With the rockets red glare of July 4 behind us, we Quills focus this month on “people, news stories, or current events” that play a role in the construction of our stories. Do authors really do that? Use the stuff of real life in their stories? Oh, to be sure! Now, let’s hear what my fellow-Quills have to say on the subject.
Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, is first up.
Use people? And places? And stories?? I’m innocent!
Well… mostly innocent.
Maybe “unconscious” would be a better word, because while I don’t (usually) intend to put current happenings and humans in my stories, I’ve had people point out that this is like that, or this person is just like that person.
One of the most frequent questions I get as an author is…
Now, let’s turn to P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero’s Curse.
Stories inspired by a specific person, news story or current event can be fascinating. Of course there is the historical fiction category, but there's also the plain good fun of fiction or fantasy that incorporates timely and relevant news. Godzilla, (2014), references and borrows from the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011.
I'm sure you have a favorite cultural or newsy reference in story. (Comment on Parker’s site if you like, linked below, or share your favorite there). Alas. I don't usually write that way. A quick review of my short stories, screenplays, and novels reference nothing about today's trending topics. But my stories may have something to say about today's topics, without mentioning them directly.
Find out more.
And now, for my thoughts.
An author writes what she knows—whether she knows it or not. By that I mean that when she writes, her knowledge, awareness, and/or understanding of the things she writes about shows. So, if she tries to write on a topic of which she knows little, that lack of knowledge will shine through just as clearly as if she writes about a field in which she is an expert. But as to her use of specifics from the world around her . . . now that makes for an interesting topic.
Of course, I use information from the real world in my stories. I also—quite intentionally—create “faith” or “belief system” allegories between the fantasy world I’ve created in The Oathtaker Series and the real world. When I do so, I use real life issues not in the micro-sense so much as in the macro-sense. Oh, yes, of course, I do use character traits and idiosyncrasies of people I know or have met—or have simply run into and found particularly amusing—but the most frequent use I make of real people, places and events is with regard to the big issues: worldwide power struggles; border control issues; the persecution of groups of people based on their beliefs; and so on.
From time to time, a reader of The Oathtaker Series will mention to me an issue she identified in my work that compares to the real world. Those “in the know” on the issues seem to readily identify what I’ve done. Sometimes they even have a sincere appreciation for why I’ve done it. But I also look at my writing as an opportunity to offer an—admittedly long—“parable” of sorts. I look at Biblical parables as the means by which Jesus offered truths about fundamental life and faith issues. He drew people in with his stories—because when he separated his listeners from the particulars of their own world, they were able to more readily grasp the truths of the principles he illustrated. Once done, his listeners could see the issues presented in their own world more clearly and they were better able to apply the wisdom gained from the parables, to those issues. (This really is the stuff of "fantasy" as a genre!)
When I started writing, I knew there were some truths—some things I regard as fundamentally true principles—that I wanted to illustrate. For example, in Oathtaker (Volume One) one “fundamental principle” I address relates to the power of the spoken word, the importance of a person’s following through with what she said she would do, the pain that may come of it—and the glory that is sure to result from that sacrifice. The principle I’m illustrating? Well, I believe that when we sacrifice something, God (or for you unbelievers, the "Universe" or whatever you like) redeems that loss. (“Redeem” here is defined as "to compensate," or "to gain or to re-gain something lost in exchange for a sacrifice or payment.") I decided to use the fantasy genre to illustrate my ideas because (like with the use of a parable), I thought people might be more receptive to the ideas than they might be if they thought I was commenting on their own lives in the “real” world.
As The Oathtaker Series progresses, more macro-world issues come to play. One will find parallels to worldwide terrorism, the dilemma of a nation’s protecting its citizens by potentially refusing entrance to outsiders (including innocent children), and more.
What do you think? What parallels to the real world, or “faith-based” allegories have you discovered in The Oathtaker Series? How about in your other readings? Please, do share!