“It’s just a book.”
If there is one phrase that incites rage in me in is that one. The fact that a book, a story, is nothing more than just a story. It’s just made up. It’s not got meaning. It’s not real.
I fundamentally disagree. To assume that because something is not real it is not powerful ignores the purpose of storytelling. It’s the original form of conveying information, history, lessons, between one another. It’s the original way humans understood the world, by making up stories to explain the world around them, to explain the natural wonders they could not explain themselves.
And even in today’s world, stories still have a place. They are a refuge from the chaos of reality, a place where you can be invited in and experience something new. You can have your views changed, opinions shifted. You can experience a million different lives from the comfort of your sofa.
Most importantly, stories inspire. You can read a story in your worst and darkest moments, and even in those raw times when you want the world to go away, the story seeps in. It can whisper to your shadows and embrace you with the comfort you need.
Why Fantasy is such a good genre for the “Inspirational Story”
Fantasy, as a genre, lends itself to the big question stories. The arching stories that look at the concepts of good vs evil, stories that ask us questions about the world around us and ourselves.
The reason for this, in my opinion, is that a fantasy story asks you to suspend reality. No matter what type of fantasy (low, urban fantasy all the way up to a spanning high fantasy epic), has an element of it that you know is not real – for example, magic. But to enjoy the story, you have to suspend your disbelief for a moment and believe in that impossible thing, that magic.
And in doing so, you open yourself up to believing in other impossible things to.
That you can be the hero of your own story.
That you can save the day.
That you are worth more than you can see.
Fantasy is a great genre to look at the world through an analytical lense, but for me my favourite aspect is this sheer belief that it asks you to have in the story, in the main characters, and in turn, yourself.
My Inspirational Fantasy Story
If I was to pick one story that resonated with me beyond all others, I probably would have to pick Kaladin’s story from The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. (warning, spoilers for Way of Kings ahead!)
About half way to two-thirds of the way through the book, Kaladin is faced with a choice. He has had everything thrown at him, and he is struggling with serious depression. In a point of darkness, he choses to go and stand on the edges of the chasmfields and look into the darkness hundreds of feet below.
And his choice? Jump or not to jump.
Now I cannot eloquently re-describe Kaladin’s troubles or decision (and please do read The Way of Kings to find out how Sanderson does it so masterfully!). However, the point that has stuck with me, almost nine years later, is the moment when he decides to face the pain and the difficult, and walk away from the cliff edge.
In that moment, he chooses a higher purpose to help him step forward through the pain. Whenever I find myself in a mentally tough spot, it is that moment I think back to. Kaladin might not be “real”, but to me, a reader, reading that story, he was as real as you or I. In that moment, he inspired me to also take a step back from the metaphorical cliff edge and turn to face the pain, to work through it, in the hope of something better.
Fantasy to inspire
For me, at its centre, writing in the fantasy genre is writing to inspire.
There are layers to any story, some to critique the world, others to complement it. But at its core, the story that I am writing at the moment asks for the reader to dig deep into themselves, when they were at their darkest moment, to find what drove them forward. For my main characters, each one has a different driver, and a different darkest moment, but their stories are all about what made them take that step forward.
My dream, one day, is to write a character who gives that same connection to a reader, so that they can be taken on the journey of discovery and take a step forward towards better things. Beyond any ideas or dreams of fame or fortune that I like to dream up on my commute to work, the image of someone connecting to one of my characters, like I did to Kaladin, is the reason I pick up my pen every time I have a writing session.
What does the fantasy genre mean to you? What is your favourite thing about writing in it?
Photo Credit – Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash
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