As a kid, I loved fantasy stories. My budding imagination teemed with dragons, hobbits, wizards, weapons and those octopus-monsters from The Legend of Zelda that spit rocks. It was only natural, I suppose, for me to build a fantasy of my own.
The hero of this fantasy was an orphan (of course) with a tragic past (naturally) who overcame adversity to become a mighty swordsman, wizard and defender of the innocent. My fantasy hero was—like all true heroes—named after a character in a video game. Inspired by Link from the Legend of Zelda games, named for a challenger from the Pokémon games, my hero was Lance: a green-clad warrior for whom no quest, challenge or cup of tea was too big.
For a childish fantasy, Lance was ahead of his time. He fit the pattern of the wanderer-hero in almost every detail more than a decade before I recognized the archetype in fiction. Years before I knew anything about Doctor Who, Lance traveled through time and space with a box that was bigger on the inside. (However, unlike the Doctor, Lance didn’t travel in his box. Lance kept stuff in it.)
I didn’t feel the slightest qualm as a child about plagiarizing other stories. Lance used magic to travel anywhere, which included Middle-earth from The Lord of the Rings, Hyrule from the Legend of Zelda games, Hogwarts from Harry Potter and a few more copyrighted realms from books, films and games. (How fortunate that imagination is beyond the reach of lawsuits.) Lance rubbed shoulders, bumped elbows and occasionally sparred with many famous fantasy heroes.
After two years of vivid adventures, Lance slipped quietly into retirement when I entered my early teens. It was coincidence that the protagonist of the story I began writing a couple of years later—which grew into my novel, The Trials of Lance Eliot—had the same name as the hero of my childhood fantasy. Lance Eliot was given his name because the plot demanded it, as readers of the novel know.
I think the coincidence is rather funny. Lance the all-powerful hero and Lance Eliot the wry college student could hardly be more different. I suppose they have at least one thing in common… they like tea.
My imagination is less exuberant and more wary than it used to be. When I read, write or see a story, I find myself looking for inconsistencies, holes and weaknesses. Things have to make sense now that I’ve grown up.
All the same, I hope I never lose that spark of imagination. Making up stuff is fun.