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Writing the Worlds We Want to Read

Filling Our Own Literary Gaps, Not Hollywood's

The other day I was browsing through a bookstore I was visiting with my aunt and my dad. I don’t typically go to shop, because my to-read list is already longer than I care to admit, but just to jot down names of books to add to said list (to make it even longer…why do I do this to myself?). I browsed for two hours in multiple sections—poetry, fantasy, fiction, best sellers, recommended—and found dozens of titles that jumped out at me, but an equal amount of synopses in which I wasn’t at all interested. In the end, I added a total of one book to my list and left quite disappointed.

Why is it so hard to find something I want to read? Because media today seem to be full of rehashes of pre-existing titles being sold back to us at a higher price than what we paid for it the first time.

Movie theatres are full of sequels of movies that should have ended with one, or movies from 50 years ago remade with new actors, or live action remakes of movies we fell in love with as children (did we really need a CGI The Lion King?). TV is full of spin-offs about the main character’s children or siblings or best friend. And even if the movie or show happens to be new, it likely has the same Hollywood structure (boy meets girl, boy messes up and loses girl, boy does big dramatic gesture to get girl back) or is full of the same plotlines (best friend sleeps with the main character’s ex) as every other movie or show already out there.

The books I was seeing were no different. The best-sellers shelves were full of classics with new covers, the print version of a CGI remake. Every new book I picked up seemed to have the same storyline.

I refuse to believe that people are simply running out of good ideas; storytellers are too creative, passionate, and dedicated for that. So maybe it’s because the first question a North American publisher or film company would ask themselves is how much money this project would make instead of how good this story is. And a company can tell a project will make money if it already has: if it’s a remake, sequel, or recycled plotline.

Or it could just be me. Maybe now that I’ve grown up I’m starting to discover that mature, bona-fide adult stories are simply not as interesting to me as the ones from when I was a child. Those stories are so mystical, imaginative, out-of-the-box. Authors for children and young adults think: Why can’t my characters’ wishes come true? Why can’t there be whacky creatures that can turn invisible or have three eyes? What I was really hungering for in that trip to the bookstore was a child’s fantasy book written for adults.

I want fairies.

I want elves.

I want enchanted forests and spells. I want old libraries with even older librarians. I want adventure, magic, and suspense. I want authors to create a world so profoundly whimsical and toss me right into it, headfirst, because I can probably fly in there anyway. I want a world I will feel like I’m still living in even after I turn the last page. But where can I find that? In a child’s story.

I realized by the end of that reconnaissance trip that this story I so craved was exactly the one I am writing:

I’m beginning a collection of fantasy poems about a quaint, charming village in a magical forest, fit with mythical characters of all kinds. They’ll complain about their plain-old magical job as a potion maker. They’ll yearn for their plain-old elvish lover. The children will hunt down their plain-old swamp creature the way our children search for frogs. They will be just like plain-old human beings, except they aren’t: their lives, by pure definition, are fantastical.

Because that is precisely the world I want to read.

Some writers, like I, write the worlds we want to be in. We write the books we want to read. We write to fill the literary gap within ourselves, rather than the gap within the Hollywood structure. But sometimes, those stories are just not what the rest of the world wants to read.

And if I’m being completely honest, sometimes I couldn’t care less about what the rest of the world wants to read. And I encourage you to feel the same way, because that is from where uniqueness and imagination derive. I will read whatever world you want to be in, whatever you’re writing to fill that literary gap within yourself. And even if I wasn’t, write it anyway.

You know, maybe I should cut those companies some slack. Maybe with all these sequels and remakes, they are also trying to dive into stories that were interesting to them when they were children, too. Believe me, I understand that—I’m so desperate for a childlike story that next on my to-read list is a series of fantasy books targeted toward children a full 10-14 years younger than me. And I can’t wait.

Edward Eager's Tales of Magic series, next on my to-read list

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