Today is the final day of the Dragonwitch Release Day Blog Tour.
Although I’m sad the tour is ending, I’m excited to welcome a guest blogger to
JoJo’s Corner today….ANNE ELISABETH STENGL!!!
Enjoy this guest post & don’t forget to ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!!!
I’ve Read That Before
By: Anne Elisabeth Stengl
One thing every writer fears is falling into the pit of clichés. Fantasy writers especially, in a literary world inundated with quests and elves and magic, face this fate with certain dread and spend an awful lot of time grappling for that elusive “originality” that will set their world and characters apart. It’s a tremendous pressure, and one that can be quite staggering sometimes.
Our audience reads fantasy in search of a certain type of escapism. There are themes readers long to see again and again, character types and dramatic moments that thrilled them at first encounter and which they would love to experience anew. Granted, our audience doesn’t want to read the same plot over and over, and it certainly doesn’t want to be able to predict from page one how everything is going to turn out. But lovers of fantasy and fairy tale are looking for a certain sense of familiarity that stretches back to childhood loves, to themes and stories they learned before they can even remember.
So how do we strike a balance? How do we give our audience what they long for while simultaneously avoiding the pitfalls of clichés and of losing all sense of individuality?
The answer lies in understanding the difference between “clichés” and “archetypes.”
Let me start with a definition of “cliché.” A cliché is a storyline or character that has become trite or hackneyed. It is a theme, characterization, or situation that has been used so many times that it is now commonplace and predictable.
An “archetype,” by contrast, is an image, character, or pattern that recurs throughout literature so often that it becomes universally recognized by readers across the globe.
Can you see the difference here? One has to do with the how the story plays out . . . one has to do with what the story is about.
If that difference remains foggy, let me use an example:
A small person and/or child goes on a dangerous quest to destroy a powerful and magical talisman.
The above storyline has become a cliché. We loved it the first time Tolkien did it in The Lord of the Rings. But now when it crops up again, we groan and say to ourselves, “I’ve read that before!”
But wait a minute. There is more to this story! Because, you see, an archetype would be:
A small person and/or child goes on a dangerous quest.
Now this is a storyline of which we never tire! We’ll read it again and again, be it in a fairy tale like Little Red Riding Hood or Puss in Boots, or in a longer fantasy such as Harry Potter or The Lightning Thief. Humanity as a whole responds to the idea of the underdog, the small person, the child, facing extraordinary odds and somehow, against all expectations, overcoming and proving victorious.
The archetype of the small hero against the great enemy speaks to us at a universal level, evoking a response that is deep and almost unconscious. We want to read that story again. We don’t want to see the same plot (i.e. small person destroying the magical talisman) again, but we do want to see the theme (the small person overcoming outrageous odds).
Archetypes can be something as simple as a symbol. Consider your reaction to the symbol of the snake vs. the eagle. Your immediate reaction is “snake = bad,” “eagle = good.” That’s a universal response, a pattern of thought ingrained in what Carl Gustav Jung would call the “collective unconscious.” We all respond to the perceived insidiousness of snakes and nobility of eagles in the same way.
This idea of the “collective unconscious” holds true with different types of characters. Archetypal characters include the third son, the princess in disguise, the chosen one, the girl disguised as a boy, the wise grandparent, the prostitute with a heart of gold, the wicked uncle, the wicked stepmother, the warrior princess, the clever thief.
Archetypal storylines might be something like “the princess, prince, and dragon” theme, which we have seen again and again in literature. Or even “the enchanted sleep,” “the princess locked in a tower,” “true love’s first kiss,” and many more.
All of these archetypes evoke certain feelings and reactions in lovers of fairy tales and fantasy. Granted, we don’t want to see these themes and characters used in exactly the same way they’ve been done before. We want something fresh and different. But we do long for the archetypes. We respond to them, and they are what keep us coming back to this genre.
The sooner we writers of fantasy recognize the difference between clichés and archetypes, the sooner we have the freedom to take our stories in the fantastic directions we long to explore!
Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series, adventure fantasies told in the classic Fairy Tale style. She makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University.
A New Tale Is Added to this Christy Award-Winning Fantasy Saga!
Submissive to her father’s will, Lady Leta of Aiven travels far to meet a prospective husband she neither knows nor loves–Lord Alistair, future king of the North Country.
But within the walls of Gaheris Castle, all is not right. Vicious night terrors plague Lord Alistair to the brink of insanity. Whispers rise from the family crypt. The reclusive castle Chronicler, Leta’s tutor and friend, possesses a secret so dangerous it could cost his life and topple the North Country into civil war.
And far away in a hidden kingdom, a fire burns atop the Temple of the Sacred Flame. Acolytes and priestesses serve their goddess to the limits of their lives and deaths. No one is safe while the Dragonwitch searches for the sword that slew her twice…and for the one person who can wield it.