Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Legend Behind the Story

I had one of those "writing is haaaaard" days yesterday. Or maybe it's just that this particular idea entails special challenges. I realized that one of the reasons I've found myself struggling is that the story is undeveloped. Sometimes, I can wing it if the characters are developed and things just happen, but with this story, handwaving won't cut it. And so, to get any further with this, I had to create a legend. Part of the plot hinges on the main character having to find something mentioned in a legend, with only the legend itself to go on. And that means I need to know what the legend entails, in detail. I also need to make it feel like a real legend, like the kind of story that would be told around campfires or in songs. To that end, I spent the afternoon researching famous legends of that general region for bits and pieces I could borrow, and then I flipped through Hero with a Thousand Faces because the best way to make the legend seem like a real one is to make it follow the classic hero's journey.

Now comes the real fun: I think I need to figure out what really happened to create the basis for the legend and which parts of the legend have been added, amplified or modified as it's been passed on. And I think there will also be different versions, as there tend to be for this sort of thing. Then I'll need to figure out a way to weave the legend in without infodumping it as backstory. I may need to write a ballad.

All of this has to be figured out before I can take one step further into the plot.

On the up side, if I survive this book and it sells and becomes a hit, then there's the chance of doing some kind of illustrated special edition book of the legend, like that fairy tale book JK Rowling did based on the stories mentioned in the last Harry Potter book. And maybe I can team up with someone who plays an instrument you can sing with (the downside of playing the flute) and work out some music for the ballad and then sing it in filk circles at conventions as a promotional activity.

But first I have to figure all this out so I can actually write the book. My characters are getting impatient with being stuck in limbo, twiddling their thumbs, while I figure out what they need to do next. And this main character is not one I want to have annoyed with me.

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