WHAT I WRITE—PART 1
I never considered myself a fantasy writer. I always thought I was an historical novelist because of my love of history. My first novel was about a person in the Bible. It drove me crazy trying to get all the details right just in case a biblical scholar happened to read it. The right one seemed to allude me, no matter how much research I did. (Someday, I’ll revise it for publication.)
So, I went back to a medieval story idea I’d been thinking about for years, in which I created my own kingdom. No one can tell me this wasn’t right in medieval England because the story doesn’t take place in medieval England. This is 13thcentury Armonye, with its own different regions, customs, and rivalries. The closest genre it fits into is medieval fantasy, although there are no fantastical elements like magic or strange creatures. The only thing that makes it fantasy is that it doesn’t happen in a historical place.
Why the Middle Ages? No period in history is more misunderstood, but it captures my imagination like nothing else. There are horses, swords, knights, ladies, castles, and battles. There’s great courage combined with chivalry, the noble knight fighting for his lady. In truth, I think it’s cool to be called “my lady.” I know that’s a romanticized view, but it’s great fuel for stories.
AS OLD AS TIME
One of my top all-time movies is the original animated Beauty and the Beast from 1991. (I haven’t seen the live action version and don’t care to.) It retells the familiar theme of seeing past one’s looks into the beauty inside.
Belle wants nothing more than adventure far from her everyday life. When her father is taken prisoner in an enchanted castle ruled by a hideous beast, she offers to become Beast’s prisoner instead. Belle doesn’t know that Beast must learn to love someone and have that person return his love before the last petal of a magic rose falls. If he doesn’t, he will be a beast forever. Step by step, they grow closer together until the handsome Gaston, who wants to marry Belle for her beauty, attacks the castle.
Engaging characters, great animation, and awesome music make this movie come alive. I love the scene where Beast dances with Belle in her golden dress. If you haven’t seen it in while or at all, rent it, stream it, check it out of the library. It’s well worth watching. I shed a tear the last time I saw it.
DID SOMEONE SAY TREASURE?
One of my favorite movies is National Treasure, partly because I like history. It’s a heart-pounding race to find the greatest fortune ever put together, the Knights Templar Treasure. Ben Gates is obsessed with it; his family was entrusted with a clue to its whereabouts since the American Revolution. But when he discovers the clue leads to another one hidden in the Declaration of Independence, he and his ruthless partner, Ian, split ways. Ben is left with an agonizing decision: to save the Declaration, he must steal it before Ian does.
The movie is a fun ride with the clues leading through American history. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. Grab some popcorn and enjoy.
Last week, I wrote that The Lion Kingsolidified its place as my favorite movie after I watched it in 3D. This happened shortly after I saw the last Harry Potter film, also in 3D. I’m referring to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, my reserve champion of movies.To be fair, it is only half a movie. You had to have seen Part 1 first to follow the story. And none of it makes any sense unless you’ve watched the other six films, because important things from them show up in these two movies.
Both parts of Deathly Hallows are amazing when put together. They tell the story of Harry’s final showdown with his enemy, Voldemort, who has taken over the magical world. Harry goes on a difficult journey with his friends to find and destroy objects called Horcruxes, which, once all are destroyed, will be the end of Voldemort. That is, if he can do it before the Dark Lord kills him.
Part 2 is the more action-packed and emotional of the two movies. It contains a huge battle at Harry’s school, Hogwarts. I love this line from Harry as he argues with Hermione about returning to the school. He says, “Hermione, when have our plans ever actually worked? We plan, we get there, and all hell breaks loose.” It summarizes what has happened before and foreshadows what is to come.
I read the book before and after I saw the films. I’m glad the novel was made into two movies, because they contain all the emotion from the book. (I have shed tears in Part 2 ever since I watched it in 3D, which is incredible since I don’t usually cry in movies, and this is an action-packed film.) In my opinion, these movies are as close to the book as films can get.
STILL THE KING
It’s movie review month here at Wordsmithsix, and I’m starting off with my favorite, The Lion King. I can remember the first time I saw it in the theater. The opening scene took my breath away as a cheetah stood on a rock in the glowing sunrise. Okay, I love big cats. But it’s the story that matters.
Young lion cub Simba can’t wait to grow up to be the king of the Pridelands, like his dad. When his uncle tricks him into believing he caused his father’s death, he is driven into exile. Simba meets new friends who teach him how to live without worries. Life is good until a friend from his past shows up. Great songs, awesome music, and beautiful animation aid in the telling of this story about facing the past and accepting responsibility.
I’ve seen this movie in various formats, from a VHS tape on a small TV to 3D on the big screen, and it hasn’t ceased to amaze me. I happened to catch it in 3D shortly after I watched the last Harry Potter film, also in 3D. I took a moment to compare the movies as to which one I liked more. Without a doubt, The Lion King still reigns supreme.
TAHN BY L. A. KELLY
This novel has one of the best opening chapters I have ever read. I immediately fell in love with Tahn as he scales a wall “like a reptile” to kidnap a noble woman, whose husband he previously murdered. Why? To save her life from his cruel master and the mercenary band he belongs to.
And then there are the orphan children he tries to prevent from becoming like himself, an assassin.
It’s an exciting and unpredictable story that takes place in a medieval-like setting. Tahn is a complex character as he wrestles with his horrific past and the hope Lady Netta says can be found in God.
From the back cover: “The bravery of an unlikely hero, the love of an honorable lady, and the innocence of each wayward child resonate throughout this gripping tale of courage, faith, forgiveness, and unconditional love.”
REDWALL BY BRIAN JACQUES
Where has this book been all my life? I am very thankful to the friend who recommended it to me. It’s the type I love to read, full of action, adventure, and mystery. There’s even a little romance. It’s hard to put down.
Jacques creates a medieval world full of colorful animal characters. Matthias is a small novice mouse at the peaceful Redwall Abbey. But he desires to be brave like the Abbey’s co-founder, Martin the Warrior. When Redwall comes under attack by the rat, Cluny the Scourge, and his army, Matthias goes on a quest to find Martin’s legendary sword which he believes can save the Abbey.
This book has one of the best opening chapters I’ve read. I also like how Jacques describes the battle scenes. He gives enough detail without being gory.
I now have read several books in the series. Each one has kept me up well past the time I should have been asleep. This one remains my favorite.
THE BIG BLUE BOOK
This is the nickname of a novel that changed the way I write. First off, the cover is blue. Second, the spine is two inches thick in hardback. It’s also an unusual read for me because it contains magic, which is not the type of fantasy I like. But an author who can write an 870-page magical fantasy and keep me hanging on every word did something very right. I got goosebumps when I finished it the first time. This is J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
The plot is rich with many twists and turns as fifteen-year-old Harry, who to this point has reacted to trouble, starts causing it. When the government takes over Harry’s school, he goes underground to teach his classmates how to fight in the coming battle against his enemy, Voldemort. Rowling does a remarkable job of weaving school life—exams, sports, and romance—into the bigger threat of Voldemort’s return to power and the government covering it up.
What impressed me the most about the book was the emotion in it. Rowling beautifully describes everything from the relief of a Saturday off after a disastrous first week of school to the wonders of a first kiss to the horrific depths of grief. I discovered that emotion was what I was missing in my own stories. Since then, my writing has not been the same.
WATERSHIP DOWNBY RICHARD ADAMS
I have loved this novel ever since I was assigned to read it in high school. In all the times I’ve read it since then, it has not disappointed, the hallmark of a great book. Filled with action and adventure, it’s about a group of young male rabbits who, led by Hazel, leave their home and make a perilous journey to Watership Down to start their own warren. Their troubles don’t stop once they’ve arrived. The only way the new warren can grow is for them to find female rabbits. That results in a vicious battle with another warren on Watership Down.
Hazel is one of my favorite heroes. He’s courageous, compassionate, and smart. He uses the various talents of different rabbits to accomplish a goal. His leadership earns him the suffix “rah” added to his name, which denotes a chief rabbit. Nevertheless, Hazel-rah is not infallible. When he goes against the advice of his prophetic brother, his deed cripples him, just as the warren faces its greatest threat.
The book has some lengthy descriptions, but Adams does an amazing job of creating the rabbit world, including their own terminology and folk hero. The novel was so real that I was shocked to learn it was classified as a fantasy. After all, it is about rabbits. I highly recommend it.
DIAMONDS OF THE NARRATOR
“The peasant girl watched the raindrops drip off the tree leaf. She cupped her hands to catch the falling diamonds that sparkled in the sunlight.”
Is anything wrong with the above example? Assuming the scene is in the peasant girl’s point of view, why would she compare the raindrops to diamonds? She has probably never seen a diamond. She might compare the raindrops to stars, something she is familiar with.
On the other hand, what if the scene is in the point of view of a princess watching her from a carriage? The princess might compare the raindrops to diamonds.
When using descriptions, keep in mind whose point of view you are in. A peasant girl has a different view of the world than a princess. The imagery you choose gives insight into the narrator’s character.