Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Study in Foreshadowing: Three Methods for Foreshadowing

This year, I’m concluding my blog posts with the finale to my latest mini-series, A Study in Foreshadowing. I’ve already written about Why Foreshadow? and How NOT to Use Foreshadowing, and today I’m going to sum it all up with Three Methods for Foreshadowing.

Caution: Because of the nature of foreshadowing, the way that it includes predicting of plot events and its fulfillment, this post includes some spoilers to The Lord of the Rings and Frozen.

I’ve already mentioned before that I’ve read a couple posts on what foreshadowing should do but not how to do it. I’d like to change that. So here are just three of the ways I’ve found that different stories have used and succeeded with foreshadowing. I have arranged them according to their difficulty to write well and their levels of subtlety.

1) The Plant

This technique is more often known as Chekhov’s Gun for the principle that every word in any story should be necessary. In essence, if a gun is mentioned as being in a room it has to go off, or else serve as some key element for the plot. This form of foreshadowing can take place in dialogue or in imagery. We see it all the time, whether or not we notice it. Characters who speak often of death tend to die, and whenever something is hinted at being dangerous or a bad idea, it usually is.

However, useful as this technique can be, it also tends to be more obvious so that most careful audiences can easily pick up on what is going to happen. Without knowing any of the spoilers, my mom predicted the end of Rouge One based off clues from the previous Star Wars episodes just as she does with almost every movie we watch. Most Marvel movies, which I tend to enjoy them immensely, can be predictable in this sense. I remember re-watching Captain America with one of my friends, and even though she hadn’t seen it yet, she managed to predict the scene when certain characters would die. Yikes.

But that doesn’t mean every plant has to be completely obvious. Perhaps the genre that does this method the best is, of course, mystery. Although classics like the Sherlock Holmes books tend to conceal the important clues until the very end, adaptations like BBC’s Sherlock include them so subtly that they’re usually unnoticeable until the end. For example, in A Scandal in Belgravia, the final event on the airplane where the confrontation between Sherlock, Mycroft, and Irene Adler is alluded to at the very beginning and throughout the episode, but the audiences don’t know how it’s important or what it means until the end.

Some tips for using the plant: make sure the readers see it, but don’t let them know what it means; include a hint at what’s to come, and turn it on its head; make every word count, but be subtle. Remember, the plant can take many forms from an item on a desk to something somebody says. Use your imagination, and don’t be afraid to be clever. Great foreshadowing makes for great rereading. That’s when audiences go back and say, “Oh! That’s what that means. How didn’t I see that before?”

2) The Prophecy

Although this is perhaps the most criticized form of foreshadowing, if written well, it can work. Perhaps the main problems readers have with prophecy is the protagonist/supporting character who just happens to fit all of the characteristics of the prophecy. Did the characters act in a certain way because of the prophecy, or did the prophecy allude to the way the characters would act? However, prophecies are not supposed to be built on a bunch of circumstantial “what if’s” that the characters must live up to. Prophecies are supposed to hint at events to come not spell them out completely.

Some of the best examples of prophecies come from The Lord of the Rings. Although the book is full of prophecies and allusions to the future, one of my favorites is the prophecy concerning the death of the Witch King, which says no living man can kill him. It sounds very specific, and in the end, no living man does. He is instead slain by Eowyn (a woman, not a man) with the help of Merry (a hobbit). It’s not that he couldn’t be killed, just that he wouldn’t be by men.

Another great prophecy is found in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Near the beginning of the story (Beginning, ha! It’s somewhere in the first 200 pages…), the street magician Vinculus appears to Mr. Norrell and tells him:

“Two magicians shall appear in England. The name of one shall be Fearfulness, the name of the other, Arrogance. The first shall fear me, the second shall long to behold me. The first shall bury his heart in the dark wood beneath the snow, yet still feel its ache. The second shall see his dearest possession in his enemy’s hand. Both will fail. The nameless slave shall be a king in a strange land. I will return.” (Quote taken from the BBC adaptation for brevity.)

At first, Vinculus’ prophecy seems rather odd and confusing. In the book, it’s twice as long, and it’s not until the end of the story that it’s understood what everything means. But perhaps the part that sticks out the most, at first anyway, is that the magicians will fail. Fail? That’s not very encouraging. But fail at what? That’s another matter entirely, and it’s not answered until the end of the book because they certainly succeed at many other things.

Some tips to remember when writing prophecy: the person your prophecy centers around does not have to be a teenager; prophecies don’t have to rhyme (thank you, Mr. Beaver); and prophecies can be illusive and misinterpreted.

When you write a good prophecy, be sure to turn your reader’s expectations on their heads. Allow your characters a chance for speculation and a chance to fail. Not all prophecies revolve around ultimate success, and the characters aren’t always right. What if the chosen one wasn’t the protagonist all along?

3) The Poem

Perhaps the most undervalued form of foreshadowing, poetry can tend to be the most subtle if not the most illusive, and it comes in many forms. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a poem either, it can be also be in the form of a song, which is a type of poetry. In fact, this is the most common form of poetry for musicals, including Disney movies. The best example I can give at the moment comes from Frozen. (Particularly because I listen to the soundtrack often, not because it’s the only example.)

The songs are riddled with foreshadowing! In “Frozen Heart”, ice is described as being beautiful, powerful, dangerous, and cold, like Elsa. And at the end of the song, the ice-harvesters sing, “Beware the frozen heart”, and after watching the movie, audiences can get the sense, they’re not just talking about ice but Anna’s frozen heart.

Similarly, in “For the First Time in Forever”, there are two particular predictions Anna makes, one of which comes true, and the other does not. First, she sings, “For the first time in forever / I could be noticed by someone.” But it’s not the someone, the romantic interest, that she thinks. Yes, she meets a guy, but she’s also noticed, for the first time in years, by her sister. Secondly, at the end of the song, she concludes with, “Nothing’s in my way!” To which my sister and I would say, “Yeah, except for Hans,” in which he literally stands in her way, foreshadowing the treachery to come. 

Other great examples of poetic foreshadowing include The Lord of the Rings, of course, and The Phantom of the Opera to name a few. Some tips on writing poetic foreshadowing: it doesn’t have to rhyme; be subtle; it’s okay to be obscure; remember to use lots of imagery.

Just remember the three P’s of Foreshadowing, read a lot, write a lot, and you’re one step closer to utilizing great foreshadowing.


Previously in A Study in Foreshadowing: WhyForeshadow? and How NOT to Use Foreshadowing 

Literary References: J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera.

Film References: Star Wars: Rogue One, Captain America: The First Avenger, Sherlock, and Frozen.

Let’s chat! Which of the above methods for foreshadowing is your favorite? Which story have you encountered with the best foreshadowing? 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Controversy in Fiction: Christian Fiction

Welcome back to my mini-series, Controversy in Fiction. I’ve already written on Banned Books, Censorship, Magic, and Feminism, and while there are many, many more controversial topics to be explored, I will be concluding this series with a discussion on Christian Fiction.

Disclaimer: This post may contain controversial opinions that are not necessarily the same as those of readers. While my personal experiences come from a Christian perspective, I have done my best to remain objective and mean no offense.

Perhaps one of the most controversial topics aside from politics, sports, pirates versus ninjas, Sith versus Jedi, or the big end versus the small end of the egg is religion. It seems like everybody has an opinion on it. Personally, I’m a Christian and was practically raised on Christian fiction and the classics. And while I’m still really picky about the kind of books I like to read (you have to be selective, or you’ll never finish the ever-growing TBR list), I don’t read as much Christian fiction as I used to, and not necessarily for all the reasons one might think.

Back when I attended Evangel University, a Christian liberal arts institution, I was shocked to hear that many of my friends didn’t like reading Christian fiction. In fact, they avoided it, mainly because it was too cliché, too preachy, and too restrictive. I thought that was a little harsh, especially considering I wanted to write Christian fiction for a living and wondered if any of my friends would even bother reading it. So after much deliberation and reading book after book after book, it’s time to tackle these questions.

1) Is Christian Fiction too cliché?

I don’t know about you, but often times, Christian fiction seems to follow the same patterns. Yes, I believe there actually is good versus evil, and it’s often well-represented in fiction, but often times stories fall into the same, familiar patterns: the same origin story, the same history, the same imagery between serpents/dragons and heroes, allegorical parallels between real life and the Christian walk.

Don’t get me wrong, I think these can be done, and done well, in moderation, but they’ve already been done. Paradise Lost tells of Satan’s fall, the origin of man, and Satan’s possession of a serpent. The Faerie Queene includes the spiritual journey of the Redcrosse Knight in his quest to slay a dragon and save a kingdom. Pilgrim’s Progress describes Christian in his allegorical journey towards the Celestial City. The problem most people have is that when attempting to tell an allegory, they draw from stories already so familiar, that they’re predictable and boring.

C. S. Lewis, on the other hand, made references to Paradise Lost in The Magician’s Nephew, but they were so subtle and told in a unique way that they aren’t immediately apparent. For example, the creation of the animals is nearly identical—in both stories, the animals come out of the ground, both stags and elephants and others alike. Another similar aspect between Lewis and Milton was that they drew from mythology albeit in different ways, and while I’ve seen a lot of Christian fiction that includes dragons or serpents (usually evil ones), I haven’t seen a lot of mythology mixed in. It’s seen as too pagan.

If Christian fiction today hopes to thrive as a genre, we could use a little more originality. That’s not to say writers should abandon their beliefs, but they don’t need to sacrifice their creativity either. We need more writers who dare to retell a story that’s never been retold before. We need more writers who dare to be creative even if it’s considered odd, like a certain scholar who put Father Christmas and fauns and river gods and a Christ figure all in the same story.

2) Is Christian Fiction too preachy?

Another complaint about Christian fiction is that it often sounds more like a sermon than a story. As the daughter of an army chaplain, I’ve heard countless sermons throughout my lifetime, but if I’ve noticed one thing about good sermons is that they often include stories. Sermons are often meant to share the word of God, and stories often help connect that word to the audience. Unfortunately, many writers get this mixed up.

Fiction should not read like a cookbook. People don’t go to stories looking for a way to live their life, a magical solution, or a fantastic moral. While many great stories include a theme or a moral, they don’t bash people over the head with them. Subtly is the key. Of course, I usually end up on the other end of the spectrum and end up too subtle so that my readers sometimes miss the point.

Not writing preachy fiction while trying to maintain a theme is difficult, but it can be done. Some great examples include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, The Remnants trilogy, and Skies of Dripping Gold to name a few.

3) Is Christian Fiction too restrictive?

When reading book reviews for many Christian fiction books not labeled as such, one of the main complaints I’d see was something along these lines: “I didn’t know it was Christian fiction! I wouldn’t have picked it up if I’d known.” Many bookstores try to avoid such confusion by categorizing their shelves, and putting all the Christian fiction in its neat little section to be ignored or perused at anybody’s leisure.

The main problem I find with this segregation is that it makes it more difficult for Christian writers to reach a specific audience. It would be more difficult to reach out to nonbelievers if they wouldn’t even go near the shelves.

When Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, he not only did a good job in disguising the Christian nature of his books so much so that people today don’t always recognize it. While books like Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters are often found in the Christian or religious sections in bookstores and libraries, The Chronicles of Narnia pop up in children’s sections or fantasy isles. Even J. R. R. Tolkien was a Christian writer, although his books are similarly not often categorized as such.

Perhaps I haven’t read enough Christian fiction to be a good representative of the genre, or perhaps I have. Now am I saying that Christian writers shouldn’t write Christian fiction? Not at all. I’ve read many Christian stories, pondered their themes, and benefited from them. But often times, the label Christian has a tendency to alienate readers. Because of some of the faults made throughout the genre, it screams cliché, preachy, and for insiders only.

If anything, a fictional book doesn’t have to be labeled Christian to teach Christian values, moral values, or even a good theme. Les Miserables and A Christmas Carol portray the struggles of ordinary men and their faith despite poverty and hardships. The Harry Potter series, often seen as the antithesis of Christian fiction, still contains a representation of light versus dark. It’s the heart of the story that really counts, especially if it’s just that—a good story.


Previously in Controversy in FictionBanned BooksCensorship, Magic, and Feminism

Literary references: John Milton’s Paradise Lost; Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene; John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters; J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings; Lisa T. Bergren’s The Remnants Trilogy; Hannah Heath’s Skies of Dripping Gold; Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables; Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Let’s chat! What’s your take on Christian fiction? What’s your criteria for picking up a book?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Christmas Market: A Poem

Smell is one of the strongest memory triggers. When I first returned to Germany, having lived there once as a little kid, my parents kept asking me if I remembered things. We visited downtown Stuttgart.

“Do you remember this?”


We visited Reussenstein, an old ruined castle where I wandered off as a toddler and my dad thought I fell off a cliff but I ended up back at the car instead.

“Do you remember this?”


Then we visited Hess Bakery, and the smell hit me, the sweet scent of fresh baked rolls, pretzels, and tarts hit me. Suddenly, I was four years old again, inhaling the familiar smells. For the first time in my life, I experienced a sort of déjà vu. I was home.

Another one of my favorite experiences living in Germany was visiting the Christmas markets downtown every winter. From the booths covered in garland selling sugar coated almonds, carved wooden ornaments, or fur coats to the ice skating rink and the giant Christmas tree, the market is full of wonders.

Although it may not be one of the places I remembered from being a kid, it’s full of wonderful smells, so I decide to connect some of them with memories. Some are real, and some are made up, but it’s an interesting connection—smell and memory. There are still moments when I inhale a random scent and suddenly I remember a summer evening at my grandparents when we caught fireflies or the feeling of rushing through a stuffy airport.

The Christmas Market

An explosion hits your senses before you even see it. Breath it in
because the cold is merely mixed with the warm memories
of a violin, soothing your gentle nerves and singing to your soul,
a pup curled on your lap as late autumn leaves linger then fall,
of a mother’s soft embrace, post-semester, welcome winter,
a warm blanket, plump pillow, and grateful snuggles,
all taken in a breath—of roasted sugar almonds.

Another strike begs you to silences. Shhh, the rush
of water on a sea-shelled shore, shhh, the shameless
grains of sand, how on earth did it get in there, shhh,
the bitter taste of salt stinging your nose, making you grimace,
shhh, the sun kisses your cheeks but don’t let him bite
or burn like the stinging jelly, man should have watched
my step. Shhh, stupid macaroons, can’t say we all like them.

Bam! A dinner table filled with the clatter and chatter
of relatives and distant friends, uncomfortable conversations
and shapes and sizes, heaven forbid you should stick your nose
in a book, travel to a time they ate the same food and made
your troubles look like a walk in the park, round dinner plates
and thin wine glasses, sticky juices and brazen spice,
would you care for a cut of pork?


Let’s chat! Have you ever been to an outdoor Christmas market before? What’s one smell that triggers the strongest memory for you?

Also, I’m sending out my first newsletter this month, featuring one very green literary-related travel destination. So be sure to sign up to receive more book-related news!

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Study In Foreshadowing: How NOT to Use Foreshadowing

Welcome back to my mini-series on foreshadowing! Last month I wrote Why Foreshadow? Today I’ll be sharing with you some of the major downfalls of foreshadowing.

Caution: Because of the nature of foreshadowing, the way that it includes predicting of plot events and its fulfillment, this post includes some spoilers to The False Prince and Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle, book 4).

Foreshadowing, although one of my favorite writing techniques, can be one of the most difficult to master. But it doesn’t have to be. Below I’ve included some of the most common mistakes made in foreshadowing:

Don’t give away the story in the title or the premise.

While I’m not necessarily an advocate of incredibly vague titles or confusing premises, I don’t like ones that give away all the major plot twists. In fact, with some books I’ve given up reading the back entirely because I don’t want anything to be spoiled for me.

(SPOILER ALERT for The False Prince.)

I picked up The False Prince via recommendation, and while the prose was excellent and witty, the plot was predictable. And it all came from the title. The word false alludes that there is a real prince out there, and 99% of the time, it’s the main character. Go figure.

Then I read part of the premise:

“In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage.”

“Huh,” I thought. “Wouldn’t it be something is Sage turned out to be the real prince.”

And this was before I had even read a single page. I will admit, the narrator seems unreliable for a while, but in the end, he’s predictable.


The premise and the book titles are supposed to be beautiful teasers, not a self-explanatory synopsis. Please pay attention to the difference. Teasers hook the readers. Synopsis summarize everything. Teasers are exciting. Synopsis are explanatory. Unless you’re writing a cookbook in which readers need to know everything (especially what they’re cooking), a little bit of mystery is a good thing.

Of course, there are exceptions to this point. Many books have used their titles to in order to reveal major plot points, and it’s the how the author tells the story that hooks the readers (eg. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead).

Don’t make unfulfilled promises.

In Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle, the . The stakes are high and only grow higher as the series progresses, and as it does, the narrator presents readers with several foreboding promises. They come in different forms, from prophecy to oaths made by characters.

(SPOILER ALERT for Inheritance.)

One of the very first promises readers are given comes in the form of a prophecy that states Eragon will leave Alagaesia and never return. Knowing how much Eragon has given up to protect the people of Alagaesia, which also happens to be his home, nobody wants to see him leave. In this particular prophecy, Paolini follows through, and Eragon and Saphira leave after the defeat of Galbatorix because they suddenly find themselves to be the most powerful beings on the continent.

On the other hand, Paolini fails to follow through with other dreadful promises. For example, in Eldest, Eragon’s cousin Roran helped the people of Palancar Valley (their home) escape the Ra’zac and get to safely. But Roran can’t save everybody, and several men die in the process. One grieving widow blames him and swears she will have a blood price from him. The suspense is built, and the reminders of his debt continue throughout the books as the woman seeks justice. But when her time finally comes, all she does is cut his hand without actually giving any indication of forgiveness.

Similarly, in Brisingr, Eragon made a deal with an ancient Menoa tree that he would give it anything it wanted in exchange for a magical steel beneath its roots so he could make his sword. In Inheritance, he returns to the tree to fulfill his promise, and the tree says maybe four words and tells him to go instead of asking for anything.

In both instances, I got to the end and thought, “Well, that was anticlimactic!” I was disappointed. Not because I wanted Roran to die or Eragon to get hurt, but because it seemed like the high stakes didn’t matter in the end. It felt like a cheap writing to get beloved characters out of a difficult situation.


If you’re going to promise high stakes, follow through with them. Otherwise, readers may not buy into the suspense next time. And a book without suspense is one that’s less likely to be read.

Don’t rely on clichés.

The Lego Movie is a great example of how to use foreshadowing, and how not to do it. It plays on expectations and reality in a humorous way that pokes fun at many, many clichés in plots. For example, in the opening scene, President Business marches in to carry out his plan to end the world. Determined to stop him, Vitruvius says, “Wait… There’s a prophecy.”

“Oh, so now there’s a prophecy?”

You can just hear his voice dripping with sarcasm. Prophecy is one of the most overused forms of foreshadowing today, and not because it should be avoided entirely but because people tend to use the same prophecy over and over again. Recycling is good to save the earth, not your story.

I’m not saying you can’t use prophecy. If written properly, it can serve as a great method for foreshadowing, but more often than not, stories fall into the trap of using the same predictable prophecies over and over again.

Just a few clichés in foreshadowing include: The prophesied teenager from foreign country/dimension saves the world. The deadly bomb that’s going to go off only to be stopped seconds before it does. Basically, any time a boy meets a girl, and they fall in love.

Don’t avoid foreshadowing altogether.

Another one of my favorite kids’ movies that pokes fun at plot holes is The Emperor’s New Groove. Near the climax of the movie, the heroes race the villains all the way back to the capital city, overtake them halfway through the journey, only to have the bad guys show up before them. That’s when the characters stop and say, “No! It can’t be! How did you get here before us?”

“Uh… How did we, Kronk?”                        

“Well, you got me.” He pulls out a flipchart showing their routes and the villains’ random disappearance. “By all accounts, it doesn’t make sense.”

The problem is not the plot twist; the problem is that it’s unexplained. Don’t throw random stuff at your readers thinking, “Hah! They’ll never see this coming!” Because maybe they won’t. It’d be just about as fair as the catcher at a baseball game expects the batter to miss the ball only to have him get hit in the back of the head with a football. It just doesn’t make any sense, and it’s isn’t consistent.

My main point: don’t try to be too obvious with your foreshadowing. It’s as simple as that. Be sneaky. But hint at what’s coming. That’s how writers are seen as clever when readers still don’t see it coming. It may be difficult to master, but countless authors have proved it’s possible. For more on this subject, be sure to check back next month for part 3: Three Methods for Foreshadowing.


Previously in A Study in Foreshadowing: Why Foreshadow?

Literary references: Jennifer A. Neilsen’s The False Prince, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle.

Movie references: The Lego Movie and Emperor’s New Groove.

Let’s chat! What would you add to the list? What helped you the most? What are some of the worst misuses of foreshadowing you’ve seen?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Controversy in Fiction: Feminism and Female Authors

Welcome back to Controversy in Fiction, part 4! You can check out my previous posts: Banned Books, Censorship, and Magic by clicking on the links. Today I’m excited to share the controversies concerning feminism. Does it still exist in our society? And is it really necessary?

Disclaimer: This post may contain controversial opinions that are not necessarily the same as those of readers. While I have done my best to avoid stereotypes, some of my points are generalizations and may not apply to every situation and person. I have done my best to write objectively and mean no offense.

My parents have always been super supportive. I’ve always been naturally curious, and as a kid, I remember the time I asked my mom for a book on banana slugs. That’s right. Those slimy creatures that are nature’s garbage disposals were fascinating to me. I might even say adorable. The same was true for frogs, crabs, and even daddy long legs.

I only have one memory of playing with a doll. Back when I was five or so, my brother Gavin and I had this great idea to re-act the story of Moses. This was after Prince of Egypt came out. Naturally, I was the girl so I got stuck with playing the part of one of the mothers while Gavin played one of pharaoh’s soldiers. Long story short, we ripped the arm off the doll “fighting” over it. The poor toy had to go to the dolly hospital and thus ended my brief-lived doll-phase. (Come to think about it, there was another time I got a doll from a creepy Santa Claus, and all the doll’s limbs fell off, but we don’t speak of that.)

Instead of the regular girly toys, I followed my brother and his friends around, playing with sticks and pretending they were swords or lightsabers. In short, I was a tomboy. In many ways I still am, although I wouldn’t say I wish I was a boy. I am proud of being a woman.

It wasn’t until I went away to college that I started to realize some of the controversy surrounding feminism in literature and life overall. I may have been raised in a conservative background, but my mom was raised a feminist, so it was natural some of it should rub off on me. And when I say I’m a feminist, I don’t mean I’m a men-bashing feminist but rather an equal-opportunist.

I used to wonder what the big deal was and why feminism should be such a big issue in fiction. After all, we live in the 21st century where women have the right to vote, opportunity to get whatever jobs they want, and the ability to change the world. Right? 

But even today, bias still exists whether we like to acknowledge it or not. Here’s just a brief look at some current issues concerning feminism in literature:

Pseudonyms still exist.

And I’m not saying they’re wrong. Writers pick pseudonyms for all sorts of reasons. Some want anonymity, preferring to use their name around friends, family, and colleagues whereas some authors names are so well known, they would have a difficult time being associated with another genre (like J. K. Rowling or Stephen King).

Other writers may even use pseudonyms or abbreviations to match the market. For example, you probably wouldn’t see a fantasy book written by a John Doe (maybe a mystery?) or William Shatner (sci-fi), but you will see fantasy written by J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, J. R. Larson, V. E. Schwab, and J. K. Rowling. I’m sensing a pattern here.

That’s not to say that fantasy writers can’t use their whole name, but did you know that the last three writers listed above were women? I certainly didn’t until I read their biographies. And I’m a woman. Why is it my automatic response to believe that a writer is automatically a male if I don’t know his or her first name? Could it be something ingrained in our culture, or am I in some way subconsciously biased against my own gender?

Most classical writers are men.

When I asked people to name the first three classical writers who came to mind, most often they were male writers. The most common authors listed (in order of most mentioned) include William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens. Other mentions include Aristotle, Charlotte Bronte, Lewis Carroll, Geoffrey Chaucer, Emily Dickinson, Waldo Emerson, Euripides, Homer, Victor Hugo, George MacDonald, Plato, Plutarch, Edgar Allan Poe, Edmund Spenser, John Steinbeck, Edith Wharton, and Oscar Wilde. In total, that’s only four women to sixteen men.

Of course, this is in no way an extensive list of all the famous authors. All you have to do is visit your local library or bookstore to see the names of classical writers from Greek to English to American traditions, and more. Yet overall, male writers outnumber women writers. 

Notice how I didn’t say all classical writers are men, though many are. It would be a misconception to assume that all classical writers were men. Women writers in the English tradition date back to the Middle Ages, from Marie de France to Julian of Norwich to Margery Kempe. Although these writers may not be as well-known as writers like Geoffrey Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales) or Sir Thomas Malory (Morte Darthur), women’s writings have been recognized for centuries.

Genders still fall into stereotypes.

Stereotype #1: Women are emotional, and men are logical.
Please. My parents themselves defy this. My mom tends to be more logical when it comes to reading or watching movies, often to the point where she predicts what will happen next, and my dad’s the empath of the two of them. There’s no reason men and women can’t both have emotions. They’re both human. True, they tend to handle them differently, but it always varies from person-to-person.

Stereotype #2: Men are stronger than women.
As for men being stronger than women, sure, it can be true to an extent. I mean, I’ve always been the
slowest of my dad and brother, whether it comes to hiking, biking, or simply walking. But after a year of biking in England, I was finally able to keep up with my dad. On the other hand, my dad’s cousin Rachel makes them both look out of shape. Whoever said that Tolkien didn’t include more female characters because they wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the members of the Fellowship was wrong.

Stereotype #3: All strength is physical.
It’s a misconception that in order for a female character to be strong, it has to be physically. Often times, characters like this are outfitted with some sort of weapon or fighting style that makes them equal if not a rival to men. That’s not to say that women can’t be strong (see above point), but not all strength is physical. Sometimes it can be mental or even spiritual.

While fiction is full of female characters who can beat a man up or lead a revolution (The Hunger Games and Blood Red Road), they’re not always relatable. I want to see more strong female characters who don’t just struggle against deranged governments but against their own negative thoughts, whether it’s a mental ailment like depression or a spiritual one like an existential crisis.

Lisa T. Bergren is a great example of an author whose characters are well-developed. In The Remnants trilogy, the main character, Andriana “Dri” is trained as a warrior, to protect herself and her friends, but she’s also an empath and struggles with opening herself up to the darkness. Bergren’s other YA series, the River of Time series portrays another excellent set of well-developed female characters who feel like actual people and are quite easy to relate to. Other great examples of well-developed female characters include but are not limited to Maerad from The Books of Pellinor, Amani from Rebel of the Sands, and Puck from The Scorpio Races.

In all, the world of fiction has still come a long way over the years. According to one company in England, 48% of employees in publishing throughout the UK are women. And as far as I’ve seen, a lot of YA authors are women, from Lois Lowry (The Giver) and Lisa T. Bergren (River of Time Series) to Maggie Stiefvater (The Scorpio Races) and Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park). In fact, many of my favorite contemporary authors are women. That isn’t to say that men can’t write YA, look at John Green, Rick Riordan, and Lemony Snicket.


Previously in Controversy in Fiction: Banned Books, Censorship, and Magic

Literary references: Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Moira Young’s Blood Red Road, Lisa T. Bergren’s The Remnants trilogy and River of Time series, Alison Croggon’s The Books of Pellinor, Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands, Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park.

Let’s chat! Who’s your favorite female writer? Your favorite female character? Do you think gender discrimination is a problem that still needs to be addressed in the publishing industry and the world of fiction?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Shadows: A Poem

I get inspiration from the strangest places, and my writing never comes out exactly like I initially thought it would. Not that it’s a bad thing. When I first started classes at the University of Nottingham, my aunt remarked that the place was so beautiful I’d surely find inspiration to write. And I did. But my writing wasn’t the poems or the stories I expected.

In my time there, I wrote maybe two poems about Nottingham itself, and my poem “Puddle” was inspired off one of the first times I rode my bike past a puddle. Not that the poem has anything to do with biking. And the setting could be anywhere.

The same could be said for the following poem. I wrote it based of an observation I made while watching a seagull glide above the morning shade I was standing in. The setting I’ll leave up to you. Just as the words take off on their own the minute I put my fingers to the keyboard, may your imagination take flight.


I’m in over my head in darkness,
standing in shadows of the box-shaped buildings,
like I’m in a deep, gray ravine beneath the waters
with the seagulls gliding overhead,
their underbellies alight against the blue,
like they’re gliding on light.

I’m up to my shoulders in shadows,
the shade spilling like a waterfall,
filling my lungs with a cold breath
and sprinkling my face with a chill
that I wipe off with my scarf.

I’m up to my knees in shadows,
the sunlight taunting me now,
for my toes are still cold within my boots,
but I’ve had to peel my sweater off
as I wade across darkened cobblestones.

I’m standing in shadows,
the darkness melted at my feet, never fully gone.
Standing in a bath of sunshine isn’t quick,
like jumping into freshwater.
It’s slow, gradual, like friendship, like love,
but one shard of a cloud, then goosebumps will crawl up my arms.


Let’s chat! Where is the poem set in your mind? What sort of things or places inspiration you?

Sunday, October 30, 2016

11 Writerly Fears

It’s October! That time of the year again where the fog is creeping up the hills and it’s getting dark earlier and earlier, day-by-day. When it comes to horror stories, readers may wonder what on earth writers may be afraid of. After all, don’t they write villains who make your skin crawl or stories that keep you up at night? Turns out, there’s quite a few things that writers are afraid of from forgetting to back up a story right before the computer crashes to 1-star book reviews. *shudders* Writers, ye be warned.

Caution: extreme irony. This post is not meant to be taken 100% seriously.

11) Paper cuts.

It’s not just red ink that can end up on manuscripts. Papercuts are deadly occurrences when your story strikes back that can leave your fingers stinging for days. The pen is mightier than the sword, especially when you use that pen to write, cut yourself on the soft paper, get some obscure infection, and die. Use antibiotics, people! Hand sanitizer stains are just as acceptable as coffee stains on your manuscript since they both ward of death—death to your body and death to your creativity.

10) Writer’s block

My first encounter with trouble writing came in the form of writer’s block, and it still comes and goes. For an entire summer, I didn’t know where I was going with my stories. This past summer, I didn’t know which story I would pick next because I was enjoying my current one so much. And while I may not be recovering from writer’s block at the moment, there may be a time when I get stuck again. And again.

And again.

But that’s when you keep going and keep writing. And pray you don’t overheat your computer on your lap or fry it by plugging it into the wall in some foreign country.

9) Losing your writing.

Whether it’s to a house fire, a crashed computer, or an unsaved file, losing a bit of your writing can be devastating. All that hard work you put into a story, hours, months, years just gone. Remember to backup, backup, backup. Use a thumb drive or a backup hard drive or both. Open a safety deposit box to store all your completed manuscripts or put it on the cloud.

I’m paranoid that people may even steal my stories (which is silly considering how rough some are), so I shred every scrap instead of simply throwing it away. Perhaps it’s ridiculous, but yes, I would be that person to run back into the house to save my stories. Last year when our apartment complex caught fire, I grabbed my backup hard drive.

8) Lack of coffee/tea/caffeine.

It’s a tragedy when the pantry is all out of your favorite beverage or snack. How else are you supposed to bribe motivate yourself to keep writing? I haven’t actually run into this problem yet, but if I were somehow wake up one morning without my favorite tea or coffee grounds available, I would probably walk around in a daze like a zombie. Or just curl up in bed and accomplish nothing like a slug. But where’s the fun in that? Solution: coffee keeps the zombie apocalypse at bay!

7) Getting your book made into a movie.

I’m just kidding. All writers dream of seeing their pretty little words made into a film that cuts out half of the important details, messes up your favorite plot twists, and butchers the characters and their development. Your welcome. But seriously, I still dream of a Lord of the Rings quality version of my story in film…

6) Dead characters.

Particularly the ones you hold dear. Oh, I like this character. He/she could be my best friend. What a beautiful line. Wait… did he just die? *insert melodramatic Darth Vader* NOOOOOO!

Seriously though, don’t get attached. Just don’t do it. Fine, you can get attached to characters, but be prepared to say goodbye.

In a way, it’s worse if you’re a writer, knowing you’re going to kill somebody off. Or they just surprise you and randomly die. The anticipation of such scenes is awful, and I always hate myself for writing them. How could I be so cruel to my characters and my readers? It’s just the story, right?

5) People not reading your story.

Perhaps another fear of writers is shouting into the void. Hello? Is it echoing in here, or is it just me? Sometimes I wonder if anybody will ever read my stories or my blog posts. But then I get a nice little comment, or somebody will say something to me in person about some of my work.

4) People reading your story.

No, seriously. It may seem contradictory, but it’s true. Correction: as I writer, I’m afraid of negative feedback, which gets overanalyzed by my brain. What if readers hate my story? Or worse, what if they sort of liked it, but it didn’t live up to its full potential? What if readers want to hunt me down and try to burn me at the stake? Okay, so it’s a little overdramatic, but sometimes, the mere idea of feedback becomes dreadful. This is why querying literary agents is scary. And reading in front of audiences. And just daring to write at all.

3) Not writing.

And even if you are in the mood to write, there’s never enough time. People demand your attention when you’re in the zone, and eventually you’re going to die, maybe with that one last story you were planning on writing but never got a chance to. Thanks a lot, death.

But even if I happen to live a long, healthy life, I might not get the chance to write that one story. Or maybe I’ll never have the courage to do so. Or the knowledge of the subject. Or maybe I’ll get some sort of amnesia that prevents me from ever finishing a story.

2) Meeting your characters.

Wait, I thought this would be exciting? Well, yes and no. If you’re like me and have a tendency to write fantasy, complete with heroes and villains, meeting half your characters might end up looking something like Inkheart. It’s been ages since I read the book, but I remember the scene from the movie where Fenoglio, the author within the story, is held at knifepoint by the characters read out of his own book. But Fenoglio, being the ecstatic writer he is, instead of being intimidated exclaims, “Look, it’s Basta!”

I’d like to think that meeting my own characters would be a little frightening. Then again, I could be excited. The world may never know…

1) Having a #1 fan.  

Anybody who’s read the Stephen King novel Misery, seen the movie, or heard of it know’s what I’m talking about. Not just some happy-go-lucky fan, Annie Wilkes is more like a stalker who kidnaps an author and forces him to write another book. If there’s anything scarier than bad book reviews or rejection letters, it’s obsessive fans who are determined to get their happy endings even if it means the writer never gets one.

But despite all our fears, we writers must get out there and write. How else are we supposed to deal with this frightening world? And by get out there, it’s totally fine to write away in the safety of your room. Or near safety. You never know when some natural disaster may strike…


Literary references: J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, and Stephen King’s Misery.

Let’s chat! Writers, what’s your biggest writing fear? How would you rank your fears? Have there ever been any instances where your worst writing fear came true?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Book Review: A World Without You

Book: A World Without You by Beth Revis
Genre: Young adult, contemporary
Awards: None (Yet!)
My rating: 5/5 stars
One-word description: Relatable

Look at that cover. It’s it intriguing? And it correlates to the storyline! It doesn’t get much better than that—a book with a great cover that actually means something.

Bo is a student at Berkshire (aka. the Berk), a school for young adults with mental illnesses, but Bo thinks he can actually travel through time. It’s heartbreaking to see him struggle between what’s actually real and what he thinks is real, what he remembers and what he’s forgotten.

I’ve read plenty of books about characters with disabilities, from Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird to Chris T. Arcadian’s The Shifter to E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, and there are even more on my TBR list. But A World Without You is the first book I’ve read that includes parts from the sibling’s perspective. Sometimes people forget that the family members of people with disabilities struggle too. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Revis!

As a younger sibling of a brother with high functioning autism, I found Phoebe, Bo’s sister easily relatable. She feels like she has a lot of expectations placed on her shoulders for being “normal.” And while I may have a closer relationship with my brother, to the point where people often asked if we were twins, like Phoebe, I constantly get tired of people asking what I’m going to do next with my life. Even though she can be selfish at times (can’t we all?), she’s an incredibly well-developed character.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that it was so relatable and heartbreaking, that I couldn’t read it all in one sitting. There were times I had to set the book down and muse on its words and take a break. But if I really wanted to, I easily could have read the book in one day, considering how I breezed through the last third of the book in one sitting.

Another aspect I really appreciated was how the book made me think, especially about relationships. How much would I miss somebody close to me if they were dead? Or how much would others miss me? The title itself has multiple meanings if you pay close attention while reading the book.

As for meaningful quotes, there were so many lines that stuck out to me. Here’s just one of them:

“You never know all of a person; you only know them in a specific moment of time.”

In many ways, it’s true. I know my college friends from college, not their hometowns or their families, and many of them don’t know me from all the many places I’ve lived. This book is a great reminder that people are often more complex than we may give them credit for, including the friends we think we know well.

I gave this book 5/5 stars for its excellent character development, wonderful writing style, and relatable themes. I’d recommend this book to young adults eager to learn more about mental illness or those looking for a quick, thought-provoking read. When I finished the book in the library, I went right up to one of the librarians and said, “This book is amazing.”  

“Is it one we own?” she asked.

“Interlibrary loan,” I said.

“Then we’ll have to add it to our list of books to buy.”


Let’s chat! How likely would you be to add A World Without You to your TBR list? What kinds of books have you read this year? Which genre of book should I post next?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Study in Foreshadowing: Why Foreshadow?

I’m such a nerd that I admire literary techniques. When a book or a movie has a balance between excellent character development, witty dialogue, and a plot that makes me think, I’m hooked. Perhaps one of my all-time favorite techniques is foreshadowing. Since I liked it so much, I wanted to read all I could about it.

But I found the internet sadly lacking in explaining foreshadowing. Sure, one post suggested if it’s in the text, it must play a role later. In other words, Chekhov’s rule that if a gun is included in a story, it must be fired. The more I looked at foreshadowing in books and movies, the more I’ve realized that foreshadowing is so much more than that, and I’ve never found a post that taught me how to write it.

So I decided to study it myself and write about my findings. In this series, I’ll be tackling three important questions: Why use foreshadowing? What are the pitfalls of foreshadowing? And how can writers incorporate it?

First of all, it’s important to define foreshadowing. According to the dictionary, the word foreshadow means “to show, indicate, or suggest in advance.” When it comes to fiction, foreshadowing is a literary technique where the text hints at important plot points. This can range anywhere from which character is going to die to another character’s identity and so on.

In blogging, foreshadowing can be as simple as telling you what posts I’m going to write next, or having a great title like 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Blogging, where you expect seven simple blogging tips. Fiction, however, is a little more complicated. Most readers don’t necessarily want to know what’s going to happen next. That’d be like reading the book blurb and having half the book spoiled for you. Nobody likes that.

So how does foreshadowing benefit readers? I’ll sum it up in one simple word: suspense. There’s nothing that keeps a reader turning pages like suspense. If writers can hook a reader and promise them something good will happen, they may be curious. If a writer promises something bad will happen, even better. That’s the point where the readers’ eyes become glued to the page, and they are squirming inside and wanting to shout, “TELL ME!!!”

Then, when readers finally reach the point alluded to, they may say something like “Aha!” Or if a writer really succeeded: “How did I not see that coming?” If a reader really likes the story enough to read it and try to find all the subtle clues peppered throughout the story, the writer has succeeded with proper foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing doesn’t just make for good reading. It makes for great rereading. (Tweet this!)

When most people think of foreshadowing this way, they may think of mystery books, and while they’re not wrong, it’s certainly not limited to it. Foreshadowing can be found in the correlation between the four thrones at Cair Paravel and the four Pevensie children. It can be in the title of Liesel Meminger’s story. It can be in August Water’s metaphor. It can be in the rule of only having one winner of the annual Hunger Games.

Yet foreshadowing can be a difficult technique to master. Do it wrong, and the suspense is ruined and the readers are disappointed. But do it correctly, and readers are hooked on your story. Foreshadowing done right is like promising your readers a secret and not letting them in on it until the last page.

Come back next month to read part 2 of A Study in Foreshadowing: How NOT to Use Foreshadowing.


Literary references: C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

Let’s chat! What’s your favorite literary technique? Which technique do you want advice on writing? What’s the best example of foreshadowing you’ve seen in a book or film?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Controversy in Fiction: Magic

Welcome back to Controversy in Fiction, part 3! You can check out my previous posts: Banned Books and Censorship by clicking on the links. Today I’m excited to share the controversies concerning magic, the fantastical element vital to one of my favorite genres.

Disclaimer: This post may contain controversial opinions that are not necessarily the same as those of readers. I have done my best to write objectively and mean no offense to liberals, conservatives, or anybody in between.  

It was a sunny afternoon in Hawai’i, my mom and I had just returned from the HIM Conference where we got to see David Crowder Band, and I was carrying one of my new acquisitions: that’s right, a pretty little book with a dragon on the cover, DragonKnight. And it was a Christian fiction book; I got it at the conference after all, so nobody thought anything of it.

Until we visited the home of a lady from church. She took one look at my book and asked me how I could read that. Didn’t I know dragons were of the devil? She then proceeded to go onto a spiel about how evil they were and how J. R. R. Tolkien couldn’t have been a Christian because he had wizards in his book. I stood there and took it, thanking God she never mentioned C. S. Lewis and how The Voyage of the Dawn Treader included a dragon.

I went home that day feeling crushed.

But I did the best thing I know I could do: I asked my brother Gavin what he thought. Anybody who knows anything about my brother, knows he’s always been extremely conservative. While I might not always agree with him, I respect many of his opinions. And at fourteen-years-old, I was seeking some assurance on my reading choices. Gavin said that he believed there could be good dragons, and I haven’t looked back since.

But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had disagreements over the years. Fantasy happens to be one of my favorite genres, but it is also one of the most debated between conservative and liberal circles. Everybody seems to have their own opinion on magic and whether or not it is purely evil or could be a force for good.

Spiritual Magic—The Chronicles of Narnia

Written by C. S. Lewis, the Oxford scholar and author of Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia serves not as an allegory of the Bible but rather as a supposal, Lewis term for a hypothetical scenario rather than an event-for-event and character-for-character story of the allegory. Aslan and the talking animals versus the White Witch and her minions represent the spiritual realms, making this series the quintessential for the religious.

Yet, the books still contain magic. Magic serves as the primary means by which the Pevensies and the other children get to Narnia, and even Aslan is bound by honoring the Deep Magic through his sacrifice. But it goes further. Dr. Cornelius uses simple magic in Prince Caspian, Lucy reads spells from a book in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and Eustace and Jill call on Aslan in The Silver Chair.

Ultimately, it’s how magic is used in Narnia that is the key. In The Magician's Nephew, there are two silver apples that play a key role: one eaten by the Witch and another planted by Diggory. Aslan assures the children that because the Witch ate one, the rest would be a horror to her:

“That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way. The fruit is good, but they loathe it ever after… She has won her heart’s desire; she has unwearying strength and endless days like a goddess. But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery”.

Spiritual and Intellectual Magic—The Lord of the Rings

A fellow Oxford professor and the man who brought Lewis to Christianity, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings serves as an influential story that shaped fantasy as we know it today. Although there is no clear, singular Christ figure, the division between good and bad is evident between Sauron’s armies and the free peoples of Middle Earth.

Once again, magic plays an important if not allusive role. The One Ring is clearly evil, but even the elves themselves bear rings of power. Likewise, the Palantire could be used for good or bad, the elves and wizards exercise magic, and Aragorn himself commands the power over the King of the Dead. Ultimately, magic has intellectual properties concerning wizards and elves, especially where the elvish language is concerned, and spiritual aspects concerning the rings, which as Gandalf puts it have curious properties.

Linguistic and Scientific Magic—The Inheritance Cycle

Among the most contemporary of popular fantastical fiction, Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle has a well-developed system of magic. Perhaps my favorite thing about the series is magic’s limitations and linguistic properties. Most spells are connected with words, from brisingr (fire) to rïsa (rise), and require a certain amount of energy from the spell caster. It’s actually rather unnerving that some spells, if used too soon or without the proper amount of strength, could kill a Dragon Rider.

Unlike the previous stories, only a selected few can use magic from Dragon Riders and dragons to witches and shades. However, there is no particular race or type of magician who is strictly good or bad. Eragon and Saphira ultimately come up against Galbatorix and Shruikan, and while the shade is clearly an antagonist, there are allies who are witches, and even the dreaded Urgals do not all serve Galbatorix.

“"Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet.” –Arthur C. Clarke (Tweet this!)

Genetic and Academic Magic—Harry Potter series

As I was growing up, I wasn’t allowed to read J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books because they included wizards and witches as the main characters. But once I graduated from high school, my mom told me I could read anything I wanted because she trusted my judgement. When I first started reading the books, my mom was a little startled and my brother was appalled.

As I read the books, I never quite agreed with all the witchcraft and spells, but I still appreciated the books for its world building and many of its characters. Magical abilities in these books are passed down through generations or simply appear for others. Then each wizard or witch is taught how to use magic in schools such as Hogwarts. But there’re still forbidden spells and the dreaded Lord Voldemort. Essentially, it’s yet another fight between light and dark.

Sophisticated and Natural Magic—Jonathan Strange & MrNorrell

Or as the book puts it, English and Faerie Magic. While Norrell advocates for intellectual learning and polite, English magic (talking gargoyles, weather illusions, etc.), Strange experiments with Faerie Magic (The King’s Roads, Faeries themselves, and anything dealing with the Raven King) or Black Magic (raising the dead and causing madness).

I read this book on my own so I could form my own, untainted opinions on it. Here goes. The struggle between Strange and Norrell serves as a primary conflict throughout the book, but neither of them can be said to be particularly bad, although they have their faults, namely arrogance and selfishness. At the same time, the Faeries themselves are devious and act as the primary cause of most of their troubles.

Throughout the book, the moral aspects concerning magic is another key aspect:

“‘Can a magician kill a man by magic?’ Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. ‘I suppose a magician might,’ he admitted, ‘but a gentleman never would.’”

Of course, these categories are not absolute. In fact, trying to catalogue the different types of magic almost drove me mad (thankfully, not the Jonathan Strange, pineapple-hating mad). There’s no reason to say that Narnian magic doesn’t have a science to it. After all, the Pevensies come up with an explanation to figure out the differences in time elapse between Narnia and England. Similarly, the characters in Harry Potter clearly have souls, for without them the Dementors would be purposeless. Even an afterlife is alluded to several times.

The main problem audiences tend to have with the different types of magic depends on their perception of it. To some people, all magic is evil. To others, if the magic doesn’t align with their spiritual views, it’s bad. In fact, many Christians I know tend to prefer the spiritual aspects of The Chronicles of Narnia over other forms of fantasy. Others yet may believe it’s all just fiction anyway, so the same principles of fiction don’t apply to fantasy as they do in the real world.

Although my brother Gavin still refuses to read, watch, or talk comfortably with people concerning Harry Potter, he still likes fantasy. In fact, he uses Once Upon a Time’s terms for magic: light and dark. Essentially, it seems most fantasy abides by these principles. Every struggle between magical forces is more often than not a struggle of good versus evil, light versus dark. That isn’t to say that either side is strictly pure (Edmund betrayed his siblings and Eustace was turned into a dragon; Harry used forbidden spells; and basically every member of the fellowship was tempted by the Ring), but even magical worlds strive for a sense of justice and moral standards.

I once heard it said that magic can be a metaphor for power, and it’s true to a sense. Some people are granted more power than others, some inherit it, and others don’t. But each person can choose to use that power, for good or for ill. And in that sense, because fiction itself holds a sort of power, words themselves can be magical.


Previously in Controversy in Fiction: Banned Books and Censorship

Literary References: Donita K. Paul’s DragonKeeper Chronicles, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters, Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

Let’s chat! What’s your stance on magic? Of the above types, which do you prefer?