Hah! did you notice me fail wonderfully yesterday in my resolve to post each day? I of course do have an excuse but you know, no excuses here, just forging ahead.
So, second chapter of Gordy’s book Writing Bestselling Children’s Books is The Uses of Enchantment. The core concept here is that writing for kids is not just about entertainment and that stories have helped children find their own place in the world and also find meaning in life.
Great concepts, right? The mere thought that anything I write must fill this criteria literally wants me to run off and be sick on my pink Docs. No pressure then!
He suggests we go back and look at fairy tales, see the format they take, notice the vulnerability of the characters and how they resolve their particular problems.
Personally, I identify strongly with quest stories. I totally blame Indiana Jones for this. I LOVE Indy with all the fibre of my being. Which is one of the reasons why I decided on writing my own quest novel. The most fun I had, apart from writing it – no seriously – was the research, delving into the myths and legends from Biblical, Jewish, Muslim, Assyrian and Zoroastrian. And the countless trips to the British Museum, let’s not forget that. I also immersed myself in books by authors I admire greatly in the genre I chose to write in – Paul Sussman, James Rollins, David Gibbins <- all authors whom I think write cracking quest novels and who have taught me a lot about pacing and plot.
When it comes to my own writing, if I can suspend my own disbelief then yes, I can probably and hopefully expect readers to do the same. I think I love quest novels because I grew up reading them thanks to my dad. He only ever bought cowboy books to read and a majority of these were solid quest/action adventure type books. I thrived on them, much to the horror of my very lovely English teachers in school. Whenever I had to write any kind of creative essay, hey presto! a bunch of cowboys would turn up looking for El Dorado in Mexico or whatever.
I think, more than anything, this chapter The Uses of Enchantment is a way for aspiring / existing writers to perhaps re-experience those stories we grew up with, way back when we were very small. To remember being so smitten with a story that you yearned to be that main character, to experience what they are experiencing, and using that memory to create something that you hope make your readers feel the same.
I found this website interesting when looking at Basic Plots and also, of course, Christopher Booker’s huge tome: The Seven Basic Plots. And if you’ve not done so, have a look at the quintessential Hero with a thousand faces by Joseph Campbell. All these books have great discussions about different types of stories and character archetypes. Looking at fairy tales, you cannot go wrong with the Annotated Brothers Grimm or books by Katherine Briggs or Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment.