Here is the latest in the series of Guest Posts from fellow bloggers on the subject of Passion, whether literary or personal, which I’ll be posting regularly on a Thursday. If you would like to contribute, please drop me a line at kasia_oz (at) hotmail (dot) com.
Today we have a truly inspiring post from W.E.Linde at The Weathered Journal, who blogs about writing, and his passion for fantasy worlds. He is the author of the novella Prince of Graves, and is working on the Desolation War Saga. Having read Prince of Graves, I can highly recommend it! Tolkien fans will particularly enjoy it I think.
Hope you enjoy W.E. Linde’s Passion Post.
“We must walk open-eyed into that trap, with courage, but small hope for ourselves. For, my lords, it may well prove that we ourselves shall perish utterly in a black battle far from the living lands; so that even if Barad-dûr be thrown down, we shall not live to see a new age. But this, I deem, is our duty.”
Gandalf, The Last Debate, The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien
“Never tell me the odds!”
Han Solo, The Empire Strikes Back
Writers are, quite literally, troublemakers. They spend a great deal of time fomenting conflict, and then they place characters right in the middle of whatever sordid mess they had concocted. Of course, that’s exactly what readers expect. Conflict, whether as the central point of the novel, or simply the propellant to force the characters along a plot line, is arguably one of the most vital aspects of a story that makes it relevant to the reader (and therefore interesting). Regardless of the genre one enjoys to read and write, conflict of some sort will always play a central part. I’d go far as to say that the conflict is one of the main reasons the reader is even interested in a given character. How many people would really want to read an entire book about a Hobbit that likes to eat and to entertain? But throw him, against his better judgment, into a quest to defeat a dragon, and now suddenly you’ve got a reason to pay attention.
Entire books and countless web sites have parsed apart various types of conflict, and how to apply it to specific genres. As a writer, I’ve set my characters against many kinds of obstacles, but as I look over my previously written stories, my current works in progress, and my planned writing projects, I see a pattern that does, in fact, demonstrate the type of conflict that I am quite passionate about; namely, conflict that forces the protagonist to sacrifice for something loved, something cherished, or an ideal that transcends him or her.
Stories that present a protagonist, whether a hero(ine) or anti-hero(ine), devoted or reluctant, who must face obstacles that are seemingly overwhelming and impossible to conquer, almost always draws a reader in. Such stories speak to a shared reality for every human who has ever lived; namely, in life, we all find ourselves facing an antagonistic world, and often we feel alone as we have to face challenges without end. Sometimes, in the face of overwhelming aggression or injustice, the only thing we can do is to stand up for what is good, and hope that by sacrifice we can ultimately overcome whatever evil powers have darkened our world.
I believe that the fantasy genre is wonderfully and ideally suited for the idea of what I’ll refer to as the sacrificial hero. Paradoxically, fantasy allows for a more literal rendition of the protagonist who must somehow find the means to stand fast against the forces of evil (dragons, dark lords, etc). And while I’ll admit that such stories can be formulaic and predictable, this is where the skill of the writer is key. Often, but not always, you can rest easy knowing that the hero is going to prevail somehow, one way another. The key to a great story is how this “somehow” is delivered. See, in the story of the hero who is willing to sacrifice everything to stand for what is right, the hero doesn’t have to win. Delivered properly, the hero or heroine who gives up everything in their efforts to do what is right will always somehow be victorious, although quite possibly not in the way originally intended.
So the characters I love to read and write about, whether they know it or not at the outset, will ultimately find themselves having to choose to stand up for something in the face of overwhelming adversity, or to capitulate. Since I tend to like a certain grittiness in my writing (and a certain realism), these characters will not always make the right choices. But underneath it all, the greatest heroes will be ready to sacrifice something dear in order to do the right thing. And when a hero is willing to stand up for what is right, despite the odds, there is little that the forces of evil can do to take that victory away. That is the essence of heroic fantasy. How can you not be passionate about that?