Fantasy, I’m with You Still

Perhaps by now you’ve seen Avengers: Age of Ultron (loved it; would like to see it again) and, like me, are looking forward to the next Marvel movie—Ant Man.

Right after watching Ultron, I finally got around to watching a movie I’d wanted to see for some time now: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (DreamWorks 2014). Like Age of Ultron, it made a deep impression on me.

avengers_age_of_ultron_NEW_POSTER     How-To-Train-Your-Dragon-2

Though I loved both films, I’m going to confine my comments to How to Train Your Dragon 2 for reasons that will become clear. The trailer for it follows. While seeing the first movie before tackling this one is ideal, this film provides enough back story to help you get by without seeing the first one.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 debuted last year; however, this week was the perfect time for me to see it. Having heard a number of times the opinion that fantasy stories are a hard sell these days, I needed to a visual reminder of the joy and wonder of stories within the fantasy genre. This film provided that.

What I love about How to Train Your Dragon 2, besides the fact that it involves dragons, is the fact that people take a stand despite overwhelming odds. And I mean overwhelming. There. That’s my spoiler-free take on the movie.

If you watched the trailer above or saw How to Train Your Dragon (2010; based on the book by Cressida Cowell), you know that Hiccup, the main character, is an extremely unlikely hero. In the current story, though five years have passed, he’s still unsure of himself. But ready or not, Hiccup has to face an enemy who has every reason to feel totally confident of winning any battle. Consequently, the stakes are indeed high.

how-to-train-your-dragon-2-wallpaper-hd-toothless-hiccup

Hiccup and his friend Toothless, a night fury dragon

What I also love about Hiccup’s story is that despite the darkness of the times, there is hope. Yes, there are setbacks and pain. But a rich vein of hope shines through. However, when hope arises, there’s also a dissenting voice: that of the antagonist.

You’ve read stories, haven’t you, where an enemy taunts a hero, telling him or her to give up, that he/she won’t win? A bit of that happens in How to Train Your Dragon 2. In the hero’s journey, the taunting is sometimes part of the dark night of the soul, where the hero is at his/her lowest ebb. The taunts of the enemy are all a mind game, really—an attempt to put the hero at a psychological disadvantage so that he/she will feel too defeated to fight.

That’s how I’ve felt lately—taunted by the enemy known as Despair, which constantly whispered, “Your stories won’t sell. Only genres you’re currently not writing will sell. You might as well give up.”

Nice try, Despair. But I can’t let you win. The stakes are too high.

Sometimes you have to take a stand, even if the odds are overwhelmingly against you. That’s what being a hero is all about. I’m not your typical hero—the sword-wielding kind. I’m a genre hero. Being a genre hero means sticking with your genre of choice even if others tell you to do otherwise or abandon the field themselves. That’s what I learned from Hiccup. And if you’re battling the same enemy I faced, stay strong, Hero. This dark night will pass.

How to Train Your Dragon poster from ramascreen.com. Avengers: Age of Ultron  poster from teaser-trailerz.blogspot.com

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33 thoughts on “Fantasy, I’m with You Still

  1. Does seem to feel that way at times. The thing about fantasy is that it’s a fickle beast. Some days it feels like epic adventures are the big draws and other times its the gritty political stuff. All a fantasy author can really do is write the story they want and see what happens. Ever wonder what it would be like if being an author was more about having fun than selling books? I guess it is for some people, but some days it feels like the latter overshadows the former.

    • Charles, you are my hero in this. I look at you producing your series and taking chances on other stories while in the middle of writing your series. That’s huge to me. So, thank you, for being an inspiration to me.

  2. Sometimes you have to be your biggest cheerleader! 🙂
    I think knowing why we do what we do helps keep us in the game.
    Now unleash your sword, great genre hero- slash doubt!
    All the best as you stand for what you believe.

    • Thanks, Timi. 🙂 I lack a sword, but I have a throwing knife. (Really. I bought it so I could experience what my character experiences as he wields his.) That will have to do.

  3. I’m sure writers are happiest when they’re writing what they would most enjoy reading. That’s the cake!

    Sharing the stories with others = the icing!

    Write on!

    • You’re right, Nancy. Thank you. And I would kinda like to read a book about cake. ‘Cause I like cake. That’s why Chocolat was such a hit with me.

    • I’ll try, Jill. 🙂 I know writers who can produce trendy books that are brilliant. I’ve often wished I could be like that. But I know I’m not like that, no matter how hard I try. So I guess the world will never see 50 Shades of Vampires at the End of the World from me.

  4. As a reader, I think I can always tell when an author is writing from the heart or just to please the ‘market’ – and it’s always the heart books that stand out. I reckon there’s plenty of room out there for every genre – variety is everything!

    • Based on your reviews, I’m pretty sure you can spot a phony. 🙂 I keep going back to Markus Zusak’s TED Talk in which he describes his process for The Book Thief. He wrote a book that meant “everything” to him. That’s what I’m trying to do.

  5. You have to write what makes you happiest. The worst is writing in a genre you’re not feeling, because that’s the genre that seems to be “selling.” But I find that if I’m not feeling it, my work won’t stand out in a crowded field. Anyway, I know people who’ve chased trends, only to find out they’ve arrived too late.

    Like high fantasy, historical fiction is another of those genres that never seems to be “in.” But I like it that way because I can stand out by being myself.

    • I totally love that, Lyn–standing out. You are so right. I happen to love historical fiction so I’m glad you’re writing it. And I agree–you have to feel it. I love reading contemporary fiction. But whenever I’ve worked on a story without fantasy elements, it falls flat.

    • Thanks, Phillip. That’s me all right–wearing my heart on my sleeve (along with a few chocolate stains, unfortunately). I had to speak out because I’ve heard so many opinions on the subject. It was time for me to weigh in on the matter.

  6. It’s so easy to listen to those insidious little voices but you can’t let them bully you into writing something you don’t like — that would be soul sucking. Far better to write the things you enjoy, at least then you get that joy in your life, whether it sells or not!

    • I agree with you, Celine. I’ve tried to write other stories based on trends. They never work out, because they always sound like parodies. I know that’s me fighting against writing a story I don’t believe in. This is not to say that I don’t love reading other genres. I love a great variety of books. But I always come back to fantasy.

  7. Aside from commenting on the ponderings revealed in this post, which others have done quite nicely, I’d like to chime in with:
    I love, love, love “How to Train Your Dragon”!!!! 🙂
    Remember I mentioned the children’s book, “My Father’s Dragon?”…I guess I have held them in high esteem for quite some time. HA!
    Keep on just ‘being you.’

    • Thanks, Laura. Glad to find a fellow dragon aficionado. 🙂 Dragons are like the quintessential fantasy book creature for me. They always remind me that I’m not in Kansas any more. That’s what I love. 🙂

  8. Fantasy is truth. Beneath the impossible imagery and situations, fantasy contains every grain of truth in the universe. “You can do it” is one of them. “Don’t ever despair or give up” is another. I know exactly how you sometimes feel, and I don’t know what I’d do without you. I can’t wait to read this book you’re cooking and do whatever I can to help it find a sea of readers who’ll love it.

    • Thank you, Andra. I knew you would understand.
      I’m curious about your latest post. I think someone asked if it was fiction or nonfiction. I’m wondering too. It was beautiful.

      • My latest post.

        I’m attending a blog convention next month. It had four possible essay submissions. Creative writing was one. Gone to Ground is one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written. I reposted it and submitted it for that category. It’s written as fiction, but the best fiction always has that real emotion/life sprinkled in. MTM never had much of a relationship with his father. His parents divorced when he was three, and his dad basically abandoned them. When we heard his dad was dying, MTM hadn’t seen his dad in over 20 years. We went to Arizona to say goodbye, and that piece was inspired.

        As to the blog convention, I really don’t have plans to revive blogging in a big way on my own site. I’m hoping to network with editors from bigger sites and gain tools to submit articles for pay, which may also help me find new readers. If I learn anything interesting, I’ll definitely share. 🙂

      • Wow. I’m sad about the blogging, but understand. Will have to write to you. I want to know what’s going on with you.

      • I’m not stopping with my own blog. I’ve just heard from so many readers now that they want me to entertain them. They liked when I wrote about MTM and my life and all that. They don’t want to hear about my books. Etc. Etc. I’m probably going to do old-style posts once a week and leave it at that. I used to crank those out without much thought, and people were wildly and happily entertained. But I’m reserving my better ideas to submit to other sites first.

      • I’m glad you’re not stopping your blog. I hope though that you’re doing what you really want to do. I get that people have opinions. But sometimes we’re a bit too free with them when we start making demands on what people should write. I’ll support you no matter what you write. Don’t feel you have to entertain me a certain way. I’ll take what I can get. But I want to give in return, and I hope other people feel the same way.

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