Finding Wonder In Your WritingSep 26, 2021
Meet Tasha Suri, fantasy author and writing coach at The Novelry. Tasha Suri is the award-winning author of The Books of Ambha duology (Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash) and the epic fantasy The Jasmine Throne. She has won the Best Newcomer Award from the British Fantasy Society (2019) and been nominated for the Astounding Award and Locus Award for Best First Novel.
When TIME asked leading fantasy authors – George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Tomi Adeyemi, N. K. Jemisin and Sabaa Tahir – to compile a list of the 100 most fascinating fantasy books of all time, dating back to the 9th century, they chose Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand to be on their list.
Here, Tasha describes how she still finds wonder in her writing.
When I was still very small, every weekend I would grab my bike and meet my friend, and head to the local park. At that age, the park seemed humongous to me: vast, endless fields of green with steep hills that we’d ride up then race down, cycling faster and faster so that we’d hurtle forward at lightspeed.
And at the far end of the park, beyond a wall of lacy, drooping willows, stood an emerald bridge. The bridge led, we both agreed, to a road that went to another world. I was obsessed with The Wizard of Oz then, and though the path wasn’t a yellow brick road, I was pretty sure I knew a magical road when I saw one.
It felt exactly how entering another world should have felt, strange and new and wondrous.
I remember walking along that path once, holding my breath as I did it, the wheels of my bike clicking. I remember the serious, almost ritualistic way we had crossed the bridge, and the hush of the tree-lined path around us. It felt exactly how entering another world should have felt, strange and new and wondrous.
I went back to that park recently. Now I’m an adult, the hills don’t look so very steep at all. And the emerald bridge is just a green, graffitied bridge over railway tracks, leading to an alley between typical terraced houses. Nothing special, in truth.
It was easy to feel wonder as a child. It’s harder as an adult, when you know what things are, and the world is somehow bigger and yet smaller all at once. What was new and strange and full of possibility becomes familiar and, perhaps, dull. You’ve seen this all before.
The importance of wonder for writers
But as writers, it is that wonder – that ability to see something else in the mundane – that drive us. When you’re a writer, you don’t just exist in the world. You want to say something about it. You want to lift up its dark underbelly, or draw back a curtain so your reader can walk with you to somewhere else, or simply crack the surface of a normal life and show all the strange and beautiful things that drive it.
As a writer of fantasy, wonder and the fantastical are my bread and butter. I like to lean in to wonder – to seek it out and articulate it and make worlds that are big and vibrant. I like to read about epic historical battles and political sea changes; to walk around museums and gaze at swords under pale spotlights, or peer at carefully preserved costumes from days long gone.
I like to think about what it must have been like to raise that sword, or wear that costume. How it would feel, perhaps, to sweep down a corridor in heavy velvet under torchlight. I think about what it might feel like to have magic, or do the impossible: how it feels to dream something and make it real.
All of that is wonder, pure and distilled, then splashed across the page.
As writers, it is that wonder – that ability to see something else in the mundane – that drive us. When you’re a writer, you don’t just exist in the world. You want to say something about it. You want to lift up its dark underbelly, or draw back a curtain
But wonder can be found closer to home and be no less powerful. Think of the way it feels to fall in love, or slide excruciatingly out of it. Even a description of a piece of bread can be so real and new that it makes the reader feel as if they can taste it. A writer can make the familiar seem luminous and strange.
Finding wonder in adulthood
But how can you seek out wonder? How can you bring that childlike something into your work when you’re an adult, jaded to the way the world works?
Sometimes the trick is to seek out new knowledge and experiences. Sometimes, it’s as simple as opening your eyes to wonder on purpose: to choose to see it around you in your day-to-day life.
When all else fails, the real magic of reading a good book is that it has the power to fire up your imagination and open up a different world for you.
And when all else fails, the real magic of reading a good book is that it has the power to fire up your imagination and open up a different world for you. When you lift your head from the page, it’s like putting on new lenses. For a little while, everything is new and fresh, full of possibility.
When I visited the park as an adult, I did cross the emerald bridge. I went into the alley and walked through it. Instead of being disappointed that I didn’t have a child’s easy awe anymore, I looked at the trees lining the alley, bending inward like an arch, and the way the light broke through their leaves. And I listened to the hush around me, and after a moment I felt a little of that old magic creep back.
This could be a portal to another world, I thought. I wonder what kind of story could begin on a road like this one?
Writing Coach at The Novelry
Tasha Suri is the award-winning author of The Books of Ambha duology (Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash) and the epic fantasy trilogy The Burning Kingdoms which starts with The Jasmine Throne. She won the Best Newcomer Award from the British Fantasy Society in 2019 and was nominated for the Locus Award for Best First Novel. Write your novel with coaching from Tasha Suri on our famous online creative writing courses.