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Posts tagged ‘Great War’

Three Reasons We Like the Adventurer

Last week, I promised a little more about the value of the adventure as a narrative. Adventure is an ancient genre, a story-telling style that has existed since long before pen was put to paper, or chisel to stone. Why has this type of story persisted, even through the twentieth century when traditional tales were so strongly challenged? What does adventure offer the listener or reader?

  1. First, there’s the narrative cohesion of an adventure story. In general, adventures follow the pattern of this happened, and then this, and then this…Of course, the straight sequence is interrupted frequently with danger. Typically, the adventurer went on a journey – but, oh no! the sky fell down – then the dragon put the sky back, so it was ok, and the journey continued – but oh no! the dragon decided to eat the adventurer – then a magical bird flew at the dragon, so it was ok, and the journey continued – but oh no! a hunter’s arrow struck the magical bird – then the bird turned into a dragon and rescued the adventurer from the hunter, so it was ok, and the journey continued … And so on. There are many ancient examples, and plenty of modern ones. Think of Andy Weir’s The Martian, where Mark Watney regularly evades death with wit and sass, and a sprinkling of stretched science. We all love the adventure narrative, and recognise it from many of our culturally-loved stories, from Robin Hood to  Indiana Jones to James Bond to  Harry Potter and beyond (yes, notice that the adventurer is traditionally male). The examples are truly countless. We love a story that goes: first this, then that, then this, then that… I contend that one of the interesting and maybe difficult aspects of GRR Martin’s Game of Thrones series is that, even though he uses the adventure structure, he regularly subverts the adventurer story with random deaths. Otherwise Ned Stark would still be alive in Book 2.
  2. So, we ask, its structural predictability is the only reason adventure remains so popular? No. The second, and perhaps more fundamental reason, is that adventure stories affirm life. The hero continues to expose him (or her)self to risk, and in general, overcomes the great adversary – Death – by courage or wit or skill or magical/divine assistance. Philosopher Martha Nussbaum explained that, in classical Greek literature (think those enduring adventures, The Iliad and The Odyssey), the very fact that human life is fragile makes it beautiful and beloved of the gods, whose immortality seems coarse by comparison. This is a concept that recurs in some modern fantasy stories, for example the excellent Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, where mortals live in the timeless courts of faerie.
  3. The third reason that adventure (in its many incarnations across genres) remains popular is that such stories indicate that humans can do something: they can take action which brings about a real effect in the physical world. Such reassurance is welcome in dark times, when people may feel that they are helpless against larger forces. This has always been true. Classical adventure contended that action can stave off Death many times before the inevitable end. With the rise of the novel, not only death but all manner of enemies could be defeated time and time again – fires and floods, plagues and poverty, assassins, ghouls, organised crime, unjust political systems…

Arguably, the Great War marked a turning point in our reception of the adventurer as a hero in high literature. Demonstrably, courage was seen to have no power over death (this has always been the case, but somehow centuries of readers missed this in The Iliad and its like)More introspective, thoughtful stories appeared, where the struggle involved inner demons and existential or even nihilistic considerations.  Adventure stories, once the heart of classical culture, were consigned to popular fiction – genre fiction – rather than high literature. That fits with the notion that ‘science fiction’ and its brethren are ‘lowbrow’ and of lesser value than post-modern novels of introspection.

I disagree. I think all stories have their place, their function, their readers. There is no single right way. Adventure continues as a mainstay of storytelling, its traditional male hero now, thankfully, often reinvigorated with heroes of various genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, abilities, species, and intergalactic origins.

I love it.

 

Last Word: Julie Ryan

Julie Ryan writes Romance with a Twist. Her three Greek Island mysteries reveal the darker side of those seductive getaways, and her latest contemporary romance Finding Rose links back to Tudor days and also the time of my own special interest — the Great War. Enjoyable and enthralling are some of the words readers use to describe Julie’s novels. Finding Rose is very high on my TBR list. You can see all of Julie’s books on her website.

Welcome, Julie, it’s so nice to meet you. Tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer.

Julie: Good question! I remember reading somewhere that Stephen King said something along the lines of … ‘if you receive a cheque for your writing and it pays the electricity bill and doesn’t bounce then you can consider yourself a writer’. Funnily enough, because I self-published my first book, I didn’t think of myself as a writer even when it did well. After it came out in paperback and I could physically hold a copy of my book, it all became a bit more real. Now, with five books behind me I still have to remind myself sometimes that I am a writer!

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Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?

I start with a very rough plot and a couple of characters but by the end the finished product usually bears little resemblance to the original idea. I admire people who can plot out their book in every chapter but it’s not how I work. I quite like the idea that my book evolves as I write and I really have no idea how it’s going to end.

They do tend to develop a life of their own, don’t they! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

There are a couple of key moments that will always stand out for me. The first one was holding the print copy of my first book in my hands and realising that it now existed in another realm not just in my imagination. The second highlight was winning the Tim Poole Cup in 2018 with a poem I wrote.

What are you most looking forward to at the moment?

I’m currently writing a script for our local amateur dramatic society. It’s a totally new departure for me and if they like it, I’m hoping it will be performed next year. That would be really awesome!

That’s very exciting! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Sometimes the idea of wanting to create perfection can put people off writing. I would say just write and worry about editing it later. After all, you can’t edit a blank page.

And finally: Julie, who would you be if you were a fictional character?

I think I am already turning into Shirley Valentine. I saw that film five times when it first came out, as well as seeing the stage play. Not only did it provide inspiration for my first novel but I love the message of finding yourself. She’s also a really funny character but for me, any excuse to spend time in Greece is welcome.

How fabulous! Thank you so much for spending time with me on last Word of the Week.

 

Julie’s links:

Website: http://julieryanwriter.com

Author Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/julieryanauthor

Author Central Account: http://www.amazon.com/Julie-Ryan/e/B00F0VYX34/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/julieryan18

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jewilkinson1441

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/458168.Julie_Ryan

 

 

Julie’s Book links

Jenna’s Journey, the first in the Greek island trilogy is available here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennas-Journey-Island-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B01GGOCKLK

Sophia’s Secret is the second book

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sophias-Secret-Greek-Island-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00LFJGCWA

Pandora’s Prophecy concludes the trilogy

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pandoras-Prophecy-Greek-Island-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00V6CWVBW

Finding Rose Buy the book here