Saturday, 20 March 2010

"Half the World's Fairy Godmother"

It Was Her Fairy Godmother!, by Oliver Herford, in Childhood's Favorites and Fairy Stories, eds. Mabie, Hale, and Forbush (1919) - via Wikimedia Commons and Project Gutenberg - public domainYes, I've finished the current chapter of Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland, this being the first of the Wassail. This was hard, and it's surely going to come in for some really heavy revision before it can stand. But not, methinks, until I've cracked the next chapter - possibly the hardest of all, either the very Wassail itself or at least the development up to it.

Three weeks, this chapter took. This arc doesn't so much have issues as special omnibus collector's editions, but I am not bloody turning away from it for another year of composting! What have I discovered in the effort to push it through?

1) Amongst a community largely composed of refugees, one of the things a magical healer will have her hands full of is handling severe psychological trauma. This is... not exactly how my mediaevaloid characters conceptualize the Stalking Hell, but it's what they've got to deal with. It gave me an insight into two of my main characters I didn't have before.

2) There is room in a yarn for very few Council Scenes where everybody plays plot catch-up and works out what to do next. They belong at great turns of the tale (canonical examples: Tolkien in Lord of the Rings, with Council of Elrond setting forth the great gambit of the Fellowship, Last Debate launching the endgame). I'm naturally prone to commit these. I've got one already planned for this arc, and it's a dramatic crisis: I can't afford an infodumpy one a couple of chapters before it. Yet I've had to dispel several people's important illusions in quick succession, not least so the reader can follow what the blazes is happening. I think I've avoided Councilliness in this instance, but am still only tentatively committed to the way I did it.

3) I'm not as good at multi-pole conversations as I ought to be, and summarizing or minimizing them are exactly the wrong ideas in this context.

4) Ensemble casts are harder than I remembered. I need to go away and talk to the Family especially, and get a better handle on how their passions and agendas play into the rest of the plot.

5) Walking the rounds of Fairfields made it real enough to write this chapter. That isn't enough to come to the heart of it. Where is twenty years of history, and the investment of work and lives, and the common hopes and fears for the future? Not in the story, not all of it - but surely behind it, and propelling my protagonists and their new friends to the great Yes at the climax of the Wassail.

I feel like the guy who just tramped up the last weary rise of the hill, and saw three more pitches rising up before him at the top.

Tired, tired, tired - but a better view than I ever had before. Time to take out the Thermos flask, and sit on a flat stone for a cup of tea and a moist cheese-and-onion sandwich!

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