near or at the top of fantasy writers. His stories have already shown they pass the test of time. If nothing else, it is premature to say that any other writer of our era will approach that greatness.

      For us writers, I think it’s a good thing to aspire to write with staying power, but it is up to readers to decide if they will want to pass our books on to their children, if they’ll want to reread them in five years or twenty-five.

      As a reviewer, I am free to make predictions. I mentioned that I put Andrew Peterson in the C. S. Lewis class in a review this year. As I recall, I said he had the potential to write classics. I think he’s good enough, but will the public discover his books? That’s always a part of the mix — something God alone controls. My point is, my predictions, or any other reviewers, are simply educated guesses based on preferences. And too many C. S. Lewis predictions end up being a turn-off. My reaction, sadly, has become doubt: 🙄 Here’s another one claiming to be great.

      I admit this doubt is in part because I’ve been disappointed by previous such claims. I wish people would let their writing speak for itself.



  9. Aw, I think most people are saying things like that because many (particularly Christian) reviewers are (a) not super familiar with the genre outside of Lewis and (b) there is legitimately something about the work that, for them, reminds them of Lewis.

    So when someone says my book is “C.S. Lewis meets Monty Python” what they mean to say is, “This book has deep spiritual content, is allegorical or fantastical on some level and made me laugh pretty hard.” Or else they think I am British. That’s another possibility.

    Interestingly, it seems like the same issue exists for fantasy in the ABA, only it’s Tolkein who always gets thrown out there…. 

What do you think?