Monthly Archives: May 2011

A Writer Who Writes – A Shock For All!

Holy crap, I wrote a page of fiction today!  It’s kind of a big deal, as most of my recent blog posts have been lamenting my crapness at actually writing anything for months now.  And how can I call myself a writer if I don’t write?!

Though, honestly, I could call myself a magician and you, the gullible internet, would probably believe me.

But all that aside, I’m basking in the pitiful success that is that single page of prose.  A mere 868 words, but enough to regain my confidence in myself that yes, I can still write.

It’s a fabulous thing.

Now for the story itself.  This is the idea I had for the Kelpies prize back in however long ago – back when I actually thought it might be feasible to write 40,000 – 70,000 words and submit it as a finished novel within a month.  I thought, ‘Well I’ve done NaNoWriMo, how hard can it be?!’ – but alas, it was hard to even get started, life got in the way, and so the project was abandoned.

But I still loved my story idea!  And this morning I was suddenly determined to write a little vignette that could encapsulate what I wanted to do with my main character and the tone of the story.

And because I am perhaps bold, and perhaps foolish, I’ve decided to share that page of prose with the internet.

Be kind, internet.

*

It was raining, always raining, but Kayla was not the kind of child who minded a bit of damp getting in the way of her adventures. At ten years old she looked far older than her age, and acted it as well, a tall, broad-shouldered girl with strong, capable limbs, a slow smile and quick laughter. And her adventures were far more adventurous than those of other girls her age – which might have been why she usually went on them alone. So, all in all, Kayla was not an ordinary girl, not that ordinary is a terribly definable condition in the first place.

This particular adventure, however, began very ordinarily – if anything, that is, can be said to be so. As mentioned before, it was raining that day, but this was not unusual; days of blazing sunshine and bluer-than-blue skies were what was strange in this part of the world. Kayla was climbing the hill behind her house, as this was how all her adventures began. This was because in front of her house lay the rest of the town and the adventure of her adventures came from exploring the wild places away from the sense and order of civilisation. So up the hill she went, her back to the contemptible town, digging in the treads of her wellington boots to give her purchase on the rain-slick grass.

Kayla gained the top of the hill behind her house and looked around her, seeking the destination of her current adventure. There was a greater hill dominating the horizon, with squarish fields like a patchwork skirt flowing from it. Kayla picked a direction, and started to walk. First she passed a fenced-in pasture where several muddy horses were grazing. One came to the fence as she approached, and she stroked its velvety nose with guilty pleasure; the thing she wanted most of all was a horse of her own. With a darted glace at the farmhouse behind the pasture, she was pleased to see no one within had noticed her daring familiarity.

This led her thoughts into a well-imagined daydream: Kayla imagined she was walking alongside her own horse, a tall, cloud-white mare with a curving neck and shining hooves. She always changed its name, depending on her mood: sometimes Cloud, Mist, or Snow, or sometimes Spirit. Today she called it Ghost.

‘Ghost!’ she called in her mind’s voice, though she walked silently apart from the squelching of her boots in the mud. In her mind’s eye, Ghost sidled up beside her, whinnying her pleasure at being imagined into being. They walked together, and Kayla would lift a hand beside her, imagining it lay upon the warm, silken side of her beautiful, wild, imaginary companion. In these imaginings, she never rode the horse. It would have been too hard to walk and imagine riding astride, and she was too old by now, or so she thought, to be seen skipping around the way smaller children do when they pretend to be riding on a stick or a broom.

So she and Ghost walked, side by side, towards the greater hill. Soon they would draw near a patch of forest, which led to a stream-fed pond. In her imaginings Ghost wanted a drink, so they branched off towards the trees. In the density of the undergrowth Kayla needed to walk ahead, with Ghost trailing behind her, but she conjured the sensation of the mare’s head nuzzling the small of her back as she walked on. The girl and her Ghost came to the pool of water, and that’s where Kayla stopped short.

Ghost disappeared the instant Kayla forgot her.

Because there was something standing in the water, dripping with rain, and water-weeds knotted in its mane.

For a long minute Kayla froze where she stood, only aware of the constant drip-drip around her, the sounds of birds and the creature in the water. It was unmistakably equine. Unlike her imagined horse, this one was small, built more like a pony, and mud-black. It stood hock-high in the water and watched her as she watched it, a dark eye shining like a wet pebble. It wasn’t as pretty as her imagined Ghost, either, but its awkward proportions and short legs were a fair exchange for its reality. It moved in the water towards her, currents swirling around its legs, moving side-ways in a dressage step to present its back. With a toss of its mane, it entreated her to mount.

If this were another story, or if Kayla were another girl, it would have happened like this: The girl would have leapt upon the strange creature, where she would have found herself momentarily filled with the most uncontainable joy. But in the next moment, when the creature began to walk further and further back into the water, she would have found herself unable to move from its back, stuck to the adhesive skin of the beast. Joy would turn to fear, then horror, and soon she would be dragged under the surface and drowned. If this were that story, it would be a short one, and presently ended.

But this is not that story. And Kayla is not that girl.

*

I’m not sure if any of you are familiar with the mythology of the Kelpie (click the link and let Wikipedia enlighten you!) (and see my word-play with the name of the Kelpies Prize?  Clever, eh?  EH??) but I was intrigued by the idea when I was researching Scottish folk legends.  And I was thinking, ‘As a child, what stories did I love most of all?’ and the answer was always, ‘HORSE ONES!’ because I was that kind of child.

And thus I decided to have a children’s story which utilises dark fairy tales, and a main character who befriends a dangerous horse-like creature.  It seemed perfect to me.

So I’m hoping that this is only the beginning, and that my Writer’s Blah/Writer’s Block/General Apathy has been lifted, at least for the time being.  We all know it will come back.  It always does.

It’s just a matter of time…

The Power of Names: A Rambling Post

I told myself I was going to write today.  Actually, I told myself I was going to write on Wednesday since I had the day off.  In typical fashion, this has not happened.  Today I went as far as open a blank document, and have it sit next to me, accusing me with its blankness since about 9ish this morning.

This is going well, obviously.

However, even if I’m not writing I’m at least reading.  I just finished rereading the Earthsea Quartet by my hero Ursula Le Guin.  And then I moved on to C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew which took all of an hour-ish to read.
The combination of the two has done funny things to my head, but the most obvious side-effect was  that I went rushing to the Husband’s Bible and found this quote which I knew I remembered from a decade or more ago, back when I was a good little Jewish girl in Hebrew school:

So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. [Genesis 2.19]

From Earthsea I came away with the intense belief in the power of names, and from The Magician’s Nephew I was awash in Genesis allegory.  Little wonder I had to connect the two.

Naming has always been associated with power, with domination, and fantasy often likes to use that as the pretext for magic.  Man named the creatures; they did not name themselves. We name children, pets, each other.  But names are external, coming from sources outwith the name-bearer; the namer has that power, not the named.

It’s not hard to see why we’ve been obsessed with the power of names for centuries.

I often feel as though fantasy reaches back towards established mythology as authors seek to bring in familiar ideas into unfamiliar terrain.  To justify the fantastic as something solid, realistic if not real.  So there we find the biblical allegory, the use of creation myths and heroic sagas.  And the same way that scholars can keep writing new treatises on these centuries-old traditions, so can authors bring new life and new perspective.

But I’m still seeking that nonexistent Unique Idea, though I should know better.