Sometimes I feel like if I could only delve into magical elements, I could write a bestseller so easily!

I think having religious restrictions can make it much harder to write an engaging story!

Alice Kane is considered one of the grand dames of storytelling. She came from Ireland I think, which has an epic storytelling tradition, and she was of the opinion that a storyteller should really only sit completely still and let the voice tell the story.

Funny how she could captivate an audience in such a manner!

When I was judging Iran, I met another storyteller who used a similar technique. She was a tiny little creature, very petite, very pretty, named Anna Sophia (can’t remember her last night) and was from Portugal. She had a drama background, she was actually an actress, but when she did storytelling she deliberately prevented herself from moving. She sat quietly on a chair in the middle of the stage and told such a powerful story about a community and their elders that it blew the entire audience away!

And mind you, most of the audience didn’t speak English! They spoke Farsi, and yet such was the power of her storytelling that they could feel the passion of her words, even without the translation!

Alice Kane was apparently that good too. She wrote a book about storytelling that some in the Canadian storytelling community almost considered to be a bible of sorts.

There’s a poem in there that she included (not sure if she wrote it) that I often quote in storytelling workshops I have run:

The dreamer awakes

The shadow goes by

When I tell you a tale

The tale is a lie

But ponder it well

Fair maiden, good youth

The tale is a lie

What it tells is the truth.


Love that poem!

But anyway, later on in her book The Dreamer Awakes she says something interesting about folktales. She said that folktales have their roots in paganism. That they’re actually a bit on the subversive side towards religious thought and society.

Being a practicing Muslim that sure didn’t sit well with me.

But I definitely understand where she’s coming from. Some of the most ‘satisfying’ stories have elements of paganism in there. And it behooves me to be careful regarding my faith, when I’m navigating that terrain, and navigate it I must if I want to be proficient at writing.

The stories I choose to tell to audiences are always based on true tales, or personal stories.

And the stories I write are definitely firmly anchored in the real world. The truth of what she said is in fact one of the reasons that I abandoned fantasy.

There was too much shirk in it. Shirk is the Islamic concept of ascribing partners to God.

Oh how I used to love fantasy! It began with The Lord of the Rings but then I just got to reading all kinds of really bad stuff that I got turned off all the glowing orbs and levitating stones and nonsense. I think the kicker was A Wrinkle in Time which I rather enjoyed until it got to the fact that the villain was a brain in a jar for Pete’s sake!!! Ugh!


Pan’s Labyrinth… ah…what a masterpiece!

It’s worth studying it just to admire the way Guillerm del Toro put together this amazing story!

As a storyteller it has all the aspects of high storytelling at its finest! As an author I just couldn’t believe how beautifully he wove the disparate strands of the story from the Spanish civil war backdrop, to the fairytale with Ofelia and its Greco-Roman/Pagan flavors.

It really is exquisite! Much better than most of what Hollywood produces!

I can’t do that with the realistic fiction I write.

And yet when I looked at it years and years ago, I decided that realistic fiction can be every bit as compelling as the strongest fantasy because ultimately the power of a story doesn’t rely on how elaborate the ‘magic’ conceit that you infuse your story with is. The strength of a story always relies on your characters!

And the problem with too much fiction today is that most of the characters are stale!

They are interchangeable.

Insert spunky heroine or self-doubting hero. Blech!

In Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro creates a very interesting character in Ofelia indeed! At once archetypal and familiar and yet also fresh and new! And I love that the characters aren’t Hollywood good-looking. The Mercedes character is even quite plain looking, but her acting abilities…ooh!

Oh it’s a gem!

Even if part of me cringes at all the Pagan references!

And the fact that it’s in Spanish with English subtitles…wow! I think the Spanish is absolutely crucial to conveying the mood of the story.