Monday, April 07, 2008

Wars, small, great, undeclared, and recurrent

Yesterday I stayed in bed all day and watched movies. I saw two movies I hadn't seen before. One was called Tomorrow (by writer Faulkner by way of director Horton Foote and actor Duvall) and the other was called Constantine with my lifelong crush Keanu Reeves. (In fact I have had such a jones for Keanu for such a long time that in Wind Follower I actually named my character Kaynu after him.)

Anyways, Constantine --despite Keanu's gorgeous self-- just had me rolling my eyes. Hey, I'm okay with folks fooling around with Christian theology but what a mish-mash it all was! I mean...he had to look into the eyes of a black cat in order to enter hell. What's that about?

"Tomorrow" on the other hand touched me -- although I think the actual Faulkner story would have touched me more. I can't help it. I'm a Black Jamaican but I have always had this fascination with poor white folks in Appalachia. Supposedly --at least this is what I pick up from the media-- these salt of the earth types would be the first to lynch me. I can watch movies about city sophisticates having all kinds of angst but the stories that really touch me are those about poor, country people, whatever culture they're from: China, poor white, Africa, Latin America, African-American.

So there I was watching it and reminding myself that I haven't seen The Apostle in a while when it suddenly dawned on me that all my stories are about wars. Wars, small, great, undeclared, and recurrent. In Wind Follower, my main characters thought the human war was over and they figured that as long as they avoided the spiritual war, the spirits would ignore them. In Constant Tower, there's a war of a different kind going on. And in Inheritance, wars also abound.

Of course all stories are about conflicts...and conflicts are another word for war. War against the self, war against nature, etc. Each author has her own opinion about what wars abound in this life. Romance writers concern themselves with the emotional wars at home and the wars between the sexes. Sometimes status and race are thrown in but for the most part, the characters in a romance story are dealing with their home culture and emotional inheritances and how their cultural inheritances conflict -- war with-- that of the one they have come to love. Other writers, on the other hand, deal with more political and social wars. And Christian fiction writers often deal with spiritual wars: the conflict between the self, the soul, and the spirit....and how that inner conflict is compounded when it encounters the world, the flesh, and the devil.

I totally believe that a great romance is the best kind of story possible. Why? Because it concerns itself with love --which is eternal and which changes the soul-- and with the creation of a new family/community while retaining the best of one's self and one's community. In Romances, relationships are ultra-important.

Now all this is tough for me to balance in a fantasy story which aims for action from the get-go. I, unfortunately, am fascinated by normal life --the normal life of the world we know, and the normal life of the fantasy world an author has created-- and what makes normal life tick. This means that even when I create a fantastical world, if I'm not careful I'll find myself wandering leisurely among the poor folk of that culture, ambling along the country lanes...and not pushing the plot along. Romance writers and Christian fiction writers are used to this kind of slice-of-life stuff. They are used to slow country rambles with subtle small conflicts and stressors. Most fantasy lovers, on the other hand, are more into Constantine-type stories. They want a lot more action upfront...like 30 pages of mucho drama, death, external warring. So I'm trying my best to get into that groove. What to do?

Work at figuring out how to work with cross-genres, maybe. Thank God I'm still growing as an author. I hope that whatever path my stories take -- the gentle ramble or the page-turning adventure-- that my fans will walk lovingly and patiently with me. Thank you all.
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