Once Upon A Time: On Henry

Emma-Henry

I got the first season of OUAT on DVD for Xmas and have been doing a rewatch. Simultaneously, I’ve been plotting the second draft of my novel using the hero’s journey as a rough template, so I had the concept of the Guide archetype in my head while watching.

Assuming Emma Swan is the Hero of OUAT, the first Guide she encounters, at least in season one, is her son, Henry. He has the “Once Upon A Time” book, and he is constantly interpreting events and people for Emma (also, for Mary-Margaret/Snow White, and Graham/the Huntsman) in terms of the book so that she can see herself in the larger picture of what she is supposed to accomplish as the “savior.”

Spoilers through the end of season 1, with some unspoiled speculation

NaNoWriMo Day 23

New words: 1,670
Total words: 38,730
Goal: 50,000

38730 / 50000
(77.46%)

As my story fleshes itself out, I see myself taking an approach that I can only call the fantasy equivalent of “hard science fiction.” Hard science fiction attempts to bring scientific accuracy to the speculative elements of a story, either by basing them in actual contemporary scientific fact, or extrapolating from that fact to theoretical ideas that are likely to be confirmed in the near future based on what we know now.

The “fantasy equivalent” of this, for me, is to have the fantasy elements in my story–whether it is strange beings, their powers, or the “magic” humans do to interact with/effect these beings–be, not supernatural, but natural phenomena. I am only straying from the “hard” line by saying these fantastical elements are natural phenomenon that scientists at present just don’t have the theoretical concepts or observational techniques to deal with yet.

I sort of can’t help this naturalistic approach. Although I am perfectly comfortable with the supernatural in fiction, there is something I want to say with this story that makes taking this approach important to me.

But as a result, it is feeling a bit like I’ve sucked all the sense of wonder out of my novel. I did a Harry Potter marathon this past week since I got the final movie on DVD/Blu ray, and the thing that makes HP appeal to so many people, I think, is you can see and do so many fascinating things in his world, whether it is turning a loathed relative into a human balloon, or riding over a lake on the back of a half-bird, half-horse, or visiting someone else’s memories inside a sink full of mist. Magic is afoot in his world, and there is so much more to his world than an ordinary muggle ever suspects.

Similar case with Buffy, or the Dresden Files, or Star Trek, or anything like that. There is an element of each of these story worlds that is beyond escapist and actually transcendent, because, for a short time, these stories allow you feel as if you are touching something beyond the mundane. They do this by starting very much in the mundane, and taking you on a gradual journey to fantastical places where you can do and see these amazing things.

I have to figure out how to do that, to make my world more interesting, without turning it into a cartoon version of itself.

I don’t want to write “just another fantasy novel” with elves and magic and evil sorcerers and whatnot. I need to find a way to take my more “serious/rationalistic” approach and imbue it with a sense of magic.

Original fiction project – week of 03/20/2011

1829 words this week. And given that I had to work two 12-hour days at work (8 hours the other days), I am trying to figure out how I did that without collapsing. I remind myself I clocked nearly that many words on a daily basis during NaNo, but I’m still kinda impressed with myself. Especially since my story has been less inspiring to me of late.

But see, last weekend, I took some time to try to figure out why.

The problem, I think, is that my story has gotten very prosaic in tone, like it’s hardly a fantasy story anymore and more a scientific take on fantastical concepts, like you might see on Star Trek. So this week, I’ve been brainstorming ways to bring the “sense of magic” back into the story.

It was time well spent, because even though it felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything poking around the internet reminding myself of the stories I found “magical”, or researching legends and fantastical creatures I felt had nothing to do with what I was writing about, voila, a week later, almost 2,000 words.

A lot of that, of course, is me just giving myself writing exercises that may not ever become part of the story, but that forced me to “write outside the box” I’ve shoved my story into.

And it gave me an interesting insight that is relevant to my story.

Much of the “prosaic” feel of it, I think, comes from me being conflicted about what point I’m trying to make in the story, and this goes back to a conflict in me as a person. I am one of those people who wishes every day that magic were real and that I could live a life where magic things happened. But I never see any evidence of the supernatural out in the world, and that frustrates me. I am not the sort of person who takes things on faith; it is in my nature to believe only in what can be proved, and withhold judgement on what can’t.

But more than that, there’s another part of me that doesn’t actually believe in the supernatural at all, and I guess that is the closest I get to an article of faith. I think there are plenty of things out there that cannot be explained by science, but that doesn’t mean they never will be; it just means they have a natural explanation that’s beyond our present level of scientific knowledge.

So on the one hand, I want magic to be real, and on the other hand, there is a real sense in which I don’t believe any magic could be real. And that’s where my story gets muddled. I can’t write about the supernatural and not have this urge to make it just “the natural that’s beyond our present understanding.” And that takes the “magic” out of the magic in my story.

I have no problem enjoying the supernatural in somebody else’s fiction: Buffy, Dresden Files, Harry Potter. But in my own?

I need to figure out a way to encapsulate my own conflict into my main character’s conflict, because I think that’s what I’m struggling to say in this story.

Original fiction project – weeks of 12/19, 12/26/2010

Since last Saturday was a holiday and next Saturday is a holiday, this is going to suffice as my writing check-in for this couple of weeks.

Garbage in, garbage out: I’m as bound by culture, class, education, and personal experience as anyone is. And though I try not to forget that, sometimes I have to be smacked upside the head by what should be obvious.

I became aware during NaNo of an emerging theme in my story, something I wanted to write about that had me quite engaged. I was all excited about it until a few days later when I realized it was very much a Western liberal intellectual’s problem, one that a lot of other people probably couldn’t relate to, or wouldn’t find problematic at all. I had a main character inextricably locked up by scientific skepticism entering a world of the apparently supernatural.

That particular quandary is not by itself a bad problem to base a character on, but I had pretty much built up an entire plot/story mythology concept around it (the details of which I won’t go into here), and though the concept made sense for some of the Western World, A.D. 2010, it didn’t make much sense for a fair fraction of the Western World, and, you know, the rest of the globe, to whom it was supposed to apply equally.

Rather than scrap the whole thing, I’ve been working on refining my idea so it makes more sense as a global state of things. I’ve been reading extensively in world folklore, philosophy, science, and the borderlines where cutting-edge science becomes speculation.

I can get quite caught up in that, and forget I’m doing it to write a better story.

But I think it will be a better story in the end because of that.

Myth-taken

I’ve decided I need to read more mythology and folktales. You know, the classic stuff from various cultures. I can’t help feeling that that’s where my next novel’s going to come from. It will be fantasy, but not historical fantasy. It will take place in the contemporary world, but will be about opening your eyes to the fantastic that’s all around us–or, at least that’s all around in the world of my fictional characters. The best fantasy, I think, builds on the classics, the way Mutant Enemy built on classic horror tales of our own culture and other cultures to create the rich landscape of Buffy and Angel. But oh, I haven’t read mythology since I was in Jr. High. I was one of those Greek-Roman-Norse myths freaks at the time, and I even forayed into Native American mythology before “real life” stepped in and I got more interested in gay and lesbian romance novels.

Now I hardly read anymore at all, which is like, doom, if you want to be a writer.

So I need to read stuff. Mythology, folktales, contemporary, ancient, fantasy. Anybody got any good recommendations to re-start my education?

Gratuitous fandom post – Alias

I must warn you. Talking about Sydney Bristow turns me into an eight-year old. I have been watching the first two seasons of Alias on DVDs I rented from netflix. OK, and can I say this show *kicks ass*? Or, more to the point, Sydney kicks ass. She kicks high! She could kick you butt. Kapow! giggle

But despite all the hot babe butt-kicking, I don’t think I would have quite descended into fandom if it weren’t for the family element. Some personal stuff on the theme of family connections

When magic comes calling

“Life is a drag most of the time–birth, school, work, death…. I wish something magic would happen.” –Aiden, “Blood and Chocolate” by A.C. Klause

I’ll be honest. I’ve never been big on the concept of faith. Faith has always struck me as the kind of thing people want you to have when they’re trying to persuade you to do or believe something and they got nothing to back themselves up.

“Have faith.”
Not.

There’s another use of the word, as in “I’ve got faith in you”. This is usually something we say to people we know quite well. But in those cases, we’ve got lots of experience with that person to back up our trust in them, and let’s face it, we really mean “trust” in that situation, which is another concept altogether.

“I trust you.”
Well, of course you do. I’m trust-worthy.

“Faith” is that thing where we put trust in the validity of concepts we have no reason to put trust in, except perhaps we believe that the sources that tell us these concepts are real come from God or some other supernatural force we might trust, but then again… trust on what basis?

OK, so I’m not big on faith of things unseen. This doesn’t make me a hard-headed rationalist or Scully on X-Files demanding proof of everything and rejecting any so-called “proof” she can’t understand in purely physical terms. Far from it. I am Mulder. OK, a Mulder wanna-be. I want to believe.

I want the magical and the mystical and fantastic to exist. But not in legends and tabloid headlines and the word of those who claim to have experienced these things I have never seen. I want the fantastic to come knock on my door and sit down on my couch and talk to me.

I want a universe filled with magic. With wonder. With things beyond current science’s pale facts, and yet not in contradiction to a science that has wisdom.

So far, however, such things have only come to me in fictional forms. Books, movies, television. I eat all that stuff for breakfast and beg for more.

At least that’s what I say I want. What I long for.

“His world had changed. Now shadows would always take on threatening shapes.”

But what if magic did come knocking? Would I be ready for it? Would I run from it? Would I long for my normal little bland life to return? It’s a good question. I hope I wouldn’t. In the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow and Xander come face to face with the fantastic, and freak out for about a minute, then shrug their shoulders and dive right in.

Would I?