Why I write–and read–fantasy

Sometimes the world is so full of darkness that we need an escape–even if there’s a touch of darkness in that world we find ourselves drawn into. It’s especially nice to read a story in which characters overcome great odds, save the day, and live happily ever after. As J.R.R. Tolkien once said

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

photo by Janet Boyer, WANA Commons

photo by Janet Boyer, WANA Commons

Or, as Dr. Seuss puts it

“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”

Fantasy offers us a wonderful opportunity not only for escape but also to learn about ourselves and see our world in a different light. Our villains are our fears personified. Our heroes inspire us to greatness. We can enter a world of magic, of elves, of witches, of dragons, of … well, if you can dream it up, it can exist in the pages of a fantasy story. When it comes to writing fantasy, not even the sky is the limit.

Now, more than ever, I believe the world needs fantasy literature. I’m glad to see how many conferences there are devoted to the subject—because works of fantasy deserve to be parsed, analyzed, and explored. I’m glad to see how many writers have created worlds for readers to lose themselves in, whether it’s embarking on a journey through Middle Earth, attending a school of witchcraft and wizardry, or seeing a fairy tale reimagined.

Sometimes we just need to get away. It not only recharges us, it can also heal us, it can also enlighten. I’m grateful that stories of the fantastic speak to me. If I had my pick of genres, this is the one I would come to, again and again. But I often don’t feel that I chose fantasy literature. I feel like these stories have chosen me.

There’s magic in this world—inside of all of us. And fantasy brings that to the forefront. So go ahead. Pour yourself a cup of tea, pick up a good book, and lose yourself for an afternoon or an evening. You need it. We all need it.

Or, as Terry Pratchett said

“Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.”

I leave you with the words of Robin McKinley:

“The great thing about fantasy is that you can drag dreams and longings and hopes and fears and strivings out of your subconscious and call them ‘magic’ or ‘dragons’ or ‘faeries’ and get to know them better. But then I write the stuff. Obviously I’m prejudiced.

Obviously, so am I.

Lastly, an ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals:

1.) New goal: Work on steampunk story, tentatively titled “The Clockwork in the Stars.” Wrote a detailed synopsis and tracked down photos of most of my main characters. Also did a lot of background work on world-building.

2.) Finish a first draft of novella/novelette “Haunted Kisses.” On hold.

3.) Finish a second draft of novelette “Called by Magic.” Started revising the first chapter and read through the comments I’ve received so far.

4.) Do a read-through of “Good Old-Fashioned Magic,” make necessary edits, and send to critique partners. On hold.

5.) Read three books on the craft/business of writing. Continued reading “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass.

Social media goals:

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. Every day except Friday.

2.) Blog twice a week. Blogged three times this week.

3.) Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Goal met.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop! Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? Are you a fan or writer of fantasy? If so, what draws you to this genre? What draws you to your favorite genre?

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20 thoughts on “Why I write–and read–fantasy

  1. I love fantasy! It was pretty much all I read when I was in high school and college, and for the reasons you quote above. But it always seemed to be missing something, and I eventually figured out that was romance, because what greater adventure is there than overcoming great odds and finding the person (or alien, elf, etc.) who’s just right for you? So my favorite books of all are those that combine a speculative adventure with a great romance–and that’s what I strive to write. Good job on your goals, and keep up the good work!

    • I couldn’t agree more. For me, the fantasy stories I enjoy most have at least a hint of romance. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy fantasy adventures without romance, but that’s my preference. Combining those genres is no easy feat, but it’s one I attempt, again and again.

      Thanks for commenting, Jennette!

    • I love the way you think, Jennette! That’s exactly what was missing for me, and romance (with aliens!) is at the heart of my fantasy/fan fiction duology. Without the romance, there could be no epic story spanning Everdeep…

      Hooray for love!

    • There’s a quote out there someone (I believe it’s by Toni Morrison) that if you can’t find the book you most want to read, you have to write it. Perhaps in your writing adventures you’ll stumble across such a story. Fantasy is always so full of potential, and I think part of its job is to remind us of what human beings can be if we allow our imaginations to fly unfettered.

      Thanks!

      • Fantasy is my favorite too- and I extend it beyond reading, or even writing, and out into life. As unschoolers, we focus on play and fantasy as the direct vein to rich and diverse learning.

        My life would be hugely different, and much less joyful, without fantasy woven liberally through it!

        Lovely post, and great progress toward those goals, too! =D

      • Fantasy has definitely enriched my life. And I have many wonderful memories of stories I made up as a kid in the woods around my family’s house. Having that time to dream and make up stories probably helped solidify my path as a writer. So I get where you’re coming from with encouraging your kids to include fantasy in their lives!

        Thanks, Shan Jeniah!

      • Well, I’m not so much encouraging them as providing an environment that embraces it – they don’t need encouragement to fantasize! It’s one of the cool things about them not going to school – other people’s agendas aren’t superimposed on their lives, so they still have vivid, active, individual fantasy lives that grow with them…

        Which, of course, makes it easier for me to indulge and nurture my own… =)

      • That’s wonderful. It’s so great that your kids have that environment. I’m not sure the way so many schools are run now–the focus on standardized testing–provides enough time for kids to be creative and fantasize. That’s one of the cool parts of homeschooling, in my opinion.

      • I don’t think traditional school does, or even can, provide what we have. Our lives aren’t separated into subjects; people flow from thing to things, as interests lead them…

        We do a lot together; we talk a lot together.

        So much of how they learn is wrapped up in long stretches of uninterrupted time to fiddle with this, noodle with that, and get lost delving into something else.

        There is very, very little I don’t love about our lives! But I bet you’ve already picked up on that! =D

  2. Well said. I love what you said about fantasy being used to heal — I think it (i.e. escapism via fiction in general) is a necessary component in the toolbox of life. Then again, I’m a writer/reader.

    I liked the idea about magic being inside all of us, too. It’s inside books, for sure, but it’s also all around us! At least when we consciously decide to see it there 🙂 It’s one of my long-running goals in life, to sprinkle dashes of magic where I can. I think I’ll start carrying a black top hat around and putting things underneath it then taking them out, telling people that the magic has been infused 🙂 Bwahaha! Social experiment!

    Also, thanks for sharing those goals. That inspired me to make my own list, and clarify the puddle that is my general idea pool for all my writing!

    • I think all art has the power to heal, but I feel especially called to the healing power of fantasy. It inspires us to be more; it reminds us of our potential.

      Love the top hat. People would get a kick out of it. 😉

      I’m glad my goals inspired you. If you haven’t already, check out the A Round of Words in 80 Days writing challenge. It’s a wonderful group of writers who support each other in reaching their goals.

  3. I love Fantasy, as a reader and a wannabe Fantasy writer. I tend to lean to straight dramas in my stories and plays, but have written a few things with fantasy elements in them. The more I read, the more I want ton finally finish the world I created, get the story down, and share it with the world.

    Until then I read a lot, everything from fantasy to ,mystery to straight fiction. I also practice writing. Maybe I will find the story I started and finish it. Right now I have lots of other stories and poems to share. Blogs to write. Movies to review and so on and so forth.

    Thanks for the pep talk. I needed a good reminder. 🙂

    Have a super fantastic week, Denise!

    • You can always sprinkle a hint of fantasy into your stories and plays–a character who believes in fairies, a house everyone believes is haunted…Just a dash of magic here and there. Best of luck in all your writing, fantasy and otherwise.

      Reading in a lot of different genres, everything from steampunk to whodunits to classics, has helped me to better understand the type of stories I’m drawn to–and what I would most like to write and am most suited to writing.

      Thanks, Cindy! Have a great week. 🙂

  4. It feels so good doesn’t it to put ourselves in another world beyond our own. That’s why I love reading and writing. Thanks for the inspiration Denise! 🙂

  5. It’s like we’re sharing a brain or something. I just started a sequence of posts intending to cover exactly this. And we think a like over a lot of points too. ^_^
    Glad to see another fantasy addict out there.

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