My guest blogger today is the lovely and talented Ryan Peter. Ryan is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy and sci-fi and anything to do with the “weird” while he enjoys conversing (and writing, of course) on topics such as faith and theology. His books are widely available at Amazon and other major online retailers. His fantasy epic, “When Twins War” is the first in his “The Rise of the Kings” series and is now available wherever good books are sold.
Using Pictures for Inspiration
by Ryan Peter
It’s amazing how important a good book cover really is. And it amazes me how much a picture doesn’t just “say a thousand words” but can inspire infinitely more!
When I was a young boy I remember sitting in my grandparents’ house and dreaming over the many books in the bookshelves, looking at the pictures and getting this sense of Something. A Mystery speaking to me. The same sort of experience I believe C.S. Lewis refers to as ‘Joy’ in his biography “Surprised by Joy”. Or what another author, John Eldredge, calls “The Haunting.”
The sense of story and wonder. The excitement of ‘story’. Something about a picture that speaks to your deepest senses and gives you a sense of something bigger, something more grand, something wholly more awesome than yourself – and this feeling, this inkling, that somehow you’re a part of that something as well.
The feeling of a grand story, of which you play a part. The wonder of it all. Where you’re actually not even the hero, but you get to be around the hero, watching them take on dragons and space monsters of all kinds.
It’s this sense of awe and wonder, of mystery and possibility, that I have found to be the inspiration for all my writings – whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. I want to capture something about the depth of what I feel into words. It seems that there’s no better way to truly capture that thing, whatever it is, than to invoke it through the medium of story.
Many book covers and book illustrations have awakened that feeling in me, as well as some notable music albums as well. For example, JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has often had some notable covers that evoke that feeling. My favourite is pictured below. The ability for his writing to do that as well is part of what I think has made his story so successful.
Something about the covers on the Jack Aubrey seafaring novels from Patrick O’Brian do too. It’s like every picture in this series inspires you to imagine some grand, seafaring, swashbuckling, treasure-looting story – and interesting Long John Silver characters to go along with it. Although, the books are a far different animal altogether compared to Treasure Island!
Recently, a school invited me to speak to its students about making writing a career. For the matriculants, I highlighted some fantastic moments in journalism (showing a clip from the original interview between David Frost and Richard Nixon, where Nixon finally admits he felt he was above the law). For the younger kids, however, I went in with three different pictures – one of a space ship on fire; another of a tiny figure of a man with a sword facing a giant, menacing eagle; and another of the fiery, red-head female space commander from the popular video game series Mass Effect. I showed the kids each of the pictures and asked them to construct stories on the fly – to look at the pictures and just say whatever came to mind.
Boy, did they get going! Immediately they all started coming up with some of the most fantastic ideas! Some of the kids who were notably silent earlier also began to lose their inhibitions, adding to the conversation. The teacher was delighted to see her kids exercising their imagination in such a wonderful way and getting excited about writing their next creative writing test! They really loved the exercise, all showing clear disappointment when we had to end it due to time.
I realised then that it’s not only me who is an explorer at heart but that this is common to us all. The job of a storyteller is to take us back to those feelings of awe and mystery and excitement we all feel, even from when we’re small, and remind us all again that the world is indeed a dangerous, difficult place… but it is also a beautiful, wonderful place, where we can all answer that Haunting which comes to us at the most interesting times. And we all have our own story to live within it.
Thank you Ryan for your most cool and inspiring words!
About the book:
“The sun set and the cold night came, but Soi’labi still wailed and wept, lying on his face in the dust. His people could do nothing to help him, and could do nothing to stop the burning. They all watched in horror as the great covenant of over a thousand years between the Twin Cities had come to utter desolation.”
The covenant between the twin desert cities of Iza-Kiêrre and Ben-Kiêrre is broken and their war is feared to be a prophetic sign that the Moncoin has returned.
Tarkanyon the Outlander has been tasked to forge peace between the cities. But when he is embroiled in events that include the return of the Wealth; events that hint that he, himself, may have this ancient magic; his mission becomes filled with more questions and answers as nothing is truly as it seems.
When Twins War is a mix of classic Western fantasy with Arabian Nights adventure and a unique African edge
Find Ryan on Twitter: http://twitter.com/RyanPeterWrites, on his website at http://www.ryanpeterwrites.com or on Google+ where the coolest people hang out https://plus.google.com/u/0/101386033533331191985/