Michelle Picard -- Gateways as Metaphor
After I finished my fourth manuscript, all set in very different story worlds, I stepped back and scratched my head noticing similarities. Authors all have them, those predispositions to touch upon certain themes or ideas in our writing. Although I’d written a contemporary fantasy romance, Ruling Eden, a traditional, as of yet unpublished darker fantasy, and a spicier post-apocalyptic story, each world featured a portal or gateway pivotal to that story. Protagonists had to make life-altering decisions to step through these gates to new existences.
Gateways are the perfect metaphor for possibilities of change, second chances, and rebirth. They represent a moment of risk, leaving someplace known and entering the unknown. Very scary. Equally as exciting. In other words, an ideal tool for a writer to thrust a character into new situations. So that’s what I did. In Ruling Eden I took my heroine, Rachel Rieh, an ordinary street tough woman from Boston, and forced her to step through that portal to her new existence, Eden, where she turns out to be the queen of seven supernatural races on earth and the most powerful magical being on the planet. Actually, all she had planned to do the night this fell into her lap was hunker down with a stick of chocolate chip cookie dough, but you know how it is with life’s little unexpected surprises (grin).
Here’s a quick excerpt of Rachel’s experience stepping through this portal later in my story as she’s traveling to the dragon realm:
“Walking through the portal mists was as strange as the first time. But now, the mists tried to embrace me, as if they were alive and attracted to the magic in my body. The potential of the universe echoed around me. Other things were out there. I felt it. But the unfamiliar power of the portals defied connection to the earth. I swear some other intelligence reached out and scanned me, seeking to identify the stranger in its midst. My stomach lurched at that awareness, and I exhaled in relief as we left the portal behind”
My character was already dissatisfied with her day to day. Lonely and feeling out of place. Leaving her predisposed to step through into Eden’s Court and her new life. But in the real world, change is mostly scary. Even situations with which we are unhappy are sometimes easier to accept than taking a risk on something new. But what happens if a person is confronted with a physical manifestation of other possibilities? If you woke up with a big old portal shimmering and swirling in front of you, would it be easier or harder to take the risk of change? A gateway is certainly more seductive than the run of the mill invisible, unquantifiable choice a person has to make to embrace change.
Alternately, gates are fortifications of defense or protection. Places we can lock ourselves behind to prevent incursion, whether into a geographic location or metaphorically into our most private selves. Opening them means risk of being invaded. There are a plethora of stories involving protecting the world from invasion by forces locked behind these gates, be it demons or any other BIG BAD EVIL. Heroes and heroines move heaven and earth to keep those gates from falling. They are defenders of the status quo, true, but can be just as noble as those characters who embark on a romantic quest by stepping through a gate. They are equally noble because they are defending all of the messy, imperfect but valuable life of their own known worlds.
Many of the paranormal, fantasy and science fiction novels I read are replete with one variety or another of portal or gate. And not just in a traditional sense. Pentagrams, time machines, pyramids, crossings down to underground or undersea civilizations, airports, wardrobes, space anomalies, and even books and paintings. So, here’s my bottom line question. What’s your favorite gate or portal in a work of fiction? Does it represent taking a risk or the defense of hearth and home to the protagonists of that story? Do you have a predisposition to stories with one type of gateway or another? Leave a comment about this and you’ll be entered to win an autographed copy of Ruling Eden. Unfortunately the contest is only open to those with mailing addresses in the Continental United States.
If you want to learn more about me, my heroine Rachel, the eerie portal she must cross, or my book, Ruling Eden, please visit my website at www.michellepicard.com. The link to purchase the book is on my site. And if you have a really cool picture of a gate or portal or whatever you consider a transition point, send it along to me at the contact address on my site. I love to collect these types of images and will start posting them on my blog at www.michellepicardsblog.wordpress.com.
Catslady–After I wrote the story my editor told me it had that time travel feel to it because of the portal, though I never intended it to be such. It’s amazing what people see in your work and it tickles me that there is another element I hadn’t considered.
Lexee–Let me know if you end up checking out my portals. What’s most fun is I set up the idea of them in the first book without even exploring all of their potential. Then, by the time I wrote the second book, I realized there’s was more to mine with them. By the time the series is over, who knows how I’ll use them.
Thanks for commenting, guys.
I haven’t really read any books where there are portals in them. This sounds really interesting though. I will definately be checking it out some more. I have read a few books where people teleport and I really liked those.
I just read a couple of time travels and enjoyed them very much. I like the idea of gateways – very suspensful too. I started out reading Stephen King and have always enjoyed a bit of the dark side!
It is exciting to think about walking through to another time and place. I wonder if sometimes it’s easier to think about a big dramatic change like moving onto another realm through a portal than to imagine smaller changes without such a symbolic break with ones regular life? Almost as if its easier being forced into confronting the NEW than figuring out how to pursue it yourself. Just rambling, but your comment made me wonder. I’m glad you think the book sounds wonderful and I hope you do get a chance to read it.
The first thing that comes to mind for me when I think of portals is Stargate. I have always enjoyed that show. The idea that you could just walk through to another time and place is very exciting. Don’t know that I would be brave enought to do it, but it is a very interesting subject. Your books sounds wonderful and I would love to read it.
Lindy–I’d be chicken too. But thankfully my character Rachel was not. I suppose it all depends on where you are in life (grin). I hope you decide to check out the book. Thanks for stopping by.
What a great premise. I’d probably be too chicken to step through the portal, but who knows? 😉
Lisa–I agree that a swirling portal hole probably works most easily in visual mediums like TV or movies. I think books tend to include less obvious examples of gates and portals. A lot of the time traveling romances might include these.
Sara–I’m glad you liked the description of Rachel’s experience walking through the portal. I have written a sequel, although no decision has been made yet about whether my publisher will put this second one on contract. I’m crossing my fingers, because the series story arc I have in mind will encompass four books. Rachel has a lot more adventure to experience. The portal plays an even greater role in the second book than the first, which brings up the idea of a gate or portal as a character itself (setting as character in an explicit way).
Hannah–Standing stones are a fantastic way to create a portal in a story. There’s so much mystery in their origins that the entire idea is intriguing from the get go. Thanks for commenting.
Fascinating. My favorite portals are the ones created by magic. The use of magic helps me in suspending any disbelief or doubt which would interrupt the story. Some place with standing stones is always a nice touch, too.
You have a keen sense of description. In the above passage, I felt as though I was walking in Rachel’s shoes. It was spot on.
Will the story of Eden continue?
I haven’t seen many books with portals in them, T.V. sci-fi series, but not books. I would like to believe that somewhere there are portal leading to fantastic places not eerie like Poltergeist. I would love to win your book!
Penelope–Why haven’t I read Stephen King’s The Langoliers? It’s now on my list. The premise sounds fantastic. And thanks for the good wishes.
Chris–Sounds like it’s time to open the gate (grin) to a new type of book for you. I hope you check out Ruling Eden.
Karin–I’d be surprised to find a sci-fi/fantasy author who hadn’t thrown in a gate or portal to one of their stories. The imagery works so well. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.
You touched on my favorite portal in fiction in your posting, the wardrobe, from the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
This is a cool topic. As I was pondering it, I was thinking how I use portals in most of my manuscripts as well, and in the end of my novel STARJACKED, my heroine faces a trip through a portal — a one way worm hole to a prison planet — if the hero, Rork doesn’t intervene.
This imagery is clearly very primal. Great post!
In print now!
An undercover agent, a beautiful space pirate, with the fate of t he galaxy at risk, love may not be enough…
I am mostly a home and hearth defence type reader. I really haven’t read any stories that had a portal or gate in them. Your story really sounds facinating and I would love a chance to win it!
Thanks so much!
Hi Michelle! Have you ever read Stephen King’s book The Langoliers? An airplane slips through a rip in the space-time continuum (a portal of sorts!), and the folks on board go back in time. It’s an awesome story. Good luck with Ruling Eden! 🙂