How did I get started writing fantasy fiction? It all began with a door:
It never seemed fair to me that so much could be imagined and yet unattainable. As a child, I had an over-active imagination. My favorite thing to do was to play “make-believe” with just about anyone who would deign to join me. The title of this simple-sounding game encompassed worlds of opportunities, because the parameters of the game were as limitless as our imaginations. The game often involved components such as: pretending to be someone else; pretending to live somewhere interesting and unique, such as a sailboat or in a jungle; or pretending to have the ability to travel to other worlds. In the mind of a child, a bed can become a houseboat, a lilac bush is easily turned into a horse, and a fallen branch from a willow tree can serve for several days as a palace, a forest, a jungle, or a pirate ship, depending on the mood of its occupants. However, it was the times that we spent in Narnia that I will remember the most fondly.
I have read extensively throughout my life. Mostly I read adventure stories about fantastical worlds in which bigger-than-life heroes battle dragons for their beautiful princesses. I attribute much of my deep love for the written word to my parents. My parents used to read books out loud to me every night before bed. It was through my mother’s voice that I played with Laura Ingalls Wilder, and through my father’s voice that I entered into Lewis’ fascinating world called Narnia. It was not long before Narnia became a central figure in my games of “make-believe.” The adventures to Narnia began on a fairly average summer’s day.
“We can get to Narnia, I know it!” My cousin, Gayle, insisted. Kim looked a little suspicious, but I didn’t doubt it for a second.
“How?” Wendy asked.
I don’t remember how the conversation began. We had all recently become acquainted with The Chronicles of Narnia, and we were bound to begin discussing the stories at some point. It was about time for a round of make-believe to begin. We had already gone wading in the creek, “accidentally on purpose” as my cousins are fond of saying, played capture the flag, and pretended to be orphans (the basement had quite nicely accommodated our visions of a creepy orphanage and its various methods of torturing the inhabitants: being made to sleep on hard wooden shelves, getting locked in the “dungeon” otherwise known as the root cellar, etc). Now we had moved on to a new idea, one that was even more intriguing than the “evil orphan keeper” game. We were all fascinated by the idea of getting into a different world through something as ordinary as a wardrobe, and we had agreed that we should try to get into Narnia ourselves. However, our only problem lay in the fact that we did not have a wardrobe
“Look, we don’t really need a wardrobe,” Gayle said convincingly, “all we really need is a door.”
“But a door to where?” Wendy asked.
“A door that doesn’t lead anywhere,” I piped in. My cousins all stared at me as though I had suggested we run over to the Himalayas and attempt to scale Everest. But then a light appeared in Kim’s eyes.
“I know what door we need!” She exclaimed triumphantly. Leading the way, Kim took us up to the loft and started tugging on her bunk bed. “Help me move this away from the wall,” she said.
Mystified, we all helped and eventually got the bunk bed a sufficient distance away from the wall. There it was: the door. It was little more than a board that covered a hole that led into the unused attic space, but it could have been covered in diamonds and rubies by the way we gazed at it.
“It’s perfect,” someone breathed reverently.
Solemnly we slid the board open and stepped through into a different world.
My adventures in the world of the imagination have been many. Those times are some of my favorite memories. Some might question my sanity as a child, some might wonder if so much time spent in imaginary worlds could possibly be quite healthy, and some might even wonder if my time could have been spent in better or more productive ways. Well, perhaps. But then again I believe that spending so much time in my games of “make-believe” made me a more independent, more creative person. Because of the constant exercising of my imagination I was hardly ever bored. When I could not have friends over I did not resort to watching television or playing video games, but rather I traveled to Narnia or Care-a-Lot or Middle Earth; and when none of those places appealed to my mood I would make up my own world and act out my own fairy tale. Many of my adventures caused me to spend time outdoors, exercising my body as well as my mind. The time I spent cultivating my imagination is what helps me write. When people ask me how I come up with ideas for my stories the answer is simple: I have been making up stories my whole life.
I sometimes think that writing is my way of making up for the fact that I never really did go to Narnia. By creating new stories, new worlds that I hope will fascinate other children like me, perhaps I feel that I can even out the score a little. Maybe there are other worlds, fairy mists that we cannot penetrate, it is more likely that such ideas simply spring from our human way of trying to explain heaven’s existence, but whether they exist or not, the imagination can make them real for a time at least. I suppose I never truly believed that I had journeyed through those mists into another land. I could never really banish the persistent illusion of the world around me. But in my imagination, tall buildings and reality were mere hurdles.
Was it wrong of me to spend so much time in the imaginary? Even now, as I set aside time to delve into the world of fiction, both reading it and writing it, I wonder if it is altogether healthy. Then I look towards my Creator and I realize that it was His imagination that dreamed up everything I see, everything I am. My imagination was created in the image of His and I should use it to glorify Him. He is the greatest author of all time, and though we perceive it to be non-fiction, perhaps it is merely fantasy after all. And why should this life not be fiction? The Bible often insists that the “real” world is the one that we cannot see, the one that is hidden from our view except through our imaginations. One day, perhaps, we will find the right door and gain a glimpse of what is to come, or perhaps that door can only be found at the very end of life when we step out of this world and into the next one.
I believe that a story is one of the essential parts of life. Every moment is a story, whether it is spoken, written, or simply experienced. A story, then, is one of the greatest gifts that one person can give to another. The greatest gift that God ever gave us was this story, the one that we each live, and the hope and promise of a reality beyond the imagination that he made us capable of. To inspire that imagination is to open a door, like the one that my cousins and I slid open so many years ago, a door to new worlds ripe for exploration.