16 Things Every Author Wants

Every writer has dreams, and not just the ‘get my book made into the next big movie’ dream but the more down to earth dreams. The ones where we want a turret room in a castle with surround sound music or a telepathic device to record our dreams. So, just for fun, I decided to compile a list of the things (with variations) that every writer would love:

  • A castle, built into a mountainside with a lake and green valley spreading below. And excellent wifi. Of course.
  • A tower room, the walls coated with weapons, flags, and maps from my world and books.
  • Then, of course, I’d want a writing room. A long room, where I could pace. The walls would be covered with pictures of characters, character profiles, great plotlines, interconnected with silk string, and small computer screens interspersed between them for quick research.Self-Publishing
  • On the topic of research, I’d want a research room too, with a wall of screens where I could open a hundred different tabs and scroll through a dozen pages at once.
  • All of these grand rooms branch off my main writing room. A simple desk and computer in the middle of a cozy room. Candles on the walls, as well as scribbled notes. Oh, and the aforementioned surround sound music.
  • There would be a library too, of course, with several great chairs, a fireplace, a window seat, and books covering the walls. This would also be my bedroom.
  • Moving from the topic of lodging to technology, a dream recorder would be great for ideas.
  • As well as a thought recorder.
  • And a telepathic keyboard that writes out a scene just as we imagine it instead of making us labor word through word.
  • A visual storyboard would be nice too. One that would play our story in color, with dramatic music in the background.
  • Food. A stash of chocolate would be grand, as well as ice cream and cheesecake. Yogurt too, since one ought to eat something healthy. And fruit. Like strawberries and blueberries.
  • Some writers would also include coffee. Or tea. I’d prefer hot chocolate and pink lemonade.
  • Then there are the baths. Hot tubs and showers and whirlpools for brainstorming.
  • Also an endless supply of pens and paper. Notebooks and notecards. Envelopes and bookmarks.
  • And… costumes. Ranger costumes. Futuristic dress. Swords and bows and guns and daggers. Because sharp and shiny things should be acquired at every chance one gets.
  • Finally, one needs other writers. Just a few. Good friends, all with their own chambers and a central meeting room for when they want to interact with others.

If you could choose one thing from this list, what would it be? What sorts of things would you add to this list?

Indy e-Con: The Value of Beta Readers

This article is part of a really cool Indy e-Confrence going on right now, based from Kendra E. Ardnek’s blog. You can click the picture below to check it out. 🙂

the value of beta readers

The Value of Beta Readers

There is no one secret to producing a good book. Hard work, patience, more hard work, dogged determination, and did I mention hard work? Yet it is so worth it. And, the more I write, the more I value one particular asset every writer should have.

Beta readers!

Beta readers are wonderful. Sometimes they are friends. Sometimes they are other writers. Sometimes they are people you’ve never met before but who have signed up to help you. Whatever the case, they provide an excellent new look at your own work, commenting on points you’ve missed because of your closeness to your story. If there are problems you are trying to ignore, they will be quick to point those out too. Grammar, plot, characters, awkward wording… everyone is different, and each beta reader tends to focus on different aspects of your story and will find different things. Together, they help smooth and polish your story to a great degree.

I first started writing, I didn’t even know of the term ‘beta reader’. I had help, but to me, they were friends who were helping with my story as I helped with theirs. Together we improved each other’s work. While I still beta read for friends, and they for me, I now reach out to other readers and get as much aid and new eyes on my story as I can. Without beta readers to provide feedback, I would be lost.

A writer can find beta readers in a number of ways.

The first place to look is among friends. You may have some friends (or fans) who enjoy your work and who are willing to correct your book for the mere chance of reading it. There are other friends who may be writers, and you can arrange a swap of manuscripts, each correcting the other’s work. And you can simply ask. If you are in a writing group, tell people what you are looking for and have them contact you if they are interested in helping. Create a form people can fill out (Google Forms is great for this) and post it on your blog and Facebook with a blurb about your book. You might be surprised at the number of people who want to read your novel.

There isn’t a set number of beta readers one ought to have: anywhere from five to twenty, as a general range. If you can’t interest anyone, there are writers who hire themselves out as beta readers, as well as professional beta readers you can hire on places like Fiverr. But generally, it’s not hard to find a handful of readers among your circle of friends and acquaintances.

Once you get your beta readers, you must loosen your grip about your manuscript and let people actually read it. Depending on the length, you may send the whole story at once, or in pieces. I prefer sending a novel in parts both because I can correct it easier in smaller chunks, and because it forces the reader to correct a section before finding out what happens next in the story.

At this point, I’ll create an Excel sheet, or a chart of some kind, with the names of all the beta readers, their emails, when I sent them a particular part, when I got it back, and when I corrected that part myself. It helps keep everything in one place, especially when you have a large number of beta readers.

Now remember, unless you are hiring these beta readers, they have a life of their own. I have had numbers of stories beta read and there are two main things I account for when beta readers sign up to help me.

Firstly, I consider how long it would take to beta read a story, then add a few weeks. Then I expect some beta readers to be late. Because life happens. Some readers might whip through your story and have it back in a week. Others might take two or three months. If you do need your novel back in a particular timeframe, encourage everyone to send what they’ve corrected to you by that date, even if they aren’t finished.

Secondly, there will normally be a small percentage of beta readers who end up not getting back to you. This is nothing against beta readers because I understand that things get busy. Just expect it. If everyone sends you your manuscript by the deadline you set, that is great. If not, it’s nothing to worry about. It happens.

Eventually, you start receiving feedback. I like to correct my novel as I get comments back. The cool thing about beta reading is that everyone picks out different things. Five beta readers can go over the same page and pick out different spelling, grammar, or plot mistakes. Together, they are a powerful force.

And there is something you might start to notice. Beta readers can disagree among themselves (unintentionally, of course, since they don’t know what the others have said). Some love a particular part. Others think it could be changed. Some love a theme. Others don’t quite get it.

It is important to approach beta reader feedback correctly. Remember, one book isn’t for everyone. There will always be some people who don’t quite care for a style or idea. There is nothing wrong with this. Take each beta reader’s comment into careful consideration, but they are not Gospel truth. You can keep the thoughts, or decide they aren’t right for the book, or pick and choose what you like. Now, if everyone is agreeing that something is a problem, then it likely needs some help, but otherwise use what comments you can and don’t feel bad if you don’t agree with all of them.

Finally, and this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, treat your beta readers with respect. They deserve it. They have gone over your story, helping you improve it, just for the sake of reading it themselves. Make sure to thank them and maybe even mention them in your acknowledgements.

If you haven’t had beta readers before, don’t hesitate to find some. Once your novel is finished, but before you plunge into detailed polishing, send your book to beta readers for feedback. You won’t regret it.

New Fantasy Times: Advancing Fantasy Technology

Advancing Fantasy Technology

Fantasy equals a sword, a bow, and a golden prophecy, right? Wrong. Do you honestly think that the realm in which you live contains the smartest, most advanced people? Of course, ‘advanced’ can have plenty of definitions. That aside, you might be surprised to find the realms which people in this land deem as ‘fantasy’ have a few tricks of their own.

new-fantasy-times-pinsWhat is technology after all? A thin device which carries words and pictures. An invisible thread in the air which connects the aforementioned devices. A globe of glass which glows. A chest which keeps things cold. A metal box which hurtles across the country at high speeds… It’s not quite so grand as some like to think.

Plenty of worlds have their own forms of useful (and not so useful) tools. There are the Silver Shells, which one can speak into and their voice will travel outwards to all other shells which are properly tuned. The Ruby Crystals hold pictures, even if they do tint them all red. Fire globes can carry heat and light for up to a week. One ice globe can keep a whole room cool. Swooping, kite-like contraptions carry individuals from one place to another.

The abilities of other realms are not limited to comfort and information. To be sure, swords and bows are quite popular. They were used for over three thousand years in our own realm, you will remember. But I have seen many other weapons. Powders that burrow into the foundations and, once fire catches on them, nothing can put it out. Catapults hurl explosions at iron-clad walls. Tubes send such explosions half way across the world. Hologramic soldiers march in rank and scatter confusion among the enemy. Mixtures seeped in water to weary the limbs and terrify the hearts. Other realms are not lacking in imagination or resources, let me assure you.

It is not just about what great men can think up either. The very air of some lands is different from those of others. There is one realm where currents layer the breeze. Two people in the same current can speak to each other though they are miles away. In other places, pools capture images and stones leave impressions of who was last there, while wind caves catch voices and echo them through deep caverns of the earth.

How people communicate and what they wield is just the beginning. The realms themselves are hardly what so many histories nowadays show them as…all green and swords and golden light or else dark and stony and hard. The past is not always pleasant, nor the future always hard.

Fantasy worlds are destroyed as well and must rise from the ashes. Realms and creatures from other realms interconnect – be they coming from the moon or from the sea. Wagons roll north over great deserts inhabited by wolves. Sleek silver ships combat dragons in the sky over glittering cities.

Quite frankly, no matter how many different ideas you can twist or merge, you will be able to find an existing world within the details. There is no limit except your imagination…and your realm leaper abilities.

 

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade (or Elena) to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

 

Join the Legend Seekers for monthly stories about the realm leapers and fantasy time-travelers, Kirin and Elena. Click here to sign up

Author Myths: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

The writer’s life is surrounded by myths, both inside and out. ‘Oh, you are a writer? You must be rich?’ ‘A writer? Are you a starving artist? I didn’t think you could make any money that way.’ ‘Just write a book and put it out there, it will take off.’

self-publishing

So…yes. Lots of myths. So I decided to collect a few; some from Facebook, some from articles I’ve read, some from things I’ve heard or heard of so much that they are now stuck in my head.

Myths on the Inside:

That you have to write every day to be a writer. Ok, so there is truth that you need to write to be a writer, and you need to keep writing and not just write every two months as the inspiration seizes you. But it is also fine to take occasional breaks and not write every day.

You don’t need an editor, editing yourself is fine. I tried this. Nope, not really fine. Though I’m an awful editor myself. I think even editors send off their work to others for correction.

There is no need to worry about grammar and punctuation. The publisher will assign an editor-minion to take care of it for you. Just dash off your book, and relax and enjoy your six-figure advance. Insane laughing. I wish, but no. Just not happening.

Just write you book, put it ‘out there’ and readers will come flocking to buy it. Sadly, no. For readers to love our book, they need to know about it. They aren’t going to come searching for something they don’t know exists.

Myths on the Outside:

That writing is easy because it isn’t a real job. Excuse me. Does your job fill your mind day in and day out, and take up all your free time? Do you know how hard writing is, both emotionally and physical (I mean, really, who has time for sleep?). Also, don’t you dare count my success by how much money I make. Success is about so much more.

While writing, you are unemployed and available for major tasks/projects. *chokes* Yes, I am writing. No, that does not mean I am free. Writing and free are like opposite ends of the spectrum…

People are self-published because no traditional publishing house would consider it. Hardly. Traditional publishing houses can only publish so much, after all. And did it ever cross your mind that maybe we wanted to be in control of everything ourselves?

Self-publishers shouldn’t charge money for their books – they should be grateful if anyone deigns to read them at all, so they should always give them away. The only reason I will not blast anyone who dares think or say this to ashes is because is because you are so ignorant about what goes into writing that I don’t even know where to start.

When you publish that book, you’ll make tons of money. Also, you won’t make any money at all. Marketing. Email lists. Followings… You could make lots of money, or you could make a little, or you could make a middling amount. There isn’t one catch-all figure.

Because you are a writer, you know how to spell every word under the sun as well as all the rules of grammar. Please, I am horrible at both. Sometimes even spellcheck doesn’t know what I’m looking for.

It is assumed you can pull plots or character out of thin air for a friend (or younger sibling). It’s really not that easy. You want to be a writer? Figure it out yourself. I’ve more plots than I know what to do with right now.

Of course, you want to read and critique anything a friend (or stranger) offers you. There is this thing called time, you know. I don’t have enough of it for my own work. And, unless I offer, I probably don’t have any to spare for reading everything else under the sun.

I’ve come to the conclusion that writers, like many kinds of artist, will always be misunderstood. Not by everyone. I have some very supportive family members. I also have one who doesn’t quite get it. But that is fine. That doesn’t make those who don’t understand stupid, even if we might want to shake them sometimes. One day they might understand. Or not. But it is something we will face, and it is something we’ll have to live with.

So learn to laugh at it. Laughter can make about anything better. Besides, quite often what a nonwriter thinks about a writer can be funny. Don’t worry about what others think. As writers, we need to have a strong confidence in what we do and why we do it, then accept encouragement, ignore discouragement, and keep on writing!

Do you have any writing myths to share? Either something you’ve learned or something someone has said to you? Comment below!

New Fantasy Times: Independent Sidekicks

For this study, Kirin discovered that at least one character didn’t take kindly to being called a side-kick. Following which, said character wrote the following letter. Ladies and gentlefolk, meet Jagger, one of Ethaniel’s friends in Fidelyon.

Firstly, it’s companion, not sidekick. I mean, honestly. It’s not as if the ‘hero’ is any more important than we are, even if he does happen to be king, or chosen one, or something of that sort. Admit it, all of you. That term ‘hero’ is used for the person the story is focused on. The rest of us somehow are viewed as… less.

new-fantasy-times-pins-2

Surprise! We’re warriors and heroic in our own right too. Well, sometimes. I’m not saying every person in every story is heroic. But if the story were about one of us instead, you’d see what I mean. The only difference is that, instead of trying to run a failing kingdom and face down deadly enemies, we are standing guard, protecting our king from assassins… and still facing down deadly enemies. Though I’m sure if you were interested, you could find all sorts of fascinating things about us, even if our actions don’t change the fate of the age.

What do we do, then? I just answered that, didn’t I? We are… well, we are people. Just normal people placed in very not normal circumstances. (Just like the hero, I might add.) Though even that depends on the situation. Sometimes we might have prepared our lives to fight and defend others.

Because that is a great part of our duty. There are secondary characters, but the ones called sidekicks (shattered spears, who thought that term up? Did they have something against us to give us such a derogatory term?) Anyway, as I was saying, we companions are close to the hero, and so close to all the danger he naturally attracts (because what is a hero without an assassin before breakfast?). Hence we normally have our work cut out for us. Not that the hero is a poor fighter himself, but the enemy sends people against him without taking us into consideration. Which is both enraging and yet slightly convenient.

Still, like I said, we are just people, even if we are awesome people. There’s no one ‘type’. Some of us are funny, some serious. Some young, some old. We are generally loyal to our friends. All of them. We live, we die…

But such is life. In the end, we are no worse than the hero. Generally, we’re even better in one area or another. (Juggling and wielding twin blades would be my forte.) And I just have one note for all of you who still aren’t getting it.

Don’t underestimate us. Your regret at ignoring us will be the last thing you think.

Humbly,

Jagger

Self-publishing: Five Time-Saving Tools

A writer’s life is filled with so much more than the mere creating of stories. There is editing and proofreading. Marketing and newsletters. Blogging and graphics. We can take any help offered, and here are five free tools which have helped me save time and work the best I can.

five-tools-for-the-author

Grammarly

When you create an account in Grammarly, you can type directly into a document on the site, or you can paste into a document. Grammarly also offers some cool apps which will check your grammar and spelling as you type up emails or on social media sites.

Grammarly is split between a free version and a premium version. The free version catches critical mistakes, while you have to pay to see advanced mistakes. But it is still handy to find obvious grammar or spelling mistakes, even if it occasionally marks something as wrong that you decide to leave unchanged for various reasons.

MailChimp

Building an email list is essential for any author. MailChimp offers a free mail service for up to 2000 email addresses. You’re able to create signup forms, popup boxes, welcome emails, and various other cool stuff. You can create and save templates and track opens and clicks through Mailchimp analytics.

Hootsuite

If you are on social media at all, this is a great time saver. You’re allowed to add up to three different social media sites in the free version. Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts, either for each site individually, or for several sites at once.

Plus, Hootsuite has a cool dashboard where you can look all the information on a particular site, with columns for your posts, your feed, your messages, your scheduled posts, etc.

Canva

At some point, you’re probably going to make some graphics for a book launch, a sale, or your blog. Canva is a great free tool for this. With numbers of free templates (as well as others you can pay for) you get a head start on creating classing Pinterest photos or sleek Instagram posts. One of the best parts is that these templates are created for the optimal size of a post for that particular social media site, increasing the effectiveness of the graphic.

Pixabay

You’re going to need photos for the graphic you create, and Pixabay offers a great collection of royalty free photos. Though downloadable for free, there is the option to donate a few dollars if you wish to, but it’s not required. They have a wide variety of photos, especially when it comes to nature pictures.

These are the five tools or sites I use the most as I write and market. What about you? Do you have any favorite tools?

Christian Convictions: Assassination in Writing

Assassination in Writing

Death comes in many forms when one is writing a book. Weather, sickness, battle, or personal revenge. In many books, warfare of some kind or another progresses through the story. As writers, sometimes we need to decipher what is acceptable for our characters to do; or at least what they can do in good conscious (Of course, this doesn’t mean they always will behave right, because having a character fail morally and then having to face the results of his failings is a great story-line.)

copy-of-by-hope-ann

Now I am not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination. The Bible says do not kill, but it does allow for war. Killing in battle or self-defense is acceptable; murder is not. Pacifism, when one should fight, if one should fight…it’s quite a large topic that I might address sometime else if people show interest. Right now I’m focusing on a narrower topic. Given that fighting and killing is a part of general warfare, how should a Christian (and, by extension your characters) deal with assassination?

In battle, men line up in shield walls, shoot from defended trenches, or swoop above the enemy in planes. The enemy knows they are there…sometimes. There are also ambushes, surprise attacks, night attacks, and dawn attacks were damage is done and then the attackers fade into the night. A killed guard. Sniper shots inside enemy encampment. It is all part of warfare and part of the danger of being in the army.

Assassination moves a little closer to home. This is no random shot fired or a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is purposeful. Watching a target, waiting for him, looking through a scope at a real person instead of a nameless soldier. It is pulling the trigger, throwing a knife, or striking up close from an ambushment with a dagger.

So, is assassination in wartime an acceptable course of action?

The answer, I believe, is yes. With some restrictions.

Now don’t get me wrong, just because killing is a part of war doesn’t mean it is desirable. It will be a necessary part of surviving, but war doesn’t mean all rules go and one can kill or assassinate anyone on the opposite side.

I do not believe, even in war, that killing or assassinating the defenseless and civilians is ever right. When it comes to an armed enemy, however, it is another matter. Soldiers die on the field, from sickness, and in surprise attacks or in ambushes. Generals, officers, and leaders may, for practical reasons, stay away from the main conflict, but they are still actively engaged in warfare. As a soldier, they are fighting with the knowledge that they could die. And if it is not possible to kill a target from the battlefield, then I see no problem with a secret attack which gets the job done.

It may not seem the most honorable course of action, but since when is killing honorable? What must be done, must be done. In a pitched battle, in an ambush, or in a surgical strike behind the lines, if a leader of an army needs to be taken out, then there is no moral problem for your characters accomplishing the task.

And an item of note here – this does not mean your characters are ‘playing God’ and deciding who lives and who dies. A soldier in another book, when confronted with the question about how he could kill, especially when he knew those dying probably weren’t Christians, put it very well. I don’t remember the exact quote but it was to the tenor of ‘God is in control, and if He wants someone to be saved, then He will save that person regardless of what I do. But as a soldier for my country, I will do my duty to the best of my ability…even if that means killing’.

When it comes to writing, I do not have a moral problem with a character planning an assassination on the leader or general of an opposing side. Now, just because it might not be a matter of conscience, it does not mean it won’t affect and haunt your character in personal and emotional ways…which is, of course, what you want for them. Your characters shouldn’t plan an assassination for no reason, but if there is a reason then have no hesitation throwing the turmoil and contention of planning and performing (either in success or failure) at them and seeing what happens.

Note: I do not claim to know everything about the various topics I’ll be discussing in these Christian Conviction articles. What I write is what I believe after reading the Bible and holding conversations with friends and parents, but that does not mean I’m not interested in Bible evidence for another point of view. If the topics interest you, I encourage you to study them on your own as well. Friendly discussion in the comments is encouraged if you have points you’d like to bring up, but this is not the place for a full-scale debate. : )

Social Media: What Does an Author Really Need?

What social media sites should an author have?

There are so many social media sites, but does an author really need to be on all of them? Is one or more of them indispensable to the serious author or do they just clutter and waste time? And the answer is… *draws deep breath* everyone has different views. What a surprise.

social-media-for-the-author

From what I’ve seen, focused work on most platforms can bring in revenue if you know what you’re doing. At least there are courses on how to grow and make money on Twitter, or using Pinterest, or with Facebook ads, from people who have used these sites themselves. That being said, an author only has so much time, so you want to spend it on what works and not just throw out information and hope it draws some people in. This involves trial and error (or buying a course), analytics, figuring out where your target audience congregates…and is beyond the scope of this article today.

However, over time, I have developed opinions on what platforms an author should have and their uses. Everyone has their own favorite sites and keep in mind that some of this is personal opinion, but hopefully it will give you some place to start if you are trying to figure out where you should devote your online time.

Website or Blog

These two terms are often used interchangeably, and they might be mingled together in reality as well, but there is a subtle difference. A website has information about you, pages leading to your books, contact information, etc. A blog is where you can post articles, pictures, stories, and updates on your life.

Every author ought to have a website of some kind. This is your central hub, the place you can send everyone to find out more about you and your work. This is where people can sign up to your newsletter and follow your life. A blog of some kind, either linked or as part of the site, is also handy. You don’t have to post every week or even regularly, just so long as you have a place your fans can find out the latest information about you and your work.

There are many free sites for both websites and blogs. I’ve tried Weebly, Blogger, and WordPress. WordPress is by far my favorite site for blogging, while I use Weebly for my main website (though some authors, including me, use two different places and domain names for their website and blog, it’s quite easy to just have your blog be part of your website under one domain name.)

Facebook

Facebook is a great place to connect with other people. You can create an author page for people to follow you, and this is useful for small updates on your life and work, but the main use I’ve found using Facebook is the ability to connect with other writers and readers. There are writing groups. There are promotional events and Facebook parties. You can message other authors and follow them easier. Though not necessary, I do think Facebook is a useful tool for authors to have.

Instagram

Instagram is a social media site where one posts pictures. If you like taking pictures of your life, then it can be quite fun. You can connect with fans to some degree as well, though not as much as if you were on a site like Facebook. Depending on what type of blog you have, you can also link your Instagram account to the sidebar of your blog so the changing pictures will keep fresh information on your web page even when you are too busy to post to your blog yourself.

Twitter

Some people love Twitter. Some are hardly on there. I’m one of the latter because I simply don’t have the time it would take to keep up with a Twitter account, but if you have the time to check it often, it can be a good place to connect with readers. If you just want to post several times a day, you can use an app called Hootsuite. You can schedule posts to a number of social media sites with Hootsuite, including Twitter, allowing one to sit down for an hour and schedule daily tweets for a whole month. Then you can forget about it (and yet still have some semblance of a presence there), only checking it once or twice a day.

Pinterest

I do make Pinterest friendly pins of my blog posts and post them to drive traffic to my blog. But, besides that, the main reason I use Pinterest is to find pictures of my characters and create storyboards. Pinterest is a very cool tool for any author to use. You’re not going to connect directly to fans through there, but marketing is a possibility if you have learned how to use it (I haven’t though I’ve seen courses on using Pinterest to sell your product) and you should be able to drive traffic to your blog or newsletter as well.

Email List

This isn’t really a site, but it is the most important marketing platform. And this isn’t my opinion…this is what every expert I listen to says. If you want to be able to sell well, build an email list. I’ll probably have an article about how to create an email list and what one can use it for next month, but there are places like Mail Chimp that let you create quite a sizable list before you have to start paying for the service.

In the end, having a website or blog is essential to providing a foundation for yourself and your work. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are most useful when it comes to one on one contacting of fans and other writers. Most authors tend to pick and spend most of their social media times one one of these sites. An email list is your largest marketing weapon, so spend the time needed to build it up. Pinterest is fun as well as useful, especially for those who write fiction.

What social media sites do you enjoy? Do you have any tips about marketing or connecting with readers on various sites? Is there a social media site which you love that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear your comments below.

Christian Convictions: Magic in Writing

Christians and Magic

I don’t care for the word ‘magic’. It can be a touchy word in the Christian community. Is magic bad? Is some magic fine to read and other magic not? Is it fine to write? Can I love Lord of the Rings but decide against reading Harry Potter* **? The word magic is so broad that everyone can have their own picture of it without anyone being wrong.

*The answer is yes, by the way. You can choose what to read as you please. You only need to have logical arguments involved if you’re trying to prove why one shouldn’t be read and the other should be read.

**Also, I’d like to note that I’ve not read Harry Potter. I’ve read arguments both for and against reading them, but I’m not currently making any judgments one way other the other. *glances to either side, wondering if I’ve managed to avoid offending both sides or have successfully riled everyone*

christian-writers-and-magic

I split magic into two main categories. The larger category is fantasy magic, which I like to address as abilities, gifts, or powers. The second one is real-world witchcraft.

Fantasy Magic

Imbedded abilities

This allows characters in fantasy lands to communicate telepathically, animals to talk, shape-shifters to walk the land, gifts of invisibility or creating fire to be given from person to person, or an unusual ability to pass down a family line. I don’t consider any of this proper magic, nor would I call it magic in a book. There’s no mysterious force involved and no spells and chants. It’s simply the way things are in some faraway place. Why should one expect the laws of nature in a fantasy world to operate the same as natural laws here on earth? That’s the whole point of fantasy; to be able to create something new. Something different. I don’t think there is anything in general imbedded abilities which a Christian need shy away from.

Spiritual Powers

Especially in allegory, this can be fascinating to work with. Characters may have abilities which are gifts from the allegorical portrayal of God. Once again, these aren’t chants or ceremonies or something the character is making happen. It is a gift, and should be used as such or there will likely be consequences. And if there are gifts given by the Creator, there might be dark gifts given by the allegorical equivalent of Satan. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with this type of power either, if handled carefully. There were prophets in the Bible who God healed through, and there were also sorcerers. As writers, we don’t try to ignore the darkness in the world, but rather we show it for what it is, reveal the consequences, and bring out the brightness of the light. That being said, even in allegory I, personally, would not go into great depth of any sort of rites powered by the darkness.

Immaterial Force

In a fantasy world there might be an immaterial force or energy which anyone trained can tap into and use for good or bad. It might be called magic. It might be called science. Or it might be religious in nature. I waver on this issue. I would not call it wrong, but at the same time I think a writer needs to be careful with this type of magic. Here, in the real world, magic is bad. There’s not white magic and black magic. The dangers of using an amoral force is that readers may bring the ideas of a force which can be used for good or bad from the fantasy world and apply them to the idea of magic in this world, especially if one is using wands and spells and chants. A lot goes into how it is portrayed. Is it a sort of energy one can draw out with the right tools in a very science-like manner, or is the tone very magic ridden, with rites and ceremonies? Like I said, I wouldn’t go so far as to say this kind of ‘magic’ is always or completely wrong, but it also wouldn’t be my option of choice.

Portal Magic

This is the ‘magic’ that crosses the borders of time and space, dropping characters into the past, the future, or even different worlds. This can be portrayed as science. Or you can mix fantasy with real-life, as if it is something which always exists, most people simple don’t know about it. I’ve no problem with either of those aspects, though I’d not condone portraying it as a magic one has to speak spells over.

Real Magic

Here in the real world, there are only two sources of power. Power from God, and power from Satan. There’s not white magic and black magic; any magic is from Satan and should not be meddled with, which is why I don’t think any character in this world should have magical powers. They might have fantastical abilities due to a science experiment of some sort, but what they can do should have a natural explanation.

As I mentioned early, just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we avoid writing about any kind of evil. How graphically we describe the evil is a topic for another conversation, but there is evil in the world and we don’t try to gloss over it for our readers. Rather we show its consequences and the power of the light. All this to say, magic is a possibility in writing, if you are working on something like a spiritual warfare thriller, but it should never be portrayed as good. And I’d deal with it only in general terms. There is no need for a Christian writer to study the occult to write a ritual, and readers aren’t going to benefit from soaking up details about the darkness which are best left alone.

So when writing, there are a few basic questions you can ask. Is the book here, or in a fantasy world? If in this world, then magic should not be tampered with as an amoral power. Are there cool abilities you want give a race of people? Go for it. Do you want spiritual power in an allegorical world? Make sure the source of good and evil are clearly defined and don’t get carried away on the dark side with blood magic and spells.

Real magic in this world is always evil and should be handled with care, if at all. But what many call magic in fantasy is nothing more than fascinating abilities. And as for the real magic in fantasy, look at the source, the uses, and the portrayal to decide if it is worthwhile or not.

Note: What I write is what I believe after reading the Bible and holding conversations with friends and parents, but that does not mean I’m not interested in Bible evidence for another point of view. If the topics interest you, I encourage you to study them on your own as well. Friendly discussion in the comment section is encouraged if you have points you’d like to bring up, but this is not the place for a full-scale debate. : )

New Fantasy Times: Musings of a Minion

Musings of a Minion

Heroes have overwhelming expectations placed upon them, and villains are pressed into stereotypes, but the one character who no one seems to expect much of are the minions. They work hard too, and they’d appreciate some recognition as this anonymous letter from a minion, delivered by Kirin testifies.

To whom it may or may not concern,

Everyone has a trade or craft or position of some sort, from smiths and bakers, to farmers and soldiers, to architects and sailors. I so happened to choose the path of a minion. Not, of course, that you should ever, ever, use that term. It’s a great inside joke, but do you know how demeaning it is when someone address us as a mere minion of some great leader? No? Well, try it sometime to our face and just you wait. You’ll be sorry.

Because honestly, face it, you use the term minion as if it is degrading. As if we are less than the one we serve, less than other people, and sometimes less than human. Is a soldier in the army treated as less than a person just because he’s under a great general? We are people, same as anyone else. We’ve loyalties, duties, likes, dislikes, families…we aren’t some brainwashed mass who does a villain’s bidding. I’d best add here that villain is just another term bandied about. To us, he is our employer. Perhaps a master. Perhaps a friend. Yes, there are some who might serve him out of fear, but then he’s little more than a slave driver. Generally ‘minions’ work because they choose to for money or for other rewards.new-fantasy-times-pins

We might have ambitions to become like him someday, or we might just be working to put food on the table, but either way where do you think he’d be without others like us? No one, hero or villain, can do everything. So they hire helpers and others volunteer for the job. You don’t see the people helping heroes called minions, do you?

Though, frankly, the gross underestimation that generally comes with the term ‘minion’ does help us out quite a bit. I mean, how do you think we got our jobs? By shooting at a target and the one who hits the least gets promoted? We work to earn our way. If we deal in security, then we are at least a notch above the average shot or swordsman. If we work indoors, we are constantly on the alert. Our rise and fall is intimately connected to that of our employer (do you know how hard it is to find a job after working for someone termed ‘villain’?). This is also the reason a good villain will hire his helpers, not enslave them. But we aren’t just going to look the other way or fall asleep while guarding prisoners (there are severe penalties for that anyway) or (generally) accept bribes. Well, I take that back. It depends on the quality of our employer and what we think the long-term damage will be and how it affects us. The best course of action is to acquire the bribe then go to our employer. Hey, you don’t expect us to act honorably anyway. Why should we?

One thing we don’t do is fight among ourselves. There is a certain code among us, which we all follow for our own good. Sometimes, I admit, some man or woman gets ambitious, but such uprisings are generally put down from the top. Because no house will succeed when ripped apart from the middle. Now there is one exception. If faced with ‘minions’ from a different villain, insults and then blows might fly. But who can blame us? The others are generally insufferable.

We come from all walks of life and for all kinds of reasons. Adventure. Love. Revenge. The need to provide for a family. The experience. If we fail, there are standard punishments like anywhere else. If we betray, we die. But if we work hard and use our skills, we are able to obtain a view from the shadows that very few can see.

Remaining nameless to protect myself,

A Sharpshooting ‘Minion’

 

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade (or Elena) to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

 

Join the Legend Seekers for monthly stories about the realm leapers and fantasy time-travelers, Kirin and Elena. Click here to sign up