Start by locating the source of evil in your world. Conflict is the essential ingredient to a children's story.
It may or may not be a dragon. (Please God, not another one.)
The real evil in Narnia, Wonderland, and Neverland is time.
Oh Kronos, you creep.
Kronos (or Cronus) was the King of the Titans and the god of time for the Greeks, a destructive, all-devouring force. He ruled the cosmos during the Golden Age after castrating and deposing his father, Uranus (Sky). In fear of a prophecy that he would in turn be overthrown by his own son, Kronos swallowed each of his children as they were born.
Time is the old grandfather clock who gets tick-tocked off in fantasy fiction, particularly children's classics.
Got five minutes?
"Well, sir, if things are real, they're there all the time."
"Are they?" said the Professor; and Peter didn't know quite what to say.
"But there was no time," said Susan. "Lucy had no time to have gone anywhere, even if there was such a place....
Writers are creative people, and they're most creative of all with time. Successful writers make time to write.
Are you busy?
As in you have a great deal to do and don't have enough time?
Right-o. Yup. I haven't yet met anyone who isn't, have you?
You have the same amount of time as everyone on a day to day basis. You have twenty-four hours. You can argue that they are not yours to use as you lie, but that's not entirely true. You can always walk out of your life and it's the fantasy subject of many a good book and the practice of many a holy man or woman too.
When you say you are busy what you mean is this is not important enough to make it onto the 1... 24 of the hours I have available. So next time he or she doesn't call you because they were busy you will know you did not make it into their top 24 things to do that day or the next.
It would be very cool if you had the guts to say 'this is not important to me' rather than that you are too busy since you...
A few weeks ago, I dreamt that my legs were covered in thick, lupine hair. A pelt of fur. Then I dreamt a few days later of being in a clinic on a table with a cold steel blade tracing the bones of my legs shaving them. A few nights later, in another dream, the hairs on my legs were long, thick and golden stalks of hair like wheat in a field, with the wind blowing through them.
On Saturday evening, last week, I was talking about the notion of our 'shadowlands' (the secondary world in speculative fiction) with a fellow writer who had some very interesting mythological references to offer on the matter. That night I dreamt that I was reaching down to my nether regions pulling out single hairs that came out individually as black quills, like the spikes of a porcupine filled with black ink.
I woke and thought about the fur coats in the wardrobe in Narnia. Suddenly the single philosophical theme of my...
The great Classics show younger readers how to maintain the wonder of childhood and the rest of us how to get back there in a hurry. The authors of the Classics - such as JM Barrie, CS Lewis and E.Nesbit - were particularly able to tap the well of their childhood.
I'd like to offer you a road home with some simple directions in this week's blog and next.
Yesterday I was leaving the supermarket fairly jacked off, as always, superficially aware that I am 'lucky' but also just jacked off; drizzle, duty etc. Just like you do too.
I drove past a man in a car who had a look on his face which matched my thoughts.
I thought - Jesus, once you were this:
Each and every one of us goes through transformations so gradually we don't notice them happening but the cumulative effect is one of devastation. We wear the cliffside we have fallen off.
Colin Duriez and David Porter 'The Inklings'
The Inklings was a group of literary friends meeting in Oxford from 1933 to 1949 which included CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien who wrote the world-famous bestselling classics of literary fantasy. It was their belief that we win truth by metaphor, using highly imaginative models such as their worlds of Narnia and Middle-earth.
The creation of a work of wonder, a classic, is far more important more than a matter of life and death.
Wonder or the feeling of wonderment goes beyond the spectacle, or carnival, the pageant or festival, beyond feasting and fêting, beyond human celebrations and the things we enjoy thanks to the suspension of normal routine.
It goes FAR beyond those. Don’t mistake it for misrule or mayhem. Don’t confuse it with surrealism, romantic love or engrossment.
'I am not...
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. Janus held the key because he was the gateway to any passage: birth, death, travels, change.
As writers we work between two worlds, with one face set to the actuality, the reality, the individual and particular day to day stuff and the other turned to peer into deeper, darker dreams, the unknown, the common myth, the universal.
We work the Janus method, with a 'back and forth' motion.
‘As I reflect on the process of writing and ask myself how themes enter that process, it seems to me that a certain back-and-forth motion takes place. First you give yourself to (or throw yourself into) the writing, and go where it takes you. Then you step back and ask yourself where you are, whether you...
But, you feel stale.
You keep tidying stuff, chucking out crap, or wiping down the kitchen counters.
You toss books aside as ‘too easy’ or too hard’.
You turn about your life, like a cat trying to find a way to settle.
You’re sentimental. About old memories, old things. Objects which have no value suddenly seem vital. Images of loneliness or reunion, scenes at the airport move you to tears. You miss people you haven’t thought of in ages. You feel like you learnt a lot last year, but you’re worn out.
You need to shake the snow dome of your life. Hard. Watch where it all settles, and maybe let a snowflake or two land on your tongue. You need to recover the child you once were.
You can keep trudging through the snow that’s gone grey or you can take the sled into the New Year.
You have all you need to be the person you want to be. Apart from a sled.
Make an idea a...
I’ve never paid attention to the features of my story which might make it more likely to be a bestseller.
But I’m all grown up now, so I thought I'd best take a closer look at the difference between the novels I've long admired and fiction's bestsellers of the last hundred years to understand what makes one book sell millions, and another thousands.
Not all of these three features need to be present in the one story, but of course 'layering' them up in the winter of our publishing discontent, might be smart.
'Literary' fiction works the other way round, and deposits an extraordinary person in a normal or 'normalized' situation - think Orwellian or Kafkaesque dystopian nightmares. We have a whole range between classics and bestsellers best exemplified by The Bourne Identity on the one hand which has an extreme situation meet its match...
‘Playing’ as children, is partially a rehearsal for growing older, for trying on lives. As children, we put on the clothes - the ties and high heels - of our parents and try them for size. We try out situations too. I love the video clip above from the hit reality TV series - The Secret Life of 5-Year-Olds.
It’s an interesting age, says Dr Laverne Antrobus, one of the psychologist-commentator-spies on the TV show: “They are going through a phase of experimentation, trying on different identities, to see which one fits.”
Maybe writers don’t leave this phase?
Some lovely soundbites from the show:
“I want to be a vet Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and the Queen Saturday and Sunday.”
“When I grow up, I want to be a jelly maker, a pencil sharpener… a toy maker”
With a romance blossoming in the treehouse, five year olds Sienna and Arthur play 'mums and dads' in one episode. Sienna wants him to kiss...
First of all WELL DONE for creating so much material. Hats off and I'm betting you’ve struggled on and dragged the novel along against your own fading hopes for a few chapters now.
Fear not. If a novel sags - it’s usually easily diagnosed and fixed.
We are never meaner or less sympathetic to anyone than we are to ourselves. So that’s not a good ‘hero’ for a novel because if you’re lacking in sympathy for your hero or heroine, the reader will be too.
There are quick fixes:
1. A Make-Over - change everything superficial about the main character. This is my ‘back of the head’ test. You must be able to see the back of her head. Immediately, that’s not you since you haven't seen yours. Immediately, it asks you to think about their hair colour and build, their posture (tense,...