I can say how I love C.S. Lewis and his ability to create a world that I wanted to dive into headfirst. I want to write allegory like he did, weaving it so seemlessly with fantasy that readers can be inspired and changed without even fully knowing his underlying concepts. I want to write like Madeleine L’Engel who could take complex science and merge it with the even more intricate and mysterious world of the spirit, creating something that felt new and daring. But most of all I find inspiration in a book that would probably surprise you…the Bible.
I know it may seem an odd choice for a fantasy writer, but you’d be surprised how often it influences my work. As a writer, I’m always wanting to inspire readers to think, “What if…?” When I read the Bible, I’m constantly faced with that question. My imagination goes wild!
What if a group of people were being chased through the desert by an entire army and they find themselves trapped at the edge of the sea? They turn around with their babies in their arms and stare into the distance, enemy chariots stirring up the sand as they race toward the defenseless people. What if the sea splits open, creating a pathway to safety, and the path isn’t even muddy or wet, its completely dry ground?! They cross the sea on dry ground with the water piled up like mountains on either side of them. What if the army chases them right into the middle of the sea and when the last person reaches the other side, the water rushes in, collapsing on top of the army, washing them away?
What if a man lived in such a dangerous place, with enemy troops patrolling around so often that people couldn’t even live normal lives anymore? The people were so scared that they abandoned their homes and went to hide in the mountains, living in caves and crevices. Their crops were stolen by enemy soldiers on a regular basis so that his people were not only living in fear, but hungry, too. So, there he is, hiding in a wine press pit in order to thresh wheat for his family where no one can see it. What if a man suddenly appeared to him, an angel, and called him a mighty warrior? He’s nothing but a weak, cowardly farmer but some divine higher power has chosen him to be the warrior who ends up destroying the entire nation of people who keep invading his land. What if he becomes not only a warrior, but a leader who rescues his people and leads them to reclaim their land.
What if you were sitting in a boat one day with your friends, trying to cross the lake? You travel all night, the wind pushing against you so that you don’t seem to be making any headway at all. Sitting there in the middle of the lake, exhausted, you look out in the darkness and see something moving toward you. It looks like a person. You’re sure it’s a person, it’s a ghost floating above the water and it’s coming right at you! What if, as it comes closer it calls out to you and you realize it’s not a ghost but your friend? The smart alack in your boat yells, “Oh, yeah? If you’re really him, why don’t you call me out to walk with you on the water?” And he does! What if your stupid friend gets out of the boat and actually walks on the water?! The wind is blowing, waves are crashing against the boat and you are sitting there watching two of your closest friends walking on top of the water!
Don’t those sound like great fantasy stories? Each one of them makes me want to ask, “What happened next?” They set my brain on fire. But here’s the real kicker: What if they were real? What if they really happened? Whether you believe the Bible or not, there are billions of people who do! History even proves that many of those people, those places, they were real. So…what if it was all real? What if people could walk on water, teleport to another city, speak to God and hear his voice, glow like lightning? What if someone could understand all languages at once without training? What if you could heal the sick, see spirits, fight demons? What if it was possible to never die or to die and then live again?
What inspires you?