Book Magic Series: Enchanted

enchanted_bookOkay, so it’s not really book magic, unless you count that first shot of the fairy tale book. But on my 97th viewing (or something) I made a connection to Narrator that I’d like to explore.

For those of you who haven’t seen Enchanted, the premise is that a stereotypical Disney girl gets dropped into the reality of New York City. And I mean stereotypical. Giselle sings, she’s friends to woodland creatures who help her clean, she falls in love with a prince at first sight.

But as Giselle spends more time in the real world, she starts to take on some of its qualities and values. The shift is most obvious when she sees her prince again. He sings — and she doesn’t join in. He wants to return home and get married — and she wants to go on a date.

Most of these values she gets from Robert, a cynical divorce(d) lawyer. He doesn’t sing or dance, he doesn’t believe in true love. He’s basically the complete opposite of Giselle.

enchanted_ball_sceneTake a look at Giselle and Robert from the end of the movie. Robert’s dancing. He even sings. But their outfits say it all: they’ve switched places. Giselle’s embraced the real world, Robert’s embraced the world where true love exists.

That’s pretty cool.

And what, I’m sure you’re asking, does any of this have to do with Narrator?

The premise of Narrator, if you remember, is that the Narrator hijacks a cliché fantasy story — with a world pretty similar to Giselle’s. Calder is a stereotypical fantasy prince, complete with dragon-fighting and damsel rescuing.

When the Narrator takes over, he creates a more realistic fantasy world (you know, closer to Game of Thrones than Snow White). And Calder has to adjust. It’s not as dramatic as Giselle’s transformation, granted, but I like the conflict.

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

Playing with Fire: Writing Realistically or Not?


It’s a good thing I love the push and pull between fantasy and reality — seriously, that theme’s in almost all of my stories — because I had to deal with that balance of opposing forces when I wrote my last teaser.

In the teaser (which will soon be available to those who sign up for my free email newsletter), my hero Calder runs into a burning building to save his friend. He goes up to the second story, finds his friend, and escapes with little more than a singed head of hair. There’s also cool special effects you’d find in any action movie.

Problem is, in a real fire, he’d have died instantly.

One of my betas is an EMT, so he told me what you could expect in a fire. The kiss of death? There’s an eight hundred degree difference between the floor and standing height. As he put it, Calder’s head would have caught on fire when he entered the building.

So as a writer, how do I balance the reality of a burning building with the dramatic expectations Hollywood has given my reader?

I’ve read exactly one book that has a similar situation. Not sure if that’s good or bad, it’s just what I’ve read. It was Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce. An arsonist is setting fires in town, and the main character and her teacher go in and rescue tons of people. How? They’re forge mages. Their magic inures them to heat and smoke. They can hold red-hot pieces of metal, magically blow smoke out of the way, and — to a small extent — control fire.

Pierce’s characters are perfect for entering burning buildings. I doubt she had this purpose in mind when designing their magic, since this book is part of a second series. But their powers allow her to keep the reality of a burning building and have people going in for the rescue.

I don’t have characters with those kinds of powers so I had to fudge a little. I decided that since the fire was started by magical means, it didn’t have to behave like a real fire. That way I sacrifice reality, but get to keep the rescue — which is more important to the purpose of the story than a realistic portrayal of a burning building.

So in this case, fantasy won out over reality. But the next case will be a whole different fight.

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

1984, Big Brother, and Narrator


With a member of my writing group submitting a novel based on 1984, I thought it was a good time to read the original. It’s been on my To Read list for years, but never a high priority.

I started reading, and was immediately struck by the similarities between 1984 and my novel-in-progress, The Narrator. There are clear parallels between Big Brother and my eponymous antagonist, and between Winston and my protagonist. Who knew?

It was inevitable, I suppose. 1984 explores a theme that crops up in most of my own work: the line between fantasy and reality.

If you’re not familiar with the book, Big Brother constantly alters records to bring them in line with the present. If they’re allied with one country against another, then that’s how it’s always been. If they make a prediction and it doesn’t come true, the predictions are altered to match what really happened. People can be “vanished,” or killed and erased from every record. With the past and present always under revision, Winston has trouble keeping everything straight.

Similarly, the narrator re-writes my protagonist’s history, and he has trouble recognizing which events go with which timeline. He has brothers in one timeline, but otherwise they’re similar enough that he can’t differentiate. Add the fact that the narrator told him he’s a fictional character, and you have a real mess. Which parts of his world are real, and which are the narrator’s creation?

Which life is his real life? Or does he not have a real life at all?

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.