Friday, September 18, 2009

George MacDonald

The Victorian period in England was a strong influence on the Fantasy genre. Many authors contributed memorable works during this time period. George MacDonald was one of the authors of this time. Born in Scotland, he became a preacher, teacher and writer. He wrote over thirty novels, fairy tales and other things. His strongest contributions were in children’s and Christian Fantasy with strong dream images and fanciful in nature. A religious man, he imbued is books with some Christian symbolism that were allegorical in nature. On the other hand, he wrote light stories for children too. C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and Lewis Carroll were influenced by this author.

Phantastes is one of his adult Fantasy novels considered a classic. It is the story of a man called Anodos. He finds himself drawn into the land of Fairy when his bedroom turns into a forest. What follows is a series of episodic adventures where he gains a Shadow and fights evil. The book is full of vivid dream-like images that are very descriptive and evocative. Anodos’s varied adventures leads to a wonderful book with many symbols that make a reader think about the book.

The first of Mr. MacDonald’s popular children’s books is At the Back of the North Wind. Diamond is a boy befriended by the North Wind. She appears as a woman to him, but can not enter the country always at her back, living at the edge of the world in the far North. He travels through her to the “land of love.” After seven days, Diamond returns to our world to help Victorian London’s poor people. It is a strange adventure with many strong themes.

The Princess and the Goblin followed the previous book. Goblins plot to steal the young Princess Irene for their leader. Curdie is a worker in the goblin mines. He 5learns of the goblins’ plans and how to stop them. Irene uses a magical spider silk thread to rescue the captured Curdie. A fun story of adventure and thwarted plans ensues. This book has many uplifting themes attached to it.

Mr. MacDonald wrote a sequel with The Princess and Curdie. The characters of Princess Irene and Curdie are older. Curdie has grown lazy and complacent. He kills a pigeon belonging to a wise woman. She sends him on trials to get forgiveness after which he becomes her agent. Princess Irene and Curdie then journey to the capitol to save the king. They are helped by pigeons sent by the wise woman. This sequel has some misanthropy and is darker than the first book.

The second adult Fantasy novel of Mr. MacDonald is Lilith. In this book the main character, Mr. Vane, R passes through a mirror into another world. There he finds Adam and Eve guarding the sleeping dead. He turns down their offer and explores the strange world. Lilith appears throughout the story in various forms to tempt him. Mr. Vane must overcome several problems before returning to his world. This book is very complex and full of potent, disturbing images. It is Mr. MacDonald’s masterpiece of Fantasy.

George MacDonald is a classic Fantasy author of Victorian England. He wrote many stories and books that are memorable today. His vivid imagination provided intense dream images to his works. Christian and children’s Fantasy are richer for his contributions. Authors like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll were influenced by his writing. Seek out his works online or in book form if you get a chance. You will not be disappointed.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

On Writing Fantasy: Archetype Cards as a Tool

Half way through writing a story you stop. Inspiration seems to dry up and the story goes no where. A blank page or screen stares at you while you strive to think about something to write. Writer’s block? No. It is just a temporary lack of focus. How to start getting the creativity going? Another aspect for writers is finding something useful for writing exercises. I find Archetypes Storytelling cards a useful tool for Fantasy writing. They are useful for inspiration, writing exercises and combating writer’s block.

Inspiration for writing is difficult to find at times. writers need to find new sources for help. These cards are useful as a source. Drawing different sets of cards for plots, characters and objects sparks my mind to think of new ideas for my writing. The cards are generalized enough to provide something for your mind to focus on and spur creativity.

Another way the cards are useful is for creating writing exercises. Writers, whether beginning or veterans, always need to practice their craft. I use the cards as a means of practicing. I will draw some cards and write a character description or short scene from the ones I draw. Sometimes this leads to a longer piece. They are useful for trying experiments too. The different card combinations lead to some interesting prospects.

Lastly, the cards are useful in combating writer’s block. Keeping your creativity fluid is important as a writer. For those times when you can’t seem to write, playing around with these cards jogs your thoughts. Interesting combinations create intriguing possibilities that spur the mind to life. This can help to break the writer’s block you might be suffering from once and a while.

Archetypes Storytelling cards are a useful writing tool for Fantasy writers. They help with inspiration and ideas, provide writing exercises for practice and help combat writer’s block. The art work on the cards is colorful and good. They are available from the Internet at The site also provides some basic stuff like using the cards online as a tarot and for basic character or objects to write about.