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Inspirations for my Writing, chapter 3 - Joelle's misc
February 1st, 2018
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Inspirations for my Writing, chapter 3
[Composed February 2018]

Inspirations for my Writing, chapter 3: Themes, Challenges, and Motivations

Chapter 2 for inspirations, that I wrote ten years earlier, focused on books I encountered as a child or young teen containing thematic links or plot parallels with my stories. This chapter is more focused on what impacted my motivations and perspective. In a sense, the why, rather than the what. The below are listed in attempted chronological order, ranging from childhood to high school years.


My parents were big fans of Star Trek: OS, and I became a fan myself around my young teen years. But this particular influence was decidedly negative. I've always been quite sensitive, especially as a child, to violence and evil on film or television. But some scares are easier to set aside than others. I have no clue what age I was when I first saw the Star Trek episode 'The Man Trap.' Only that the concept of a shapechanger that killed people by sucking the salt out of them, and could take the form of familiar and trusted people hugely traumatized me. My bizarre reaction as a child was that I had to sleep with the bedroom door cracked open, presumably so I could see it coming, though how I was to tell the salt vampire apart from my real mother I have no clue. That terror stayed with me for years. Fast-forward to sometime in late junior high or high school. I don't know what book I was reading since I only read it once. But I came across the same theme--a shapechanger impersonating other people for deceitful ends. I didn't literally throw the book across the room, but that was my internal reaction. Because the story roused up that childhood fear again, and I got angry. I said, or thought--"Why can't shapechangers ever be GOOD?"

And that stayed with me: the idea of a good shapechanger, one who turned that childhood fear on its head. I can't say my exasperation was accurate--plenty of good fairies or wizards in the fairy tales take the form of something else to test people's reactions. But I am blessed that I remembered that frustration, and it led into one of t'DoL's major traits. Some might be surprised that I did not create the avarii shapechangers out of any desire to have such a power myself. Quite a contrary--it was done as a repudiation of the frequent association of shapechanging with conniving deceit.


I was fascinated by the various details I learned about the disappearing Roanoke colony in elementary school. That mystery and wondering about it stayed with me; in regards to my writing it probably links to the next element below.

The Magician's Nephew

This book remains my least favorite of C.S. Lewis's Narnia series, yet it had a disproportionate impact on me as a child. Or specifically, Charn did. That dead devastated world with its dying red giant sun--that image has haunted me what feels my entire life. The concept of a star dying, of a world dying, of utter ruin. I think those who read The Fourth Emissary should see the resonance there, as well as with the visions of the future the Defender must witness. And of course it relates to the arc of the Renewer Rising novels, should I ever write them.

Corrie Ten Boom and the Holocaust

This one is huge in its impact on my worldview as a child. I grew up with the story of Corrie Ten Boom--her autobiographical novel The Hiding Place, the movie based off that novel, and also hearing recordings of her speeches on the radio as a child. So for me, WWII was not something that happened way off 40 or so years ago. It was, or it felt, quite recent. The courage of her and her family in hiding Jews and others in that secret chamber, the horrible end for most of them after they were arrested, the faith that underlaid all their choices and convictions and sustained them in the concentration camps--it was very tangible and close.

So growing up during the Cold War with those vivid testimonies of the Holocaust greatly shaped my perspective. Not that I mean to say that the hyarmi in my writing are a symbol for the Jews, or any other specific oppressed class. Maybe it would be better to define it as a deep-seated loathing of xenophobia and human clannishness. And a realization that making the right choices provides no assurance of resulting in a long life, or even the slightest success. That the best people (like Corrie's sister and father) may and can die horribly. That evil never runs out down here. Even when it's thrown back, the survivors have to confront the evil that might rise from their own wounds. Maybe that's why my novels can seem dark and even a killing field to some readers. To me, that's simply realistic.

C.S. Lewis Quote

This is one of the quotes I referenced in my chapter 1 essay written back in 2005. I searched and failed to find it, because where I'd read it was in a collection of pieces of Lewis's writings, one for each day of the year (as opposed to a longer work). So I didn't run across it again until years after the 2005 essay. It's taken from a preface he wrote for Milton's Paradise Lost.

"Satan is the best-drawn of Milton's characters. The reason is not hard to find. Of the major characters whom Milton attempted he is incomparably the easiest to draw. Set a hundred poets to tell the same story and in ninety of the resulting poems Satan will be the best character. In all but a few writers the 'good' characters are the least successful..."

I don't know exactly how old I was when I first read that. Latter high school I expect. What I very clearly remember was that it made me white-hot furious. I much better understand him now, but when I read that then, I fiercely and passionately rejected the easy-to-assume inevitability of his statement. It joins right in with how angry I get when I hear people saying the villains are the most 'interesting' characters, or how important it is to have a good villain in a story or movie. Other wordsmiths have made better rebuttals to such statments than my sputtering, red-faced, blood-pressure spiking outrage can ever manage. But with that fury came the determination that I would not be one of the ninety.

I guess one could easily say that these last 25 years have been my sustained attempt at proving C.S. Lewis wrong. The 'triumvirate of goodness' to me in my writings are t'DoL, Hened, and Hileko. (Not that there aren't other, even equally good characters, but those are the most realized.) Of course they all have wounds, flaws, and weak spots--I was not so presumptuous as to attempt to convincingly write a pure white/absolutely good character.

Of course, my level of failure or success must be left to the evaluation of others. But that I have tried very hard not to fail should be clearly understood. A parallel way to put it--if I went down in history (should I ever do anything of the sort!) as the creator of the Subverted, the Goddess, and Kaliah, rather than as the writer for the Defender, the hyarmi, the Council, Triune, and others-- I would rather have never been born and never have written a single word than such a result being the case. Time will reveal whether I succeeded or failed.

I don't know if I will ever find the other quote that had a major impact on me, but at least I finally re-located this one!

1 Corinthians 10:13

I memorized this verse in the 1984 NIV translation, a little different from the current one.

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

I can no longer recall specifically why that passage had such a huge grip in my thoughts in my latter high school and college years. I think in part because of the "God is faithful" statement, since that is my favorite virtue. Regardless, I spent a lot of time thinking about it back then. And, in relation to my writing, the implication of not possessing that promise. That principal--the lack of that promise--is foundational to the world of my stories. That any character can be provoked or pushed beyond what they can bear. That any willpower or determination, however strong, is by definition finite. So my pondering that verse is at the center of the Defender of Life killing Heruvael's killers, and that is one of the core events in the tangled tapestry of the world of my stories, rippling outward with threads that led to the shaping of Kaliah on the one hand and the existence of the Renewer on the other.

There is probably a fine line between influence, challenge, and ideas I intentionally worked into my writing. Which is to say, I have no clue if there will be a chapter 4! Maybe if I ever finally find that last stubborn quote...

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