Time for a new weekly writer’s roundup of my works-in-progress and those ready to read!
With a revised and polished second draft of my novelette A Contract in Azure and Indigo in hand, I shared it with a new reader. Having read the original version of the story, she gave some great feedback.. Particularly her critique of the opening which highlighted some weakness I thought might have been hiding there. I ended up reworking the whole structure of the first two pages as a result, and the commentary on those changes has been positive! Comparing the prior and current openers, I have to agree that the latter is better as well. It starts the piece with much stronger characterization and mystery, something that will draw readers in better than the sluggish start the original and first revision had.
I’m awaiting another beta read on Contract from the last of its original readers now. While waiting on that project, I got back to work on my contribution to the Moderator’s Writing Challenge: The Old Man of the Elder Trees.
It has blossomed into quite the short story! The characters became very fun to write as it went along. I was able to create some cool monsters, set-up some good surprises for the reader, and build a “race against time” pace that climaxes with a ton of action! Currently, I’m winding it down and writing the falling action… It looks like the piece will be on the longish-side, between eight and nine thousand words when done. :-)
The story evolved my villain idea into character that I think will be menacing, memorable and function with a classic air about them. Very classic. Here are the two characters that probably inspired them the most:
If you don’t know who these archetypical witches are, well… I feel bad that you missed out on them as a kid. ;-) But there’s still time to get acquainted if you click their pictures and watch the linked movie clips!
This was my first time working in-depth with a “villainous witch” archetype. Now, witches have had an image problem for thousands of years: The stereotype of the witch in European-descended cultures has been used to cast women of power as foes of patrilineal authority (and therefore “good”) for a long, long time. I personally don’t see witches as inherently evil. In my mind they are instead expressions of feminine magic, power and wisdom. The young enchantress, the healer, the wise old woman… all three are but a few of the masks The Witch wears in fiction. Witches can be kind, goofy or fun… or cruel, stern and malevolent in the broad palette I use painting them.
One could go on quite a bit about witch-imagery and symbolism, but to stay focused I’ll restate that the point of the Moderator’s Writing Challenge prompt was to take fairy-tale tropes and reverse them. Instead of going the easy route and just switching her from evil to good… because good witches are hardly uncommon in fantasy these days… I flipped the gender/sex of the character instead. However, I kept him quite wicked and worked to retain as many archetypically “evil witch” traits as possible.
That was a little easier to say than do… given that I was now crafting a male character out of a stereotype whose feminine aspect is a core attribute! ;-) However, I think it’s coming off well. He’s magical, menacing and non-conformist. A wicked old man kidnapping children and plotting dark evil along the lines of the witch in Hansel and Gretel. Alluding to something so horrid in his character helps the story capture the dark undertones and warnings found in so much of the Fairy-Tale lore that was its inspiration.
Among other things I switched around in this “Flipped Fairy Tale” were princesses and parents:
Yeah, no princesses. They’re decidedly on the opposite end of the social spectrum in this one. And have you ever noticed that in fairy tales the child protagonists frequently have their parents killed off? Particularly their mothers, a trope that persists to this day in much popular media? My flip of that trope isn’t just that the parents are simply alive, but that they ARE the protagonists… Facing something dark and horrible to save their children no mater what the cost.
Hopefully, after edits and polish, The Old Man of the Elder Trees will retain its folkloric feel… And I’ll be enjoying it as much then as I do right now. :-)
Alright, time for me to stop blogging and get back to writing some more fiction! Take care!