In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a girl named Lucy peruses a magician’s book of spells. She reads a particular spell “For the Refreshment of the Spirit.” It turns out to be a story, the best story that Lucy has ever read. I have read a few Lucy stories myself and am always looking for a few more.
For me, a Lucy story succeeds in its characters, content, and complexity, whether the genre is history, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, or society novels. Examples include: Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, The Chronicles of Narnia, Phantastes, Robot Series, Foundation Series, The Chronicles of Barset, Agatha Christie and P. G. Wodehouse mysteries, and the Crystal Cave.
The characters in these books are utterly engaging; I care what happens to them. They live interesting lives; they think and say interesting things. If I do not care about the characters in a novel, I usually do not finish the book. If the characters are boring, annoying, clichéd stereotypes, or dysfunctional without redemption, then they are definitely not in a Lucy story.
In a Lucy story, the content is complex and inspires reflective thinking. The language is fresh, and the vocabulary is varied; the text contains words and phrases worth remembering. However, excessive profanity takes it off the list.
A Lucy story also contains wit and humor; it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are many best selling books that are not on my list of Lucy stories because their characters are so grim. Everything they do is overcast with the same shade of grey, whether they are fighting a battle, hunting a rabbit, or combing their hair. I like a sense of fun in a book–that is an integral feature of a Lucy story.
To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, I respect anyone who writes a book, no matter what genre it is. Every day authors present their handiwork for the reading public to enjoy. I hope that there are a few Lucy stories among them that will refresh of my spirit.