A brave heart and a fearless spirit!

Posted: June 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

It’s Wednesday, time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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What am I feeling insecure about this month? My voice. You hear a lot these days about finding and refining and holding onto your unique ‘writer’s voice’. Writer, Nicole Tourtelot, says, “For me, voice means that the writing has integrity. You’re entirely yourself and no one else could tell your story the way you’re telling it. You’re telling the truth, even if it’s your own particular, weird, wacky truth.”

I like Nicole’s way of putting it. However, what if your own ‘particular, weird, wacky truth’ is through the medium of talking animals? According to the gatekeepers and other industry professionals, anthropomorphic characters are a no-no, because ‘no one’s interested in talking animals’. Yet, why it that nearly every popular cartoon on TV is anthropomorphic? Because kids can relate. These characters break down barriers and free a story.

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Right from the earliest times when our human ancestors gathered around the fire in their caves, we’ve told stories. As Terry Pratchett put it so perfectly, ‘Imagination, not intelligence, made us human’. We have a long, ancient history with fables (latin fabula, meaning ‘narrative story’) which generally means fictitious tales, legends and myths; channeling desire towards a kind of fulfilment which aids everyone in the cave.

Fables often contain a moral element forming an integral part, where love and pride and other positive emotions combine to create the best possible result, the ‘waste land’ healed. This ‘moral element’ speaks to the underlying fact that the human heart desires more than just food and shelter and ego satisfaction, it yearns for a sense of belonging, to the tribe, to the Universe, and a sense of worship and peace. In this class is where human thoughts and actions are often portrayed by animals and insects.

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When the great Greek philosopher of Athens, Socrates (c.470-399 BC), was in prison, he began committing fables to verse forms. Cicero said of Socrates, “He brought down philosophy from the heavens to earth.” In modern times, we are able to differentiate between fiction and reality. In ancient times, the myths, legends, and fables were believed in a literal way. These animated, animalistic stories gave people meaning, reasons for our being here, the beginnings and endings of things. Fables made sense of a chaotic world. Modern fantasy and in particular, mythology-based, anthropomorphic story-telling, while avowedly fictional still draws upon age-old mythology and fable for its subject matter, and most of its power.

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In the reign of Tiberius, a freedman of Augustus, named Phaedrus, worked to translate Aesop’s fables into Latin verse interspersed with his own anecdotes. In the early 3rd century AD, a collection of fables was written by Babrius, a Hellenized Roman, who lived in Syria. These tales were found in a monastery in Mount Athos in 1844.

Then a prose version was written in the tenth century which served as a model for the medieval fabulists.  And in 1668-93, the famous French poet, Jean de La Fontaine, published a collection of twelve books called, Fables. In this way, these stories were preserved and handed down from generation to generation. Why? Didn’t anyone tell these vital figures of history that no one wants to read about talking animals?

One of my more modern writing heroes is the wonderful Brian Jacques (pronounced “Jakes”). When I was truly struggling ten or so years ago, with the rejections of my anthropomorphic tales, I met the NZ writer, Lorraine Orman, who recommended I read Jacques’ Redwall series.

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I started on book one and I was hooked! I also read up about Jacques, curious to know how such a well-known author had managed to stumble down the same path as myself. I was fascinated to discover that in one of Jacques’ early jobs as a milkman, he used to deliver milk to blind children (at the Royal Wavertree School). To entertain the children, he wrote the Redwall stories, ‘painting pictures with words so the blind children could see them in their imaginations’. Yes, here was my kind of writer!

When asked why he chose to make mice his principal characters, Jacques replied, “Mice are my heroes because, like children, mice are little and have to learn to be courageous and use their wits.”

Along the way over the last thirty five years of my writing animalistic fantasy adventures for children, I’ve been told by publishing houses, editors, and writing assessors, to rewrite my stories with human characters and resubmit if I want a look in the door. So far, I’ve refused. I’m still writing my talking animals. They don’t see what I see. But Brian Jacques did. He said of his characters, “A mouse is small and can go unnoticed: but there is no limit to what a brave heart and a fearless spirit can achieve.” 

What about you?

Have you ever gotten lost in the sheer joy of a Redwall book? Have you ever related to a fable as old as human history itself? How do you preserve your unique writing voice? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Keep on creating…

Yvette K. Carol

@yvettecarol1

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Subscribe to my Newsletter: http://www.yvettecarol.com

Your intuition knows what to write so get out of the way. ~ Ray Bradbury

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Comments
  1. My son loved the Redwall series, but I’ve not read it. However, one of my favorite series (it’s a loose series) is The Cricket In Times Square and the subsequent tales of the characters (e.g. Harry’s Pet Puppy and Tucker’s Meadowside). The main characters are a rat and a cat who live together in the sewage system of NYC.

    I think there are always exception to the rule. Like, they always say not to submit rhyming picture books but yet many that are published are rhyming ones.

    You really have to follow your own truth and persevere. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. emaginette says:

    In high school I got lost in the Lord of the Rings. I’ve never been the same since. Imagination makes us great. 🙂

    Anna from Elements of Writing

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      ‘Never been the same since’, wow, love that, Anna! Books really do have the power to change us. We are treading such an important path, which makes it even more vital we stay close to our truth (‘voice’). I’d like to cull this for my ‘great quotes’ file, if I may. 🙂 Thanks for commenting. I’ll hop over to yours next. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Catherine Johnson says:

    Great topic, Yvette. I love that story about Jacques, what a sweet thing to do. Voice is a similar question to having your own artistic style.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Hi, Catherine, thanks for stopping by! Yes, of all the info. I have about Jacques, it’s the story of the origins of Redwall in particular that sticks in my mind. What I love also, is what happened after…. Jacques had been a ‘jack of all trades’ until that point in his life, while he’d tried his hand at a few plays, nothing had really taken off. But an old friend of his saw his Redwall stories and submitted them to a publisher without his knowledge. The rest, as they say, is history! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hart Johnson says:

    I tried to get my son to let me read him Redwall. We read one and then he refused, but I enjoyed it. I think voice is such an interesting thing. For me, blogging was a huge trick of finding it–what I sounded like in absence of trying to sound like my narrator–who I was when I let go a little. I think it comes through in my books, but sometimes the way if comes through is more subtle than others.

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    • yvettecarol says:

      Thanks for commenting, Hart. Shame your son didn’t take to Redwall. I’ve heard it said that to get boys really keen on reading, the trick is to find that one book that lights them up. But which book? My youngest has taken to Paul Jennings, so I’ll be buying him more of those in future.

      I’m fascinated by the voice thing too, because that comes from being more authentically ourselves (another area of interest for me). A writer friend of mine, who I admire greatly, responded to one of my blog comments once, to say that I always ‘sound like Yvette Carol’ (which he assured me was a good thing), and yet it left me wondering, do I have my own voice? How do I always sound like myself? I’m still learning about voice, I find it a quite mysterious and enigmatic subject. So there will be more on this subject here in future! 🙂

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  5. Some of my favorite books from my childhood were with animals that were the main characters. I say keep refusing! If talking animals weren’t that relatable then why does everyone love Finding Nemo????? 😉

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

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  6. I’m sorry to admit I haven’t read any of his books, though they do sound wonderful and I can’t imagine how I missed them. Read lots of animal books when I was a kid. Love them. Especially children’s animal books. It’s one of the nicest things about being a grandmother, I get to read these stories over again to my grandchildren.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Julie K Pick says:

    I also liked Jacques’ quote about the lessons to be learned from mice. This made me think of Fievel from An American Tail. Voice does play such an integral role in storytelling. Great topic, Yvette!

    Like

    • yvettecarol says:

      American Tail was my eldest son’s top movie pick as a child – I can’t even count the number of times we hired it for him to watch! Wonderful story and character too. Yes, I agree with your comment about voice too. That’s why we gravitate to some writers more than others. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Julie. 🙂

      Like

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