Fresh Fiction Writing Refreshed

Yesterday, the heart of my post about writing fresh fiction was this: A fresh story is a familiar one told in a new way. Or a different story told in a familiar way.

While I think those statements are true, I don’t think they are particularly helpful to a writer who is trying to figure out out to tell a familiar story so that it comes across as something new and interesting.

I think of King Arthur stories, since there are so many of them. It seems next to impossible to tell the tale in a new way, and yet Bryan Davis did in his Dragons in Our Midst series of YA fantasies (AMG Publishing).

Part of his stories, but not all, were flashback scenes of King Arthur and good prophet Merlin saving the dragons from dragon hunters by turning them into people. Reviewers often said their favorite parts of the books were these Arthurian legend scenes.

Obviously Bryan told the familiar in a new way. But how? For one, he linked Arthur with dragons, something I don’t think is part of the traditional legend. He also made dragons in need of saving and gave Arthur a pivotal role in doing so. In other words, Bryan’s fresh take enhanced the existent story and built upon the character’s strengths.

Stephen Lawhead also re-imaged a familiar story in his King Raven series (Thomas Nelson)—Robin Hood. He changed the legendary setting from England to Wales, then in the final book of the trilogy gave a credible explanation how the English adopted the story based on a “real” Welsh hero.

A third example of a fresh take on a familiar legend is the movie Ever After, the story of Cinderella, told as if by an aging relative who passed the true story along to the Brothers Grimm. In this “real” version, Cinderella is anything but a helpless woman, though she is mistreated by her step-mother and one step-sister (the other turns out to be of some help later in the story, though she doesn’t stand up to those who are abusive).

The magic elements of the story are changed into real events/people, with only a perception of the fantastic. Another twist is that the prince, when he learns who Cinderella actually is, feels betrayed by her and is unwilling to marry beneath his station. Later he comes to his senses, rushes to save her from a brute who has bargained with her step-mother to marry her, but finds she has already freed herself from the man’s evil clutches.

These three examples do not hide their source but make a concerted effort to alter the story in some significant way: Davis by incorporating dragons in the Arthurian legend, Lawhead by changing the setting of Robin Hood, and Ever After by explaining away the magic of Cinderella and adjusting the plot accordingly.

Making full use of myth and legend while altering the source in some significant way is just one method of telling the old in a new way. But I’ll save any further discussion of fresh fiction for another day.

CSFF Blog Tour – Beyond the Reflection’s Edge, Day 1

The CSFF Blog Tour is featuring Bryan Davis’s Beyond the Reflection’s Edge this month. I “met” Bryan Davis back in 2003. We were both members of an email group, the Christian Writers Group (now the Christian Writers Group International) and exchanged an email or two because we both wrote fantasy. Eventually I began critiquing Bryan’s first manuscript, the story that became Raising Dragons, first in the Dragons in Our Midst series. One thing led to another, and I ended up editing Bryan’s next four books.

In 2005 we met in real life when Bryan came to the West Coast in early December for a book signing. As I recall, he went to four schools and a bookstore while he was in my area. A friend of mine and I met him one evening for dinner at a local restaurant, and I caught his presentation at several of the schools, then went to the booksigning.

This past year I met Bryan’s wife, Susie for the first time when they both came to the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference (where I took the picture above).

All this to say, Bryan has been influential in my own writing. We have discussed writing technique and writing purpose and what Christians can do through the fantasy genre. These give-and-take exchanges have helped form my own writing philosophy. To illustrate the point, I pulled the following quote from an email Bryan sent soon after he finished the revision of The Candlestone in 2004.

I want heroes. I want people to challenge me to be great. I want to argue in court with Atticus Finch and feel his gentle strength. I want to go into battle with Joan of Arc and live her tremendous faith. I want to sing in chains with the apostle Paul and watch the walls crumble at the hand of an almighty God … And I want to challenge others to walk that path with me.

This goes along with the impassioned defense of fantasy Bryan delivered at the Huntington Beach Motiv8 Fantasy Fiction Tour event earlier this month. I’ll need to check on this with organizer Merrie Destefano, but I think there might be a CD of that entire evening (sans the booksigning 😉 ) which would be well worth acquiring.

Merrie has mentioned the idea of a fantasy/sci fi writers conference in the past, and I’m starting to think that has real merit. In the mean time, I encourage you to visit the blogs of others posting about Beyond the Reflection’s Edge. Also, I invite you back on Wednesday to vote (using WordPress’s new PollDaddy addition 😀 ) to select this month’s CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award. (Those eligible are bloggers posting all three days of the tour).

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir’s Here
Chawna Schroeder
Greg Slade
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Steve Trower
Robert Treskillard Not on the original list
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

“√” indicates I know a blog post is up.

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