The Death of Words

Here’s another short and hopefully sweet post. The finale of my C. S. Lewis Essays series entitled, The Death of Words.

“The vocabulary of flattery and insult are continually enlarged at the expense of the vocabulary of definition.” Unfortunately this is the case, what used to be a name of a class of person’s in a society (ex. villain) are now used as insults.

“But it will really be a great nuisance if the word Christian becomes simply a synonym with good.” This would be truly sad. Other religions have their codes of ethics, but Christianity is special; we have a relationship with the Savior of the world. That’s a truly awesome fact. (Awesome is another word that has lost its meaning, but I think it fits here)

Another C. S. Lewis quote, “Men do not long continue to think what they have forgotten how to say.”

(All excerpts taken from On Stories And Other Essays On Literature; Harcourt Brace & Company; copyright 1982, 1966 by C. S. Lewis PTE Ltd)

Thanks so much for reading the finale of this C. S. Lewis essays series. If you enjoyed this series and would like similar things in the future, please comment below. Adieu, keep on writing for His glory!

It All Began With a Picture

This is a very short post, as this was an extremely short essay. But if you’re a fan of the Narnia books, this post may be interesting to you.

At the beginning of the essay, Lewis talks about how difficult it is for an author to tell you how he wrote a book. “It is because a man writing a story is too excited about the story itself to sit back and notice how he is doing it.”

I’m not sure if this is the case with me, but there is an amazing evolution that happens within conception of the idea and even the completion of the first draft.

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For Lewis, the first idea for a story came in the form of a picture. In the case of the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, it was “a picture of a faun carrying umbrellas and parcels in a snowy wood.” This picture had been with him for twenty-four years before he tried to create the book.

While Lewis was trying to figure out the story, “Aslan bounded into it.” The only explanation that Lewis gave for coming up with him was that he, “Had been having a good many dreams about lions at that time.”

(All excerpts taken from On Stories And Other Essays On Literature; Harcourt Brace & Company; copyright 1982, 1966 by C. S. Lewis PTE Ltd)

I hope you enjoyed this small little tidbit. Have a great day and keep on writing for His glory!

Three Techniques for Writing for Children

Welcome to the second installment of C. S. Lewis’ essays and today is Three Techniques for Writing for Children.

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Three Ways of Writing for Children

  1. Writing what children like to read, but not what the author likes.
  2. A story told to a particular child with the living voice.
  3. “Writing a children’s story because a children’s story is the best art form for something you have to say…”

The third option is how Lewis wrote his Narnia series.

In addition, the stories we write need to be enjoyable to not just children, but adults as well. Think about Narnia, his original audience was children, yet I’m not sure if you could classify them as “childish” books. They are simply stories of adventure in a another realm, something readers of any age can enjoy.

When Lewis wrote his essay, fantasy books were being relegated to children by critics, something that he certainly didn’t agree with.

Arguments Against Fantasy Because of the Fear They Could Bring to the Child

  1. The possibility of phobias

Lewis agreed that we should not give children phobias, or an uncontrollable fear of objects. But if critics meant #2, Lewis disagreed.

2. The knowledge that we live in an evil world.

If readers read books which never have good and evil, heroes and villains, aren’t we giving them an unrealistic view of what our world is like?

“Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”

I heartily agree with Lewis when he says, “Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let the villains be soundly killed at the end of the book.”

Should Books Have Morals?

Lewis says that instead of asking what do modern children need?” We should ask, “What moral do I need?”

In addition we should let the moral grow from the story and not tacked on just to make it a Christian book.

If we just tack one on it, “Is likely to be platitude, or even a falsehood, skimmed from the surface of your consciousness. It is impertinent to offer children that. For we have been told on high authority that in the moral sphere they are probably at least as wise as we.”

“The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author’s mind.”

I’m not sure if I completely agree with Lewis, because I want my books to contain truths that can impact lives. But, in addition, a moral tacked on just for the sake of having one, without it being an integral part of the story, isn’t good either.

The Child as a Reader

“The child as a reader is neither to be patronized nor idolised: we must talk to him as man to man. But the worst attitude of all would be the professional attitude which regards children in the lump as a sort of raw material which we have to handle. We must of course try to do them no harm: we may, under the Omnipotence, sometimes dare to hope that we may do them good. But only such good as involves treating them with respect.”

We have a responsibility to our readers, not to write down to them. Instead, we should just give them a story that speaks to our souls.

(All excerpts taken from On Stories And Other Essays On Literature; Harcourt Brace & Company; copyright 1982, 1966 by C. S. Lewis PTE Ltd)

Thank you for reading. I hope these few points have been enlightening. Essay #3 will be coming out next week. If you want to read the essay search for, On Stories And Other Essays On Literature. Our library has a program where they can order books from other libraries across the state. That’s how I got my hands on my copy, so there’s my helpful hint today. 😉

 

 

On Stories

First, a small biography, C. S. Lewis was born in Ireland, in 1898. Throughout his life he wrote a variety of books and essays. The Chronicles of Narnia, which are the only books of his I’ve read. Science fiction as well as several books on Christianity. In addition to these, Lewis wrote some essays including this one, entitled On Stories.

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Why do Readers Read?

In this essay, Lewis talks about the enjoyment the common man receives out of what he calls “romances”, or basically, fictional stories.

Instead of excitement being the primary factor of enjoyment, Lewis believed there was something else, deeper. The awakening of imagination.

Lewis didn’t want film to replace written fiction, because books allow, “The untrained its only access to the imaginative world”.

We need to write, “Story that can mediate imaginative life to the masses ….”

Imagination is powerful. I would often take characters from books or movies and expand on their adventures myself. Who knows, maybe this helped my writerly creativity. 😉

Without imagination, our lives would be much more boring and we writers have the responsibility and honor of nurturing this in our readers.

 

What is the Purpose of the Plot?

For Lewis, theme could be, “A state or quality ….” He said that theme is like a bird that the net of plot tries to catch.

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“Different kind of dangers strike different chords in the imagination.” In The Return of the King, when Shelob appears, that fear is near to disgust. Contrast this with the fear of a mariner caught in a gale, whose fear might be, at least at first, akin to awe.

“A function of art is to present what the narrow and desperately practical perspectives of real life excludes.” So books allows us to see truths, or feelings, that normally are overshadowed by fear.

A recurring message in this and other essays can be summed up in this statement, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty—except, of course, books of information.”

Good books should be enjoyable for all ages.

(All excerpts taken from On Stories And Other Essays On Literature; Harcourt Brace & Company; copyright 1982, 1966 by C. S. Lewis PTE Ltd)

I hope that these points have been helpful to you. This is the first essay in a series of essays by C. S. Lewis, please subscribe if you want to read more. Or, if you have any questions or insights, please comment below.