‘Toot Fraakyl’ is an ancient greeting used by Allaria, a beautiful (and she knows it) little fae that lights up A Wicked Kind of Dark. If Allaria greets somebody this way, particularly if she’s met them before, the phrase reminds her to set aside prejudices, and start anew. This is especially important when dealing with stereotypes. Not all dwarfs are loud, nor pixies mischievous. Goblins are rarely rude.
So don’t be deceived by Allaria’s small size and big personality. She has the wisdom of the ages behind her.
Fresh thinking, or looking at stuff from different angles, is a useful tool in our own lives. The bar wouldn’t be set quite so high if Dick Fosbury hadn’t thought outside the box.
A thousand smiles
I like America. It brought me Star Wars and Forest Gump. I want to hire a 1958 red and white Plymouth Fury, call it Christine, and drive Route 66 staying at dilapidated motels with flickering neon lights owned by cross-dressing men called Norman – as long as Norman behaves. I like Tom Cruise. He got fired from his ad agency taking nought but a goldfish. Raymond E Feist, George R.R. Martin, David Eddings and Janny Wurts. To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and Huckleberry Finn. I want to get lost – on purpose – in the Louisiana swamps and stumble across a little town called Bon Temps full of pale-faced nocturnals.
Muhammad Ali – you are the king. Don King – I am not sure what you are. Babe Ruth – I knew your name before I knew the game you played. I was five years old, and I was born 50 years after you retired, and if I dropped your name into a sporting conversation, everybody nodded sagely. That is greatness. Carl Lewis and Pete Sampras. Jesse Owens and Michael Phelps.
Bill Gates, who adds value to this world with his technology, and then uses the proceeds of his success to save lives. Wilbur and Orville Wright – flight. Thomas Edison – light. World War 2 – you sent your sons to defend the world against tyranny. Bubble gum – thanking you.
I’m tired of seeing negative articles about the U.S.
A Wicked Kind of Dark began with an idea – a ‘what if’. For me it was a powerful ‘what if’ that needed to be developed. Like all good ‘what ifs’, it wouldn’t let me go, and a story grew around it. Characters blossomed inside the text. Like roses, these characters had thorns. I loved them but they could hurt me.
Then the story finished and I said goodbye … for a while. The first draft is like an overgrown Bonsai tree. Patient pruning was required. I picked up my pen, and like a pair of Bonsai scissors, I cut out obsolete words and weak prose. I pared back scenes and beautified descriptions, polishing the story around the ‘what if’.
Novels are fuelled by ‘what ifs’, powerful ideas with the potential to grow into beautiful stories.
My ‘what if’ … You’ll need to read the story to discover what beats at the heart of A Wicked Kind of Dark.
Too often religion is blamed for causing war. I’m not a psychologist, but that argument is another example of people not taking ownership of the problem. Humans cause war. Pure and simple. If religion didn’t exist we’d find something else to hide behind while we lob stones at each other.
I was sitting on the train today. Clouds were brewing over Brisbane. Four women sat in front of me chatting about work. Other people read books, and still more passengers focussed on their phones. A mother sat with her young daughter. The little girl was clutching a big red Dora the Explorer bag and gazing out the window watching the world rush by.
Why do we have to share this planet with puffed up, self-important, sabre-rattling bullies, who will never ride the train with the innocent; despots who hold the world to ransom and care nothing for the little girl with the big red bag.
Our role is to protect the future, not destroy it. Please. No more. Enough.
Life is chaotic, which is not a bad thing. It just means there are infinite possibilities, lots of potential. It also means don’t ever give up. There might be something incredible waiting for you centimetres (or inches) down your timeline. I won’t lie – there could be something frightening too, but we must search for the good in life. There is a lot of it.
Novels take a slice of this chaos and mould it into something that makes sense. Catch 22 is the only book I know that successfully captures the ‘big picture’. Milo Minderbinder is a brilliant character, and Yossarian most definitely lives. Fantasy is no different. We readers like to relate to stuff – especially characters. That’s why every significant character possesses human traits. Hazel the rabbit from Watership Down couldn’t be more human. Robert Jordan turned honour into a character and gave him a name: Rand al’Thor. Some characters are more nuanced than others, perhaps because the novel is character driven, rather than plot driven. But we must relate to characters.
What constitutes a great book? This question causes heated debates, and because of the chaotic nature of life, there is no right answer. Some argue copies sold – a sound argument. If a book brings pleasure to a large amount of people, then it is doing exactly what a book is meant to do, more so than a less popular book. Others argue a great book must be thought-provoking, full of cleverness and beautiful writing. A fair assessment perhaps? No, because there is no right answer. Books inspire individuals, and we must accept that individuals are unique, and being unique is beautiful (as long as you’re not hurting others).
Time wasters: these films owe us all an apology. The only good thing about time wasters, is that they are utterly forgettable. They fill up the empty spaces in DVD stores, preying on the indecisive (and occasionally adventurous) consumer.
Bearable: exactly that. If you’ve got nothing better to do, and you don’t feel like sleeping, then why not watch a bearable movie. It might have a weak plot, but passable cinematography; alright script, but poor acting. If anything, a bearable movie will give you something to complain about.
Good movie: good isn’t a great word but these films can be watched again. They might even draw a tear, or surprise a laugh.
Wow movie: most classics (and destined to be classics) fit into this category. The Godfather, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Forest Gump, The Silence of the Lambs – the list goes on and some of these films can crossover into the final category. Everything works in these movies; acting, directing, scripting.
Terrifying movie: this final deeply personal category evokes such profound emotions in us that we are terrified to revisit the experience for fear of losing ourselves in their vast transformational depths. Terrifying movies are unique to the individual – what touches me might not have the same effect on you, reciprocated. They are addictive films, ones that linger in our thoughts, and remain with us forever. Two films that have terrified me are Pan’s Labyrinth and Life is Beautiful. Subtitles aren’t usually my thing, so it is testament to the harrowing nature of these films. They took me on a journey of extremes, soaring joy and deep, wrenching sorrow.
I watched a Wow movie on DVD last night. Definitely a classic fantasy. Labyrinth. The masquerade ball scene is haunting and beautiful.
I hope blogging becomes easier, because I’ve rewritten this first sentence 12 times, and the text still isn’t singing. I digress. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and say hello. If you would like to get to know me – and I would love to get to know you – a good place to start is right here on my website www.jonathankbenton.com. There’s an email address on the Contacts page. Use it as much as you like. Nothing offensive please.
Blogs are a bit like diaries that people leave lying around on purpose. But this blog isn’t just about me. Please share your own thoughts and ideas. I’ll try to post lots of interesting stuff, mostly about young adult (YA) fantasy. What a great genre! The Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter to name but a few. Stephen King is my personal favourite. Often he’s pigeon-holed into the horror genre – not so. Mr King mixes genres like a three star Michelin chef mixes ingredients.
Don’t ever feel that what you have to say isn’t important. I truly believe we’re all in this together – I’m referring to life. Big picture type of stuff!
That’s it for now.