Janelle Garrett is one of my closest friends, a loving mother, a very wise woman, and an amazing author. As her writing partner, I've been there for a good portion of her journey, watching her grow in her craft. I was so excited when finally took the first step in her publishing journey and self-published "Rift in the Deep", the first in an epic fantasy series: "The Steward Saga". And she is well on her way to publishing book two and beyond. And I couldn't be more excited or proud of her.
If you love fantasy, you have to check her book out. It's got everything a good epic fantasy should have, and more. And be sure to follow her on Twitter, sign up for her newsletter, and keep an eye on her website for more awesome content.
Janelle was very gracious to write this thoughtful piece for me. It really is a great read, and she should know about this subject. Janelle Garrett's monsters are my favorite part of her amazing book. Enjoy!
Of Monsters and Heroes
What is it about monsters that brings out the best in us? I’m not being facetious. Think about it. Any action hero movie or epic fantasy novel has them. Take Thor for example. Thor: Ragnarok, in the opening scene, stars a huge, scary monster and the superhero himself. After some pithy dialogue exchanges, Thor extricates himself from a hairy situation and destroys yet another bad guy.
It’s not just in film that there are monsters, either. Middle Earth has them. Narnia has them. Harry Potter has them. The Wheel of Time has them.
They don’t have to be imagined, either. Zac Efron will be taking to film as the real-life monster, serial killer Ted Bundy. Most of us have probably experienced people acting like monsters, taking what is not theirs to take, or using manipulation to get what they want, or a host of other things.
One of the advantages to writing fantasy is the ability to create a reality that somehow mirrors our own but takes on monsters of our own making. Whether human or not, the epicenter of a good story is an antagonist. Something that must be overcome. A bad guy, or a creature of evil (Sauron, anyone?) or a disaster that needs a hero.
There is an idea I like to call the "Fantasy Fallacy". Just because a good writer has a good monster doesn’t mean that monsters only exist within that reality or world, you have created. Every writer knows that there is a truth undergirding their own work. That truth is that there is a part of us, all of us, in our stories. You can’t be a good writer and not leave that part of yourself inside your characters or the situation they face. As I draft and redraft and perfect my manuscripts, something strange happens. I see myself in all my characters. Including the monsters.
The fallacy is that we think the story we have created is just that. A story. But it’s not. Whether good or evil, monster or man, you are in your story. It is your reality.
So what is my point? What you do with that truth is what matters. Your story aside, what will you do when faced with the reality that inside of you there is both hero and monster? In my book “Rift in the Deep” there is an antagonist who is so self-obsessed and narcissistic that you just want to punch him in the face. But as his character unfolds, you begin to realize that there is more to him than meets the eye. And I find myself realizing that beneath the layers of who he is, I am. I see myself there, in those moments where I elevate myself above others, choosing my own desires and needs over those of my family and friends. So I can stay there and become that worst part of me, or I can acknowledge exists and go the other way.
It’s the tug of war between who we want to be and who we are. Which one will win? The monster or the hero?