As the myth is told, mankind can thank the Greek titan Prometheus for the gift of fire. Prometheus apparently had a soft spot for humans and knew we needed fire to have any chance of rising above the fray. Zeus, ruler of Olympus and Lord of the Sky, didn’t share this fondness for men. And since he was not eager for us to have power over fire – or much of anything else really – it was left to Prometheus to perform an act of thevery unparellelled in the annuls of myth and mystery. As the story goes, he stole a fiery flame from the lightning that Zeus controlled, concealed it in a hollow stalk of fennel, and brought it to man. The rest is history.
Fire provides heat, light, and fuel. Fire nurtures the soil. Fire stimulates growth and regenerates our ecosystems. Okay, we all know this. But fire’s most important gift is driving the imagination to new and often dangerous heights. There is not a soul on earth who isn’t fascinated by the mystery of fire: the way it moves; the sounds it manufactures; the vibrant colors it produces; the danger it brings to mind.
The job of good fiction is much the same. If the imagination is not stimulated by the intrigue of the story, the depth of the characters, and the choice of setting, the writer is off to a bad start.
Fire is hypnotic. Fiction should be. The reader is ready and willing to fall under the author’s spell. It’s the author’s job to make sure it happens.
Fire has a menacing aspect to it. The best fiction produces a certain peril as well; the reader has to be introduced to a world where something compelling is in the air or what’s the point. Fire is seducing, and who doesn’t like to be seduced. Good fiction is also seductive. When the author finds the perfect balance between the conflict painted by the story and the jeopardy in which the characters find themselves, he or she is onto something special.
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