Thematic Concepts in Fantasy Fiction

Sad Little GirlFantasy for children and teens, especially now with the fear of being shot at school, is especially important during heart rendering and traumatic events in a child’s life. Fantasy and fairy tales do many things emotionally and psychologically to help the child to understand the world in a broader sense. Fantasy teaches and the individual learns about the world and life itself.

An example of a thematic concept or theme, as depicted in the fictional novel: Delphi Altair, Strange Beginnings, is presented when twelve-year-old Megan Donnelly’s mother has recently passed way. Megan, devastated by the loss of her mother, receives a mysterious package to be opened on her thirteen’s birthday. Inside the package is a very old leather-bound journal with mysterious symbols on the cover.

Megan begins to read the secret journal about a young girl named Delphi Altair and discovers that Delphi has suffered the loss of both of her parents. Megan can now relate emotionally, and with empathy, to Delphi’s grief and a bond of understanding is created.  However, before you begin to read the secret journal, writes the author of the secret journal, you must put aside the world as you see it because things are not at all, what they appear to be.  This statement suggests that although death seems final, a belief that life and death are not simple concepts, that there is, perhaps, and a reason to believe that “all is not lost”.

When a child is suffering a traumatic loss, such as the loss of a much-loved parent, the need to remain close to the lost loved one is paramount to healthy healing. By providing a tangible source of comfort, such as a fictional companion to create empathy and understanding, her mother keeps her child engaged in the present as well as the future in a way that will help to heal her child’s heart.

 

THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine Arden

The Girl in the Tower sounds delightful and a lovely fairy tale read. I am looking forward to reading it.

BOOKS FROM DUSK TILL DAWN

Firstly I wish to thank Katie Sunley of Penguin Random House for inviting me to read the second book in this amazing series.

36068234BOOK DESCRIPTION

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with…

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The Little Match Girl

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At this time of year, I think of The Little Match Girl fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. “It was terribly cold. It had snowed that day and it was almost dark”, begins the story of The Little Match Girl who carried with her a little box of matches to sell, but no passerby had stopped to give her even a penny as she walked along, hoping for someone to buy her matches for a penny, but no one even glanced her way.

The Little Match Girl was so terribly cold and her thin little body ached with the cold. She had no coat or shoes. Her old hand-me-down sweater was soaked through from the snow that had fallen earlier in the day.  She shivered uncontrollably as the snow started falling again. She saw a place between two houses where she could sit down and look across the street.

There she saw warm yellow lights from windows. She thought she could even smell the holiday goose that was headed for the dining table.  She was so weak from the freezing cold and so hungry she could no longer stand again, so she took one of the matches and lit it and she began to feel warm and then she lit another one. She knew she dared not go home, her father would beat her.

She began to dream of her grandmother and lit another match, but this time all the matches came aflame. To her it was like heaven with the sky ablaze and she saw her beloved grandmother as she watched as a star fall from the sky. She remembered what her grandmother told her, when a star falls a soul goes to heaven. “Take me with you Grandmother” she cried, and her grandmother picked her up and flew to heaven with the tiny Match Girl in her arms. The next morning, the little Match Girl was found frozen to death on the street corner where no one had stopped to give her even a penny.

This is more than a fairy tale, it is real because around the world there are many little Match Girls and Boys and they are dying for want of a little kindness from those of us who have shoes, warm coats and Christmas dinner waiting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SNOW FAIRIES GIFT

Whilst we sleep, and the snow falls deep,

Snow fairies alight, to watch through the night,

As boughs of ice and snow, fall heavy, upon our roofs.

With a twinkle in their eyes, and a snap of their fingers,

They light a fire aglow, blazing in our hearths.

Thus, do they keep us warm and snug in our beds,

Whilst wintry winds do blow.

They watch with grave intent, to keep us safe,

And stay the goblins away, one and all, at bay,

Less the bale of wolves, upon our doorsteps,

Howl through the night, to cause us fright.

When all is safe, they hence take flight,

On gossamer wings, they glitter and glow,

And sprinkle fairy dust, as they go,

Upon the newly fallen snow.

And in the morn, whence we wake,

Our baskets, do we find, brimming, with berries,

Hidden well and safely kept, as wide-eyed babes,

Giggle with delight, in the wonder of fairies,

That cometh in the night, leaving magical treats,

Beneath, their Merry Christmas, Yuletide Tree.

By K. D. Dowdall

Copyright 2017

In Celebration of Halloween, The Witch of His Dreams

Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), dates back to the ancient Celts who lived 2,000 years ago. Contrary to what some believe, is not a celebration of a Celtic god of the dead. Instead, it is a Celtic word meaning “summer’s end.” The Celts believed that summer came to an end on October 31st and the New Year began on November 1st with the start of winter. But the Celts also followed a lunar calendar and their celebrations began at sunset the night before.

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THE WITCH OF HIS DREAMS

She comes to him at midnight,

The Witch of his Dreams,

Her eyes a forest green,

Her hair, dark and long,

Her voice, a sweet magic,

Calling out his name,

He could not help but watch her,

Dance among the flowers,

Beneath a waxing moon,

She whirls and cast her spells,

Upon him,

A haunting chant she sings,

And soars into his soul,

On gossamer wings,

She whispers things he longs to hear,

Of secret longings in his ear,

She enchants him with delights,

Though she must fly into the night,

She tells him of her love,

And casts her spell upon him,

To love him evermore,

She steals his heart forever,

Though never shall she return,

For she was only ever,

The Witch of His Dreams.

 

By K D Dowdall

@copyright

 

 

The Witch Minnie Brogan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Indian summer began like any other when I turned fifteen years old growing up in the small colonial era farming community of Granby, Connecticut. The last fields of the summer harvest had already been shorn of their corn, alfalfa, hay, and tobacco. The wet smell of fresh cut hay filled the air as well as the mingling aroma of tobacco fields that now lay bare of their crops. The large tobacco leafs would hang neatly from wooden poles to dry underneath white-sheeted tents.

The smell of tobacco, sweet and pungent, hung in the air. It was a grown-up smell, a smell of intimacy and secret goings-on. My cousin Garrett and I would sometimes sneak up behind the white-sheeted tents and listen. Giggles, laugher, and strange noises were not unfamiliar sounds to our ears as we listened. More than tobacco leafs nestled under the white-sheeted tents.

Not far from the tobacco field was an ancient apple orchard that looked like something out of a wicked fairy tale. Walking through its darkly gnarled wood was a rite-of-passage experience for anyone under the age of twelve.

To this day memories of Canton road, where I grew up, float across my senses.  I envision its tar paved darkness as it crosses over Salmon Brook, cuts through McLean’s game preserve, wanders by weird old Stewart Duncan’s farm, and the said-to-be-haunted Sperry colonial homestead. Canton Road weaves it way over-laying the swell of land occupied for ten thousand years by the indigenous people like the Massaco Indians who were a part of the Algonquian tribes. Evidence of their inhabitation is still visible by those who know what to look for.

Spirit Pond is one of those places. There are sightings by the locals of ghost warriors that still drink the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond and are not as rare as one would like to believe. Spirit Pond is a large spring fed body of water surrounded by tall reeds and weeping willows. Its dark cold water and deep recesses still hold untold secrets as well as the body of Minnie Brogan.

My rather strange cousin Garrett was drawn to the story of Minnie Brogan and I followed suit. Beautiful Young Minnie Brogan who lived in early colonial times near the old settlement of Salmon Brook, adjacent to Spirit Pond, was said to have met with a ghastly end. It is a haunting legend of sorts and the story appears in the town’s tourist pamphlets as a way of advertising its colonial history to visitors.

It was said that young Minnie Brogan lived a solitary existence in her meager dwelling on the edge of Spirit Pond and tended a few chickens and a vegetable garden. She also grew medicinal herbs. In colonial times, a female living alone who also concocted remedies was sure to raise suspicions of witchcraft.

Yet, Garrett and I doubted this explanation and we would often sit by the edge of Spirit Pond trying to envision that long ago crime when Minnie Brogan was dragged from her thatched hut, bound by her hands and feet, and thrown into the spring fed pond. We wondered how scared she must have been as she slowly sank into Spirit Pond’s cold dark waters.

I personally believe there was more to it than just medicinal herbs. Minnie was young, alone, and was said to be hauntingly beautiful. She was accused of conjugating with evil forces. As a six grader, I had no idea someone could actually be murdered for not knowing how to conjugate a verb (although there were times I was sure by teacher at thought of it).

So, it was in winter when Spirit Pond was frozen-over that Garrett and I would go ice skating and just as often we would look to see if Minnie Brogan’s ghostly apparition would rise up from the ice. Although we never actually saw her ghostly-self rise from the pond, we imagined what she would look like if she did.

I wonder about Minnie Brogan’s secret hopes and dreams that vanished into the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond one nefarious moonless night long ago. Sometimes I even imagine I can feel her presence as I dip by fingers into the waters of Spirit Pond. It is though the earth remembers her and still holds her secret longings. I, too, will always remember Minnie Brogan.

by K D Dowdall

Copyright 2014

HOW TO CRITIQUE YOUR MANUSCRIPT

On Victory Crayne’s website, a complete version of, How to Write a Critique is available. This site has many wonderful ways to improve a writer’s writing skills.  I critique my own writing, using this form. I find it essential in developing better writing skills.  Go to Victory Crayne’s website for more ways to improve writing skills or just brush up on the great writing skills you have acquired.

http://www.crayne.com/howcrit.html

Opening

Do the first few sentences or paragraphs of the story grab your attention? Do they present the protagonist’s main problem? Remember how you judge a book or story when you first see it in a bookstore. Don’t we often base our decision to buy or not buy upon those first few sentences? Did this author grab your attention fast enough?

Conflict

By conflict, I do not mean lots of slam-bam action. Conflict is “The mental or moral struggle caused by incompatible desires and aims. That is the kind of conflict that makes stories vitally alive.” – Ben Bova in “The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells”.

Is there emotional conflict WITHIN the main character? Between the main characters? Emotional conflict is part of what gets readers interested. For example: love vs. loyalty; greed vs. duty; fear vs. desire; revenge vs. self-doubt. Is there enough conflict between the characters? Is it expressed through action, dialogue, attitudes, or values? Were the characters sufficiently contrasted? Or did they seem to be totally satisfied with their roles? Did they have the potential to transform each other?

Plot

Was the main plot clear and believable? Did the main character have a clearly defined problem to solve? Did you feel by the end of the piece that this problem was solved or did the character become resolved to live with it? Were you able to determine the time and place of the story quickly enough? Did the story start at the right place? Did it end at the right place in the plot? Are there scenes which do not seem to further the plot? Were there too many flashbacks, which broke your attention? Was every subplot useful? Did it add to the overall story or did the author seem to stick it in just for complexity?

Pacing:

Did the plot/subplots move fast enough to keep the reader’s attention? Resolution of conflict: Did the conflict and tension in the plots and subplots come to some reasonable ending? Or did the author leave us hanging, wondering what happened? When you finished, were there things that you still felt needed to be explained? If the author did leave some conflict unresolved, did they indicate somewhere that future stories are pending?

Setting

Is there enough description of the background in the story to paint a picture that seems real enough for the reader? Did you feel that you were transported to ‘that time or place’? Was there too much description so modern readers might tend to become bored? Was the description written with clichés? Did the author use good enough names for people, places, and things? Names help set the tone for a story. Were some names of people hard to keep track of? Did some names seem inconsistent with the character? Were the names too stereotypical.

Timing

Is the timing and order of events in the story consistent? For example, did John drive his new car on his vacation in chapter six but it wasn’t until chapter ten that he bought it?

Characterization

Did the people seem real? Or were the main characters stereotypes or one-dimensional cardboard characters? Were the facts about the characters accurate and consistent? People do not exist in a vacuum. They have family, friends, a job, worries, ambitions, etc. Did you get a sense of enough of these, but not too much, for the main characters? Did you get a good picture of the culture, historical period, location, and occupation of the main character? Did you get enough of a sense of paradoxes within the character? Enough of their emotions, attitudes, values?

Backstory: Were you distracted by too much background information of a character at one time? Did the author seem to dump a lot of information on the background of a character in one or two long speeches, or did we learn about that character here and there in smaller pieces? Did the protagonist undergo some change in the story? Does each chapter/page have enough sensory description? Can the reader easily sense what is happening physically to the main character? Were there enough words of sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste? If the story used a person as the antagonist (villain), did they seem real too? Or did they seem so evil or one-sided that they were more like ideal villains? Did they have some redeeming qualities too? Did the villain seem to be a hero in their own mind?

Dialogue

Did the words from the mouths of the people in the story seem consistent with their personalities? Was there too much or not enough dialogue, in your opinion? Usually writers err on the side of not enough dialogue. Did any character tend to talk in long monologues?

Were you able to sense the conflict, attitudes, and intentions of each character in their dialogue without the author telling you of these directly? Were you able to detect any exchange of power that is sexual, physical, political, or social? Did the dialogue seem easy to speak? Can you ‘hear’ it? If it sounds unusual, you might suggest that the writer try reading it aloud. Does each character have their own speech rhythm, accent (if necessary), vocabulary, and even length of sentences?

Point of View

Was a given chapter or section written from one person’s point of view? Are there too many points of view in the story? Did the story skip around between the first person or third person point of view (POV)? Were the changes in POV signaled clearly?  If the story was written in the third person POV, as most stories are, did the story stick with the omniscient (all knowing) POV, use a limited POV (where we don’t know everyone’s motives except by clues from their words or actions), or did the author mix the two? Did the author’s choice seem right to you?

Show versus tell

When in the POV of a character, did the author describe what his/her senses showed, e.g., sight, sound, smell, touch, taste? Or did the author just tell you the dinner was very good? Did the author describe exactly how the people acted? Was there too much abstract language where specific details would have made a greater impact on the reader?

Format of the text

Was it easy to read or were the paragraphs too long or the lines too long (not enough margin)?

Would it help to put blank lines between paragraphs? If the piece is to be read on a computer monitor, adding a blank line between paragraphs will make it much easier for your critics to read. Note: when you submit the final version to print publishers, it is best to adhere to their manuscript format (no blank lines between paragraphs).

Grammar and spelling

Was the English readable? Were there too many grammatical errors, misuse of punctuation, run-on sentences, etc.?

Did you point out any typos or misspelling? How many times have you missed that in your writing because you passed over it without seeing it? Were there so many such errors that they made reading the piece difficult for you? Did the author use too many exclamation points (one of my weaknesses)? Were there any cliches in the narrative? For example, I once wrote “fruits of mother nature” and “thoughts burning in his mind”, both of which are cliches. In dialogue cliches are okay if the character would speak that way.

Style

You may wish to comment on the style the story was written in, e.g., humorous, wordy, sparse, literary, homespun, technical, etc.