Saturday, December 29, 2007

Being a parent

I've just finished reading the blog of a Christian mother and wife, and it's a case of 'me too.' She fears for her children, learning to live in the world as Christians and avoiding some of the cruel traps and mistakes. Like her, I find my self praying for my children, three of whom are actually adults, that they will be guided and protected and find the things they need in life. Liz and I prayed before any of our children were even conceived that if we had any children they would be saved. It is a great joy and relief to see them walking in Christ, but there are still anxieties. Our daughter quit school, spent time living in the state capital city looking for work, ringing home when some crisis arose that she wanted help with, and all we could do was be there and assist as much as possible. That and pray, of course. And the end of it, we were glad when one time she phoned us and wanted us to remind her of the words to the 23rd Psalm. It was what she turned to for comfort. That was uplifting to know. Still, it will be a relief when she settles on a direction and gets on with it. It was a very happy Christmas for us all when we got together. We did remember to pray for those not having such a pleasant time. Here's a thought for any one from the northern hemisphere who reads this: when I was younger the family lived in England for a few years. Chistmas was cold weather, sometimes snow. When we moved to Australia, I recall thinking that when Christmas is in summer then at least the homeless and the poor are not cold! I'm very grateful that it was such a happy time. If any one reading this had a sad Yuletide, please be assured that if my prayers make any difference, then you have them. And if anyone had children who cause the to lose sleep, I know the feeling.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Who says fiction is a waste of time?

I heard someone say that fiction was a complete waste of time. He wanted his son to practice reading, so he gave him an article on milk production. How rivetting! Sure, it might be worth knowing about, but unless you're into that sort of thing, reading about it becomes an effort. A good story that gets you in makes you want to read. That's not just me. I'm not judging everyone else by myself. The fiction industry is huge. Why? People like reading. Someone else ran an interesting thought by me once, too. In good narrative fiction, or real life type fiction, the reader can experience things in a way that might not be possible in real life. That might be just as well. How many people would want to go to war? But if you read some of the classics, like "All Quiet on the Western Front," the writer can give you a sense of being there - and if you need any convincing that war is not some sort of grand adventure, that should do the trick.
Some of the books I've read, like some of the better movies I've seen, let you see what the consequences of a thing can be, too. That's hardly a new idea. The Greeks of the ancient world used theatre as a didactic way of teaching moral lessons. So did dramatists in the Age of Shakespeare. So writing is a way of sharing things with others. And it can make some critical points. If you read "Jurassic Park" (Michael Crichton) one of his characters makes the point that knowledge, especially scientific knowledge, is like inherited wealth. You did not have to earn it, so you do not always have proper respect for it. Hence the problem of knowledge without conscience - a dangerous mix!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Why do we do it?

I want to write because in my own stories you can make what I want happen! If anyone ever asked my suggestion about how write, that would be mine: think of something you would really hate to happen, and write a story in which it was prevented, with your central characters being the ones involved. That way you feel committed to the story and the characters. That might seem obvious, but when I tried taking creative writing courses, they seemed to centre on what you could sell rather than what you felt strongly about. In a way, that is realism, but it seemed to me to involve a certain cynicism, as well. So I wrote what I wanted to.
If you read about the myths and cultures of the world, you come across some odd stimuli, or starting points from which to start writing. I was reading about the ancient Norse people, the Vikings. They believed in a certain type of ghost, that of an unwanted child that had been left out in the snow to die. This ghost would sometimes come back to seek vengeance on the parents who abandoned it. After reading that, I wanted to write a story in which someone found these abandoned children and took them in. I got down to it, and the result was a novel that I titled "Outcasts of Skagaray."
Other things could prompt the same feeling. I heard somewhere that the two young gunmen who carried out the Columbine High School massacre considered some people 'not fit to live.' The same attitude was true of the boy who carried out the shooting at the school in Finland. There have been some horrors of history carried out because of that sort of attitude. The Nazis who ruled Germany for part of the Twentieth Century acted on the same notion. So did the scientists or officials behind the Lynchburg Experiment in the U.S. at about the same time in history. Then back in ealier times the Romans used to discard children they considered weak. Human history is full of cruelty. But sometimes there are good outcomes. There have to be, or life could not be worth living! And sometimes creative fiction can show what might be possible, what can happen if only.....
So we keep writing. We might inspire others to keep hope and faith. Any ideas?