Not too long ago, a friend connected me with an author by the name of Steven R. Barron. Steven is a charismatic guy with a lot of imagination. Steven used the eBook Toolkit to output his book to the professional Amazon format he sells today. Please enjoy Steven’s story about how he become an author and learning to write.
When I was ten years old, I saw Star Wars for the first time, and it changed my whole perception of who I was. That may sound overly dramatic, but I believe it to be true. Before that, if I saw myself as anything, it was as an average 10-year-old boy growing up in a poor part of town, playing baseball, having rock wars and reading comic books. How movies, television shows, and comic books reached me, was an existential thought that had not filtered into my consciousness yet.
After I saw Star Wars, I became obsessed with, not only what it was, but where it came from. I devoured everything I could find about its creator, George Lucas, and how he created such a world; the design, the special effects, the music, but most importantly, the story. I was mesmerized by the idea that this world he created did not exist before he came along. The characters, the planets, the spaceships, the religion, all of it did not exist before him. And as it existed from the beginning, it seemed to have always existed.
Four things that stuck with me most, in researching Mr. Lucas’ inspiration were the Flash Gordon serials from the 1940s, the John Carter of Mars novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and also the work of Joseph Campbell. Granted, this last one was way over my ten-year-old head.
I read the Flash Gordon comic strips. I read all of the John Carter books and the Lord of the Rings. And then I read them again. What they all had in common was that they were very specific worlds that existed separate from each other, but seemingly universes apart. They each captured my attention for different reasons. All of them had engaging, familiar heroes who were out of their comfort zone: Flash Gordon was propelled into outer space and onto different planets as he tried to save the earth from total destruction; John Carter found himself on Mars (or Barsoom) where he fell in love and became engulfed in intertribal politics, ending up saving the red planet from losing its atmosphere; And, in the Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins agrees to leave his peaceful shire to destroy a magic ring that would ruin mankind.
As I found out later, these were all basic elements of Joseph Campbell ‘Hero’s Journey’, a twelve step breakdown of all myths throughout every culture and religion.
As I grew older, I found playwriting and filmmaking as my medium for creating. These elements always proved prominent in the theater pieces and films that I was drawn to. No matter what genre, time period or story, they all related back to my first viewing of Star Wars and the adventures of Flash Gordon, John Carter, and Frodo Baggins.
In all of these could be found, the hero leaving his homeland; the hero finding a mentor; the hero discovering a new world; the hero being given an elixir. These are the basics of storytelling. What Joseph Campbell so brilliantly did, and what George Lucas regurgitated so cleanly, was basic storytelling as a learning tool. From Native American culture to Greek and Roman myths, to biblical scriptures, to modern day movies and television shows, we are taught lessons through an engaging and adventurous story.
When I decided to elevate the hero from my 10-year-old imagination, Tyrian Fellhawk, to a more mature story, I dove back into Joseph Campbell’s work. After running Tyrian through the basic Three Act story arc that I had become accustomed to, I then re-read Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, which is a great distillation of Campbell’s theories, laid out specifically for writers. This became a more intricate way to outline. I started to create the world around him. Looking at Tyrian as a classical hero was extremely helpful in that he became my eyes. I could see this new world I was creating through him. I could feel things through him. And, in addition, the separate steps of the Hero’s Journey enabled me to further fill out his world.
The need for a mentor became his actual father’s exile. The mentor became Heir Gabriel Theobald, the good knight. The elixir became the dawning of his God-twin. And every step along the way – from his call to adventure, refusing the call, crossing the threshold – became natural steps in a classic story.
Even the title became deeper. What once was just the name of a well-worn highway, now became a new layer in the boy’s psyche. He traveled the Road of Fathers. And it helped me plant the roots for the next couple books in the series, as well as short stories to fill out his world.
I am a firm believer in the idea that we can retell the same stories over and over if we repaint them with different shades and textures. This is an exciting process, and I am ever hopeful as I launch my first book, The Road of Fathers. All of my years of reading, playwriting, and filmmaking come into play here.
So, at that moment as a ten-year-old boy, discovering the world that George Lucas had created, I understood that I had the ability to tell stories; that, in my life, I would be a storyteller. And that is one of the most important gifts a writer has, and also one of the deepest responsibilities. I am proud to hitch myself to that cart.
I am a storyteller.