Why do I write? And why young adult fantasy? Don’t teens have enough to deal with? Shouldn’t I focus more on offering teens solutions during these tough years rather than fill their heads with non-existent fluff? Isn’t writing fantasy a bit egotistical?
Believe it or not, these are questions I’ve been asked over the past several years. I respond this way:
- I write because I love to write. It’s as important to me as breathing. If I go a day without writing, I get jittery. My brain flips out. It’s like I didn’t get my ‘fix’ and I’m in major withdrawal. It’s not pretty.
- I like writing young adult books because kids need a place to escape, just like adults. I like the audience. I think they are an awesome bunch of peeps and not so stereotypical as adults make them out to be.
- I write fantasy because kids, like adults, want to escape reality. They want to go to a place where they can defeat any and all odds, where they can be the hero.
- Fantasy is no different than any other genre in the lessons that can be taught and learned. The lessons are just more intense. The situations are taken to the extreme, but in the end, the hero ends up believing in himself and what he can accomplish, if he puts his mind to a task. I can’t think of a more practical lesson for a teen.
- As for writing being an egotistical thing to do…well, yes it is. It’s also a very giving art form. We see the world a different way. We hear dialogue differently. We are always asking the proverbial question, What if? Our dreams become more than images in our brains. They take on a life of their own. Unlike the general populace, writers have an inexplicable urge to share those dreams, those stories with others. To do so, we have to share our deepest secrets, our hopes, our fears. Unflinching courage is required to write. Even more courage is required to ‘put it out there’ for others to read. Rejection is very hard on a writer because writing is so close to our souls. It makes us vulnerable and it takes a long time, sometimes years, to toughen our hide. Even then, negative reviews still stab at our core. And yet…we keep on because we have a story that has to be told.
In my case, I like fantasy because it is true escapism. Of all the stories I clung to as a child, it was the fairytales that stuck with me the most. The shining knights on white horses that rescued those in distress, the castles…magic. Fantasy took me away from my problems of the here and now. It made me invincible. I could picture myself in gowns, or dressed in a poet shirt and trousers, fleeing on a horse through the woods from some despicable evil, a sword at my side. There was always a sense of honor, integrity, a belief in doing what was right, not what was easy. There was always a sense of danger around every corner, along with a knowing that the hero would prevail against all odds. For me, fantasy provided, and still does, an escape, a release from the tensions of modern life. The characters often face problems far more serious than our own. Look at Katniss in the Hunger Games – forced into a game of life and death to save her sister and her family. Fantasy readers understand that, no matter how big the problem (which are usually much bigger than our own), our hero will prevail. It teaches us not to ever give up. After all, if a seventeen year old can kill a dragon with a magic stone, then the seventeen year old reading the book may look at his Geometry test with a bit more confidence.
I found that writing fantasy is more difficult than reading it. We ask our readers to suspend belief with a completeness that is not required in other genres. We have to push the boundaries. We ask our readers to invest themselves not only in a made-up tale, but a made-up world. I think writing fantasy reminds people of how necessary it is to dream, to never lose your childish imagination. Think about it. Why do you think Disney is so popular?
I do write other types of fiction but no other genre fuels my imagination the way fantasy does. I shrug and say, So what. I’m a hopeless romantic and dreamer in love with tales of King Arthur and Merlin. If you ask me, the world would be better off with a little more magic. What do you think?