Sunday, January 16, 2011

Aspects of Fantasy in Caribbean Children's Books - The Great Divide

Dancing Princesses collage by Shannon

The Great Divide

Without Disney many modern children would not know the classical fairy tales which so fired the imaginations of many of us who are now writers of children’s stories. Indeed, in my country, it is no longer easy to just walk into a book store and pick up a book of fairy tales. They have to be specially ordered.

Interestingly enough, there are increasingly modern variations of these stories, but of course the fantasy remains.

My questions for those who want to write fantasy for children in the Caribbean, in particular,are – what are your reference points? Do you know the heroes/villains of the fantasies children are now watching via video games/cable/television? In your writing can you make reference to these characters with which your readers would readily identify? Can you create the kinds of characters in keeping with the modern child’s expectations?

This comment was made on an earlier post on my blog by a reader:
“I'd like to know, do you think every author should strive to create new creatures, the classical, old ones like vampires, elves, dwarfs, wizards with sharp hats, fairies, etc. are too ordinary already?”

 It's not that they are ordinary, but perhaps passé unless you can give them new attributes and situations which can fire the imaginations of the now generations.(e.g Harry Potter; Disney's Frog and the Princess where the princess turns into a frog when they kiss.)

Many of the characters in the games the children play or the creatures they watch on cable have the same age-old characteristics – there are heroes and villains, (helped by techno 'magic') people in distress, rivalries and conquests, etc.where good fights evil  – win or lose – these never die, but they are in new forms and garments and have new kinds of powers suitable to this age of technology.

I think that this post came to mind because of the voices complaining that our (Caribbean) children's stories are overwhelmingly from the past  –  heavily folkloric or about a quaint rural past.

General advice if you are writing for children is to get to know the modern child. Don’t just depend on your childhood memories. Life is very different for many children, these days. If you have none of your own, get access to children through schools and  children’s organizations;  volunteer to read or assist in some form. Libraries can help you to determine what the children prefer to read. Search the web to see what games are popular. People your fantasy with new creatures; modernize the old ones.

A writer like Helen Williams in Delroy in the Marog Kingdom (Billy Elm) is, I think, on the right track.  My ‘don’t like fiction’ grandson enjoyed this book.

The joyful thing about fantasy is that there is no limitation on your imagination.

For example, as enchanting as some of our River Mumma stories are, perhaps she could do with an update. What if she had hair extensions or Rasta locks and a name change to Sista Tall Hair?  What could happen  when, intrigued by dance hall music, she wants to come on land to dance (sounds a bit familiar?) What other characters would you put in that story? Would she go online to a search engine to find out how to change to human form? Or how to dance with a fishtail? Or start her own dancehall sessions on the reef?

What if our Cinderella (new name) falls in love with the prince who is the son of King Dudus? The glass slipper might be a lost cell phone instead! –  "Call to be picked up at 12 o'clock", but her credit was stolen by the jealous sisters! ( The I-Twos!!)  The ball of course would be a dancehall session. What adventures would she have? And could she influence change in the 'kingdom'?

There are no new stories, just different ways to tell them!

Since I wrote this post, I now have a story on amazon - ebook about a Jamaican Mr King and His daughter

Check it there

Tek Mi! Noh Tek Mi!Caribbean folktales Link

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