THE ROLE OF FAITH IN WRITING FANTASY
By Ian Alexander, award-winning author of the bestselling epic-fantasy novel Once We Were Kings
confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’sability.
belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that thehypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: thefirm faith of the Pilgrims.
We don’t realize just how many things we take on faith, and therefore take for granted. For example, we never question that the sun will rise tomorrow. Nor do we lie awake at night, short of breath, drenched in sweat wondering if we will ever wake up in the morning, and not die in our sleep (my apologies to chronic worry-warts and hypochondriacs.) We just believe things will happen a certain way because it has been our experience that things are so.
Ah, but our experience can be somewhat limited, in the cosmic scope of it all, can it not? After all, what exactly are miracles? Are they not things which occur that break through the boundaries of our known experience, our known definitions of the laws of nature—hence the term “supernatural?”
Consider the ability to vaporize an entire city in mere seconds. Life, property, and all physical substance turned to ashes in a flash. Horrendous as this may be, to someone in the dark ages it would be sorcery of the most maleficent sort—dark magic, if you will. Yet to the modern person, the atomic bombs that struck Hiroshima and Nagasaki were products of science, not magic nor anything supernatural. It is humanity’s known experience that deems it science and not magic.
And yet, it required faith to build this powerful weapon of mass destruction. Faith that dealing with the volatile radioactive substances, those that manufactured, those that transported, and those that ultimately dropped the bomb, could trust the containment protocols and not themselves be destroyed by their own creation.
Take another example. The ability to cure diseases such as smallpox or polio. The ability to reattach a severed limb through neuro/vascular-surgery. Perhaps in George Washington’s time, this would be considered a miracle. Indeed, though it is a process of medical science, I would still consider it a miracle today. That a severed limb can be restored at all, whether through surgery or any other means takes faith—or else, why would anyone bother to try?
And finally, may I propose the formation of life itself as a miracle? I remember the first time my wife and I observed a sonogram of our first child. He was not much more than a tadpole, and yet there was his beating heart, his spine, and the rest of his developing body. How could that mass of tissues, nerves, and bone one day become the wonderful boy who asked me—at six years of age, “Daddy, will you write me a book?”
In my experience, there is nothing in science that can explain how the human spirit comes into existence. Sure, you can explain the formation of the cells, the pulmonary system, the genetic code, etc., but how can you explain the sentience, the very being of the person that inhabits the physical vessel otherwise known as the human body?
I take it on faith that he will continue to grow, that if he gets cut, his body will mend itself, his mind will develop and one day create beautiful things. I take it on faith that he will love and honor his parents, if we teach and train in him in the way in which he should go. And I take it on faith that he will live a long and prosperous life.
As a writer, I take the entire process on faith. If I follow certain guidelines, if I set my characters in the right settings, with the correct motivations, internal and external conflicts, I should have a good—hopefully great book that many will enjoy reading. And yet, as any honest writer will tell you, there are times I stare at the chapter I just completed and the voice of doubt whispers in my ear, “This is simply dreadful. No one will like this, much less by your book. Scrap this and start again. Or better yet, give up and try a different career.”
But I take it on faith that we writers are the worst judges of our own work. It has been my experience more often than not that the things I write which I feel are just plain rot, are never as bad as I imagine. And sometimes the very thing that my readers love most. It doesn’t feel natural—AH!, There’s the rub. Too often we mistake what “feels” natural and right for what actually is.
The first time I went rappelling at Joshua (hehe) Tree National Monument, I was taught to trust my brake (the part of my rope which controls me from sliding down the rope too fast.) The hardest part of learning how to rappel down a 65 foot cliff was turning such that my back faced the edge of the precipice. I was then to lower my rear end over the edge into a sitting position, while holding my rope, and start walking down.
I’ll say this. The first time I lowered my backside over the edge of a sixty-five foot drop felt about as natural as taking a sharp stick to scratch an itch in my eyeball. Every fibre of my being screamed, “YOU DON’T EVER PUT ANY PART OF YOUR BODY OVER THE EDGE OF A CLIFF!!!” And yet, my confident and annoyingly calm USMC instructor told me to trust him, trust my brake, and lower myself over the edge.
There was a moment of decision to do the exact opposite of what felt right and have faith in my experienced instructor, in the brake that controlled my fall. I finally screwed up the courage to do as I was told, and after a few heart-pounding seconds found myself standing perpendicular to the wall of a cliff. And what did you know, my break worked perfectly. I was as secure as could be.
First, baby steps. Slowly, with my back parallel to ground sixty feet below, I walked my way down. Then came bounding. With a quick release of my brake-hand, and a simultaneous thrust of my knees, tiny steps became larger, faster bounds down the wall of the cliff.
By the time I made it to the bottom, I was exhilarated! I had to try again.
The second time, I got down in a fraction of the time and was ready for the 100 foot cliff next. That was when I heard a rapid rustling sound above me getting louder and closer.
I looked up and there was a Marine, running down the cliff, face down to the ground. Before I could scream (because he seriously looked as though he would land right on top of me and squish me like a bug) he stopped mid-air and slowly lowered himself down next to me.
“That was Aussie-style,” he said to me as I nearly passed out.
To create anything, amidst the frightening “realities” and precarious possibilities of rejection requires a certain degree of faith that it will be worth doing. It takes even more faith to continue if things don’t go ideally, or as planned—and that never happens, does it? 🙂
In an age of instant gratification where we mitigate pain, eliminate struggle, I fear we have weakened our character, which in days of old had been built and strengthened by adversity. The result? A detrimental ease of excuse-making, endeavor-hopping, and quitting.
If I could give you one word of encouragement it would be this: Nothing worth doing will come easily. Nothing that doesn’t require faith will have lasting value. With the right perspective, knowing that adversity does not have to destroy you—WITH FAITH—you can move mountains.
When Ian Alexander’s debut epic fantasy novel ONCE WE WERE KINGS first launched in ebook format in May 2011, it instantly hit three bestseller lists on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Mr. Alexander first wrote in the fantasy genre because of a commission by a very important and influential person: His 6-year old son.
Visit Ian Alexander’s official website: www.IanAlex.com
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ONCE WE WERE KINGS
- Award-Winning Finalist in the SciFi/Fantasy category of The USA “Best Books 2011” Awards
- Award-Winning Finalist in the Young Adult Fiction category of The USA “Best Books 2011” Awards
- Award Winner in the 2011 Forward National Literature Awards in the Teen/Young Adult category
The Top Shelf said of ONCE WE WERE KINGS:
“…invokes awe in the reader that I’ve only felt with J.R.R. Tolkien, David Eddings and before them both, C.S. Lewis.”
I am giving away ONE e-book copy of Once We Were Kings! Winners will be chosen by random.org on Sunday Novmber 27th at 8pm eastern! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment. Please be sure to leave a valid email in the email field! Thanks!
Synopsis: Two kingdoms, five centuries, one destiny.
In a world where the Sojourners, a nearly extinct race with preternatural abilities struggle to preserve their faith and heritage, destiny thrusts two youths from opposing nations into the heart of a centuries-old conflict.
Render, an orphan from the outskirts of the culturally enlightened Kingdom of Valdshire Tor, escapes slavery and seeks the truth about his true identity only to discover a web of conspiracies. This quest leads to the revelation of his uncanny ability to wield the destructive forces of nature.
Ahndien, sole survivor of a heinous raid on her peaceful village in the Eastern Kingdom of Tian Kuo, embarks on a journey to find her father, now a captive of Torian troops. What she uncovers surpasses anything she can imagine as she masters the ability to manipulate fire.