Why I Write Fantasy: The First Ambitions

So last week I wrote about my first intentions when writing fantasy stories. Some, like the youthful need to ‘borrow’ bits of my favourite books and add them to my own in a wholly unsubtle way, have been abandoned as bad practice. Others, like the fundamental need to write, and to share my imaginings, have not.

Going to University, learning more about literature, studying philosophy, being nineteen in general and having a solid dose of “knowing it all” added another aspect to my writing. Ambition. I didn’t want to write a standard fantasy novel, and I no longer wanted to ape my heroes. I wanted to do more, something different.

One day, when walking home, I looked up into the clouds (I’m really not making this up), and had an idea about Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart. About fifteen seconds later, I had my Big Idea (B.I.) for a fantasy novel. It was Big, it was New (at least to me), and it enabled me to write something totally Different. In the first outline (2 pages in pencil, aww, bless) it was supposed to be a Woody Allenesque sex comedy, but it rapidly turned into a more Dark Knight Returns existential swamp. I hadn’t even read Camus. Still haven’t (hmm, maybe I should remedy that). And of course the B.I. allowed me to write a book with all my other Ideas about the world and how it should be, or at least my philosophizing on same, included. I was in undergrad intellectual heaven.

So there they were, my first ambitions: to write something with big bold ideas, to attack the fantasy genre with gusto, do something that had not been seen before. I stuck at my first attempt to do so for a long time. Too long, and the B.I. grew stale.

Until very recently. I just started reading Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher, and it is great to see a book so obviously animated by a Big Idea. I’m looking forward to seeing how the B.I. gets fleshed out in this book, and its new sequel, and it reminded me that maybe it isn’t so bad to wear your ideas on your sleeve, and push them out there. It has inspired me to think again about how to approach future ideas for novels.

In the meantime, I still hope to do something my own, different, and that pulses with its own ideas, big and small. I think I’ve done that successfully with The Thief and The Demon, (though of course you are to be the true judges of that!) and intend to expand both my universe and the ideas that drive it in my next book in progress, The Killer and The Dead.

Nowadays I do not seek to change the world, or even fantasy fiction with my books, though I wouldn’t complain if by some strange chance that happened, and it was for the better! Nowadays my ambition is to walk before running, to do all the things I pooh-poohed as a young and arrogantly insecure college grad: to write better, to synthesize plot and character more gracefully, to come up with hooks and imagery that are pleasing to readers and invites them to read on. That, for now, is enough, though perhaps one day I shall return to that Big Idea still hanging out in the clouds with Marilyn and Humphrey, and see what I can do with it!

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