The autumn is my favorite time of year. The cider-sweet smell of apples ripe in orchards. The crackle of dried leaves underfoot. Mist drifting like ghosts through stubbled hayfields. The contrast of gold aspens, red oaks and deep green spruce. The rows of bright orange pumpkins waiting to be turned into jack-o-lanterns. The spicy-sweet taste of pumpkin pie. My recently-released short story, The Red Pencil, was born in part, out of some of my best memories of the autumns of my childhood in Pennsylvania. It’s probably not coincidence that my debut novel, The Stolen Luck, as well as the first and the (upcoming) third novel of my Ravensblood series all begin in autumn.
All seasons bring change. The wheel of the year is ever-turning. Yet, for some reason, fall seems to contain the magic of life in flux more than summer, winter, or even spring. Perhaps it’s just the large chunk of my life spent in academia, where every fall began a new school year. Although somehow it feels more primal than that, and I don’t think I’m alone in my sentiment. For ancient Celts, Samhain was their New Year’s Eve, celebrated at the same time as the modern Halloween.
Anyway, the changing leaves always makes me reflect on change in general. And being a writer, this leads me to think of the importance of change in stories. Viewed on its most basic level, the importance of change in a story seems so obvious as to be almost not worth mentioning. Who wants to read a story where nothing happens? But I believe the need of readers for change goes deeper than that. It’s why the stories that stick with us most are the stories where the superficial plot changes (the grail is found, the ring is destroyed, the dragon is slain) are accompanied by deeper character arcs. The coward finds his courage. The mercenary finds a cause he truly believes in. The dark mage finds redemption. (Peasant boys in about a million folk tales. Han Solo in Star Wars. Raven in my own Ravensblood series, respectively. OK, the last one was a bit of a cheat.)
Of course, the more deeply personal the struggle, the more moving it is. But beyond that, I think readers want to believe in change. Because if we can believe that a character in a book can become better, wiser, stronger than she is, than maybe we, too, can become our better selves. And if the book is good enough, if the prose sings, if the right character and the right struggle finds the right reader at the right time, sometimes the book itself can change a life.
At least that’s what I dream about, sitting on a hill and watching the bright-colored leaves drift down.
About the author:
Shawna Reppert is an award-winning author of fantasy and steampunk who keeps her readers up all night and makes them miss work deadlines. Her fiction asks questions for which there are no easy answers while taking readers on a fine adventure that grips them heart and soul. You can find her work on Amazon and follow her blog on her website (www.Shawna-Reppert.com). You can friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, where she posts an amazing array of geekery. Shawna can also sometimes be found in medieval garb on a caparisoned horse, throwing javelins into innocent hay bales that never did anything to her.