Pages of Awesome

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Guardian's Tree: Finished!

Those of you who have been watching the sidebar of my blog may have noticed that under my list of projects is a novella entitled The Guardian's Tree. I was struck with the idea a few weeks ago and it was one of those ideas that when you get just have to write them.

I grabbed the first writable surface and scribbled down the image that came to my mind: an old man guarding a tree. I'm no artist, and so the original sketch looked like the photo above.

Pretty detailed huh? lol But that was the image that hit me. I was thinking over something someone had said to me earlier, either my preacher or Creative Writing teacher...not sure which one. But they had mentioned the band U2's album Joshua Tree.

I've been in this thing recently where I think up ideas based off of song titles and lyrics and so when I was thinking of Joshua Tree I was buried by an idea.

What if I wrote a story literally about Joshua's Tree?

I took the title and made it an allegory.

And then it all struck me. I literally think the basic plot was inspired. It all came at once.

I envisioned a Tree guarded by one man and his double-edged sword. And then I pictured five shining stones circling about the Tree in the air. [see above for a similar image] And then came this image:

I think you can click to see the image larger. The camera wasn't taking the pics right anyhow.

What that is, is a large dead tree. People are chained to its roots, and bat-creatures with whips are tormenting them, and one man is trying to escape.

Those two images hit me like a freight train and I just had to write them. These stick figures were drawn on my church bulletin LOL. I literally ran out of the sanctuary while we were singing to get a pen. Then I jotted down the images and a brief explanation.

I had heard that Flaming Pen Press was going to be opening for novellas soon, or it was at least rumored, and I got really excited. This idea was definitely a novella/novelette idea. Too long to be a short story, too short to be a novel.

And then, of course, the company's owner Scott Appleton came and spoke at my school. And all that kind of awesomeness.

So not only did the idea seem inspired, it appeared destined to be published as well [Please note it's not yet been contracted. But FPP has asked me to submit].

So I threw my novel aside and got to work on the novella. And now, a week or so later, I have finished it. All 13,000-ish words.

So what is it about? I know, hope...beg....plead, some of you are asking that now :) Glad you asked (or at least read the question)! Here is my teaser written in about two seconds:

In the dark world of Hethra there are two trees. One tree is living, the other is dead. The living tree is tucked away in darkness, guarded by the only man who knows it. The dead tree is enormous and all of humanity is chained to its roots, tortured day in and day out by evil bat-like Damans. The living tree is the only light this world has and it is the only hope humanity has for deliverance. And so the Damans hunt it. And so the man, bearing a double-edged sword, protects it. When a captive escapes into his chamber the man is faced with task of freeing the captives. He must.

A chamber of darkness. A double-edged sword. Damans. And two opposing Trees.

This is the tale of the Guardian’s Tree.

If any of you are interested you can read the opening scene here.

Let me know what you think of the idea and the scene!

To the end,

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

CCC Part Two - Spiritual Guide

[This is the second post of a series. See introductory post and previous one]

So what do we have so far? We have our hero, our villain, and our hero's best bud. Who comes next? Our hero is setting out to quite the impossible task. He doesn't quite know where he's going, and all he has is a fat gardener to aide him. Who is going to save him from the Black Riders? From the White Witch? From Dragon Slayers and bullies and all forms of evil?

In times of dire need, often early on in the story, our heroes are rescued by spiritual-guides/mentors. They can't defend themselves on their own; they need someone to save them.

And thus our Guides, Mentors, and/or Wizards are introduced.

First we need to establish the basic qualities of these characters. Almost all stories have them, especially fantasy questing tales.
  • Previously known to the hero
  • Older
  • Mysterious
  • Wise
  • Powerful
  • Honorable
So these are the common traits. I'm going to dissect a few different characters in this post. Mainly Gandalf (Lord of the Rings), Aslan (Chronicles of Narnia), and Mr. Miyagi (Karate Kid). I think these three combined hit the nail on the head here.

Picture each of the heroes in these stories. Frodo and Sam, Peter and his family, and Daniel.

In The Lord of the Rings Frodo grows up thinking of Gandalf as the neighborhood fireworks master. He is filled with joy at the site of his cart full of bombs rolling along Hobbiton. Gandalf is here! He's going to blow some things up!

But that is the only reason he knows and likes Gandalf.

Early on it is made clear that Gandalf will be a central leader in the story. But to Frodo Baggins, he is just a common traveler. He trusts Gandalf on account of his uncle's stories and his own experiences with the wizard. It is very important that these Guides are known to the hero.

Generally these guides are portrayed as storytellers or the like. Examples are Brom from the Inheritance Cycle, Rafiki from Lion King, etc. I think the storyteller thing works simply because storytellers can be easily written deep and mysterious, and make it believable.

To guide someone you need to be trusted by that person. And generally you cannot be trusted if you are a stranger. It seems common, and logical, that a hero's spiritual guide is already a friend of the hero before the adventure begins.

In this way the two can strengthen each other, as friends and as mentor and student.

Now let's look at Mr. Miyagi. For those of you who do not know, Mr. Miyagi is an older Asian man that knows karate. Daniel LaRouso is being beat, nearly to death, by some martial-artist bullies. And just as he passes out Mr. Miyagi leaps over a fence and kicks the bullies' tails.

This man definitely is not in his twenties, but he sure has the power to shut anybody up. He demonstrates this time and time again throughout the course of the movie--ultimately training Daniel and then saving his chance at winning the Karate Tournament.

Daniel looks to him as a father, because he does not have one. And from Mr. Miyagi he learns quite a bit, not only about Karate.

This happens to a lot of characters. They are given a guide by the story and the guide's purpose is to help them on their quest. But in the end the guides have done much more; often times they have strengthened the hero's character and perspective on life.

So not only must the Guides help the hero through his quest, they must help him in his life.

As Mr. Miyagi said:

Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?

And then later:
Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?
Miyagi uses his role as quest-guide to teach Daniel important things about life. Thus we have called them Spiritual Guides, or mentors.

This is probably the most important trait about them. If your guides don't have this, toss them. The Hero must learn throughout the quest, not only skills with a blade, but how to live life. And it's these mysterious wizards that teach them.

Mystery is the next important part to these Spiritual Leaders.

Every good story does this it seems.

Think of Aslan. Peter and company have just entered Narnia. And all of a sudden their brother runs off. He could freeze to death or worse.

And the beavers tell them what about their brother? He's a goner and:
Only Aslan can save your brother now.
This stirs up great mystery. And though the children don't know the lion as a lion, the fact that he will be able to save their brother gives them reason to trust him. As Peter follows:
Then take us to him.
And so every meeting with Aslan stirs mystery. Especially when they finally meet him, only to find that he is not a knight in shining armor, rather, he is a lion.

The thing I like about Aslan and Gandalf, is that they remain a mystery throughout the entire story. Never are their origins made clear. Gandalf's story can only be found in the preludes and Aslan's can be guessed.

That's the mystery I want to write.

Well this post is running long so I'll make it quick.

The guides need the power to protect the hero. For example, Miyagi's karate skills, Gandalf and his staff and ring, Aslan and his...well godliness.

If your guide is weak, your hero will be weak.

And in order to teach your hero they must be wise. Let's end on a great line of wisdom from Gandalf. Makes me jump out of my seat every time:
End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path... One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass... And then you see it. ... White shores... and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
That's what a guide needs to be. Ferocious as a lion, gentle as a kitten, and wiser than the darkness.
"Stand tall now and proclaim what you have seen, speak in whispered roars..."