I know I haven’t made a post recently about book progress, and it’s because in terms of written words, it’s going painfully slowly. It’s like when someone comes to you with a question, and feels they have to explain the whole thing to you two different ways so that you know why they have this question, so you sit their nodding along because you know what they’re saying but not what they’re asking and wish they’d just spit it out but if you said that they’s get nervous and make more excuses. And then you’d just die there, standing on your feet, your skull nodding along like a gruesome bobblehead, no closer to answering their question.
I knew this would be the case when I sat down to write this book. It’s involving a lore I don’t know as well, and I refuse to use the readily available parts for my own end without understanding them in context. That way lies dishonesty, at best, and outrage, at worst. So, there’s been a lot of research, a lot of talking with people with specialties I don’t and will never possess. A lot of listening and recontextualizing. One large “back to the drawing board” moment that I am pleased to say didn’t set me as far back as I thought it might, and gave birth to a much more interesting, more coherent plotline.
In other words, a lot of yakkity-yak and very little clackety-clack. Which means that I’m still in the first third-ish of the story, in terms of word-count and progression.
But maybe you’d like to know about my research a little? I am sad to say I can’t tell you about the fascinating things I’ve learned this go-around yet because, well, I’m using them at present and you’ll just have to wait your turn. The overall method to my madness has been fairly consistent, however, and I think it helps me return characters that feel real and diverse without (I hope) too many stereotypes, and the use of mythologies that are both historical and yet completely of my own fabrication as well.
First, I pick a system I’d like to explore. Some I know more about than others, and try to sprinkle those throughout so that if I have to do major research, it’s not two or three books in a row (though this so far has always been a lie, and I will still spend at least 100 hours reading arcane texts). The reason for this is that I want to make sure I am honoring the culture that gave us these tales and not stepping too hard on anything “living.” I will draw from modern day events, but I don’t want to face off with things people steeped in a culture know to be true. I am only borrowing it, I should hand it back as I found it, you know?
Then I pick a monster that’s less common. Some of them are so built up that I find it hard to beat expectations for them. Vampires, for example, have a history. There are expected roles for them. Other authors play with these, of course, to varying degrees of success that somehow don’t correlate with their monetary viability but I digress. But some are a little less concrete in the public mind, and therefore are fun. I’ll go through lists of creatures, or re-read old tales until the thread of an idea spins into something. I keep the monster and research the shit out of it.
Usually the thread ties itself to a concept I really want to engage. These are popcorn reads, I know. I don’t want to be preachy, and it would ring false if I tried. But, for example, maybe I want to talk about the lie of women being cheerful around men they know see them as objects. Maybe I want to remind people how a culture that puts women on a pedestal does so by pile-driving men into the ground. Maybe I want to write about the beast of depression and the magic of affection. That’s what fairy tales are, after all; stories to explain the world, or give hope or warning. Sometimes they are fables, offering morality lessons. But always, they fictionalize a truth we’ve internalized, and so I continue this with mine.
I have an end goal for the series, and so the next step is picking a “Big Bad” that leads to the narrative I’m spinning. There is a progression to Summer and Lia’s path, and I have to show the highlights so that when their story “ends” you know the parts they look back on as pivotal.
With this, I create an outline and start writing. Any time I touch a cultural element, I research it. Any creature that gets added you can be sure I’ve spent dozens of hours considering, both as itself, and in the context of the world I’ve presented. Any myth followed I’ve read from as many sources and scholars as I can find. The point is not just to tell a fun story, but to tell one that resounds with the internalized truth of our rote stories. One that doesn’t re-imagine them, like The Lion King and Hamlet , but that polishes a new angle.
In conclusion, teacher, this is why I haven’t finished my assignment.