This is the first entry in a series of posts answering the question “What authors sparked you into becoming a writer, or most influenced how you craft stories?”. I have a lot I’d like to share on the subject, and hopefully others will follow with #WritingSparks of their own.
I’m sure that a huge percentage of fantasy authors out there might list some variant of Lewis’ work as being influential, but I really am interested in learning (and sharing) *why* they made such a difference. So without further ado, here is my #WritingSparks number 1.
1) Author: C.S. Lewis.
2) Books: The Chronicles of Narnia, which I read for the first time around age 8.
I would love to one day get a sense for how many thousands or tens of thousands of authors would list Lewis as one of their influences. I loved his science fiction books beginning with “Out of the Silent Plant” and his wonderful Christian works “The Screwtape Letters” and “Mere Christianity”. But it was The Chronicles of Narnia that stole my heart when I was still a very young reader. A quick search online shows that book one of the Chronicles of Narnia – “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” – sold more than 80 million copies (so far). But for the life of me I can’t help but feel like that number should be larger. Lewis’ works are the first #WritingSpark on my list for good reason.
I remember thinking that “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was very, very simply written, even for a kid as young as myself. But I was blown away with how much STORY Lewis packed in to so very few words. Even the illustrations backed up that thought; the small, black and white drawings that began each chapter were as basic as could be, but I loved them. I studied them. And to this day I remember almost all of them. Additionally, it was clear that there was more to this story than just talking animals and a selfless, powerful lion. I saw the way Lewis created a Christian parable of his own in the first adventure of the Pevensies, and even then I was shocked that something so serious could be made digestible for kids. Looking back on the books now, including having re-read the entire Chronicles to my kids in recent years, my initial thoughts are buttressed. The man did more to paint the fantastic with a sentence than others could do with a page. Stunning.
I know now that Narnia was my introduction to truly epic-scale worldbuilding. Lewis didn’t just create a world for his characters to live in and interact with, he created its entire history from creation to destruction and let the readers experience the journey. We stood with Digory and Polly as Aslan sung the world into being, and we stood with Eustace and Jill while the stars rained down and Father Time brought that same world to its cold, dark end. Then we experienced a series of important adventures that occurred between those two events – the highest and lowest points of Narnia’s history – and eventually went further up and further in a perfect, even more beautiful reality. What could be more epic? That world simply existed, and we readers were given the gift of slipping into it from time to time to view its events through the eyes of a select few children.
Oh, where to begin? Are my Narnian feels so deep because of the age I was when I first read? Or is it the connection to my faith? Or is it purely the writing? Most likely a combination, all of the above. I still well with tears when re-reading the final chapter of “The Last Battle”. I still melt a little when I read that Aravis and Shasta (Cor) do indeed get married at the end of “The Horse and His Boy”. What could be more stunning, painful, and beautiful than the last time anyone could say that they had seen Reepicheep the Mouse as his tiny boat crested the stationary wave near Aslan’s Country? Has there been heartache as strong as when Jill’s stubbornness led to Eustace’s fall from the great cliff, or when Digory’s pride led him to strike the bell that awoke Jadis? And what could compare to Aslan’s sacrifice when it comes to pure emotional power? The answer, of course, is his triumphant return the next morning! And I could go on and on. And all accomplished with an incredible economy of words.
The combination of thoughts and feelings above had a strange effect on me over the years before I started writing seriously. Lewis’ Narnia books are definitely NOT one of the reasons I started writing fantasy! Surprising? It’s probably just my personality at work. I found the reality of what Lewis’ books meant to me to be too much, too strong, too meaningful. So when I first considered writing books of my own, I felt paralyzed by my inability to craft something that could create that same depth of thought and feeling. But when I did begin to write, there was no greater spark than that kindled by Narnia. I determined to write exciting, fun fantasy stories for children that did more than just entertain. I wanted to deliver important truths based on my Christian faith, the things that God taught me over years of living and learning.
I believe that’s one of the reasons it took me so long to start writing; it wasn’t until I was nearly 40 years old that I’d finally learned lessons worth repeating.
That’s all for now, my friends! But #WritingSparks #2 is coming soon.
Great stuff, Kevin! I too fell in love with Narnia at my very first encounter.