Tag Archives: Fairy Tales

Retired Leprechaun and Curious Observer: Jupp Quegley Treatise

I’ve been getting down to a wee bit of writing as of late. Sadly, the actual novel is not moving, but the backstory and framework for Four and Twenty Blackbirds is coming on apace.

character biography: Jupp quegley

Jupp QuegleyOne of the ways I’m putting the backstory together is by writing character biographies. In the case of Jupp Quegley, who is a minor (but important) character and a sometimes scribbler himself, I am writing his treatise. This exercise has been really helpful in getting me to focus on the parameters on my world and how it operates.

The artwork on the right is from The Alchemist by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a renaissance grotesque painter. His work is very dark, and I find it both inspiring and applicable to 4and20BB. I see Jupp in this picture.

By way of a very brief taster, the opening few lines of Jupp’s journal is as follows (depending on how much I reveal about the plot points in 4&20BB, there may be more of Jupp’s treatise to come):

From the Early Treatise of Jupp Quegley (age – old enough to know better, young enough not to care), curious observer, and retired Leprechaun. By way of a record for all who would stop long enough to listen.

Magic. It’s everywhere now. It used to be only ever wielded by the Fae, as the humanfolk call us, and the rare pursuit of those few who were wealthy enough or ruthless enough to pay the cost of entry. But where does magic really come from? Any street rat would tell you that it’s from dust. Fairy shite, they call it, HA! Ignorant urchins, who probably have never been more than half a mile from where they were spawned, let alone ventured beyond the borders of the city. And yet, they still know of dust, harvested from the thorn tree orchards that extend beyond the Tanglewood. There, at dusk, the hundred thousand fairies ducking between the trees create dancing constellations across the evening’s landscape. It is a sight that will never cease to stir my soul.

Not So Fairy Tale Romances

Stupid cupid“Happy Hallmark Day!” My dry humoured BF greeted me this morning. “And next month on 14 March we can celebrate [the much lauded] Steak and BJ Day.” Colour me romanced.

Fairytale Romance?

With the commonly covered folklore-ish topics in this blog, I find myself wondering when the term “Fairytale Romance” first originated. The term really does seem like a misnomer. The first fairytale-esk romances that pop into my head:

  • Little Mermaid becomes human for the man she loves, but he doesn’t return her feelings so she turns into foam [dies] – romance failed 
  • Snow White and Sleeping Beauty both appeared as if dead, and get kissed by necropheliac princes.  In fact,  in one of the earlier Sleeping Beauty stories, the prince sleeps with [rapes] Sleeping Beauty, and through Sleeping Beauty’s resultant children she awakens – romance failed
  • the so-called Frog Princess hated the frog and threw him against a wall breaking the spell, returning him to a prince. The [masochistic] prince then asks the petulant girl to marry him (no kissing the frog in the original story) – romance failed

There are some tales that have some of the ingredients of a great love story, but would you really want to be taken captive by a hideous beast and who asked you to marry him every day from the first day you meet (Stockholm syndrome anyone?), or want a prince charming who only wanted you for your great dress sense, and wouldn’t recognise you without it (Cinderella). None of this really fits the picture of the so-called fairytale romance.

*Late addition 15.Feb.13* Also, on Beauty and the Beast, it’s occurred to me that Belle (aka Beauty) only accepts the Beast’s marriage proposal after he turns into a prince (before that she only loves him as a friend) Now, as the prince, would you really want a woman who could only accept you for your looks?

Anti-Valentine Reads

In any case, on this very fine [alleged] day of love, We Love this Book has come up with 5 anti-Valentines reads. Their list is a little morose, so I’ve compiled my own (adding these to my expansive reading list, re-reading the bunny suicides is never a chore…):

Sophus’ 5 Anti-Valentine Reads:

  1.  American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis: an exploration of the incomprehensible depths of madness and the physical and sexual violence in our time or any other.
  2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (and *ahem* Jane Austen): It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. Nom Nom Nom.
  3. Wedlock by Wendy Moore: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match – a tale of divorce, violence, madness and scandal (see also How to Create the Perfect Wife)
  4. The Book of Bunny Suicides by Andy Riley: This is dark humour at its best – does what it says on the tin.
  5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy:  a post-apocolyptic tale of a journey across a landscape blasted by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed most of civilization and, in the intervening years, almost all life on Earth. Cheery.

Any other suggestions?

There’s No Such Thing as an Original Story

It’s often quoted that there are only 7 stories in the world that all basic plotlines can fall into:

  1. Overcoming the Monster: Hero learns of a great evil threatening the land, and sets out to destroy it.
  2. Tragedy: The flip side of the Overcoming the Monster plot. Ourhero protagonist character is the Villain, but we get to watch him slowly spiral down into darkness before he’s finally defeated, freeing the land from his evil influence.
  3. Rebirth: As with the Tragedy plot, but our protagonist manages to realize his error before it’s too late, and does a Heel Face Turn to avoid inevitable defeat.
  4. Rags to Riches: surrounded by dark forces who suppress and ridicule him, the Hero slowly blossoms into a mature figure who ultimately gets riches, a kingdom, and the perfect mate.
  5. The Quest: Hero learns of a great MacGuffin that he desperately wants to find, and sets out to find it, often with companions.
  6. Voyage and Return: Hero heads off into a magic land with crazy rules, ultimately triumphs over the madness and returns home far more mature than when he set out.
  7. Comedy: Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so; the story conspires to make the dark force repent, and suddenly the Hero and Heroine are free to get together. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and allows two or more other relationships to correctly form.

with this rather limited range, it’s unsurprising to find that ideas are often repeated.  This is something that I’m struggling with at the moment. Whenever I think of a cunning new angle to take on fairy tales for my story Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a cursory amount of research informs me that someone has come up with that story arc already (Thanks Wikipedia).

It’s highly frustrating. But I think I’m just going to have to accept that not all of my ideas are “original”, and go with my best ideas even if some of them are already out there. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I can only hope that the angle I take on various folklore will be the best constructed.

Writing 1,000 Words a Week?

One of my belated-resolutions was is to write 1,000 words a week for my book Four and Twenty Blackbirds. As my belated-resolutions began on 1st February, and I’m counting a “week” as a calendar week starting on a Monday (playing it fast and loose, I know)… that means I have until the end of tomorrow to write my week’s quota.

writer’s block

As much discussed in i.am.sophus., I’ve been suffering from writer’s block for a time now. I started this blog to address this, I’ve also attended a drop-in session at an Anne Aylor writing class. Both of these things have helped in revving my mind up. I’ve picked up a pen for the first time in an age and have started working on my novel again: the background, the characters, the world in which it is based. No actual word count increase yet, but I’m moving in the right direction. In writing this blog, I’ve reminded myself of my novel writing rituals, which is helping me get back in the groove. I’ve even gone out and bought a scrub stick because I associate the scent with sitting down and writing.  I’ve included a photo of my sage-burning and character background planning, below.

Char Dev

It’s an outline of the Twelve Families Harbottle – the 12 families that make up the Harbottle tribe of brownies. A brownie is the point of view of a little less than a third of my narrative, so a comprehensive background is really important. By brownies, I do mean the small elf-type individuals (and the fairy tale/ folklore type of elfs that live under toadstools, not the elves from the Lord of the Rings/ Forgotten Realms vein).

slash and burn editing

Writing from a brownie POV for an adult novel is challenging, and my aim is to make the brownies very dark. I’ve written about fifteen thousand words or so thus far, and very sadly, it’s too light and fluffy. I do really like what’s I’ve written. However, having restarted my writing brain and dedicated some proper time thinking about 4&20 (I think that the sage burning helped too), I’ve come to face the fact that it’s going to have to go. I’m going to have to start again. It feels like I’m severing a limb. But better to do it now than later on. Still, it is very dispiriting.

I will be counting my rewrite as going towards my 1,000 word a week count. Not to do so would be far too depressing. I will keep planning this evo, and get cracking on the rewrite early on tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Dark and Brooding Cover Art: Shaun Tan

Outer SurburbiaThey say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but we all know that that’s codswallop. We all do it. The cover can set the tone for the entire book. It can widen an audience, appealing to those who would never otherwise pick it up.

Judging a Book

I feel like I’ve been mentioning 50 Shades of Grey far too much of late, but it is a classic example. On the face of it, with the loosened tie flung casually against the limited blue colour pallette (see picture below, far left), the unsuspecting observer would assume that it was crime-fiction. Judging a book by its cover is the reason that the Harry Potter series begun churning out a simultaneous “Adult” edition and a “Children’s” edition – to appeal to both markets (see picture below, far right). One of my personal favourite set of covers is the original Terry Pratchett covers by Josh Kirby, what a dude (see picture below, second from left). I also recently mentioned a fantastic example of amusing cover art for Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland -worth a peek.

Quality covers

My cover artist of choice: shaun tan

As always, my cart is way before my horse, but if I could get anyone at all to create the cover for my progressing novel (or perhaps series of novels), it would be Shaun Tan. Shaun Tan is an awesome Australian illustrator who has won countless awards. He has an amazing dark imagination which always has a touch of humour. I am a huge fan, and am a proud owner of Tales from Outer Surburbia and The Arrival. His illustrations have a real folklore-ish and fairy tale-like quality which I think would match well with my story in Four and Twenty Blackbirds. There is also a touch of steampunk in his work, which is a genre that I really enjoy. I hope my words could live up to his artwork. Ah, to dream.

*The illustration above is from Shaun Tan’s Tales from Outer Surburbia

Realism in Writing Goals

Reality Check aheadOK, I have an admission. Although I did enroll in Coursera’s Science Fiction and Fantasy course with the University of Michigan. I’m realising that it’s one commitment too far, there are simply not enough hours in the day for me to do this, my blog, my novel and all the other extra-cirricular activities that I am involved in. It’s one thing too many, lest all the balls that I am juggling come tumbling down.

The reading list is great (and I think it I will follow it), the course materials are great, but enrolling late and trying to launch myself into it was a little optimistic. I think that I will definitely enroll into another course where I have prepared myself  timetable-wise. In fact, Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative, a Coursera course with Vanderbilt University which starts in the summer looks particularly entertaining (one of the classes is held in the LOTR MMORPG), but I digress…

Progress with writing 4&20

As far as crafting long-form fiction goes, I am a slow writer. I spend hours agonising over every word and phrase. Constantly fact-checking and looking for better suited synonyms to make my writing just so. Although I would say that overall my standard of writing is fairly good, there isn’t very much of it and to put it frankly, a snail would easily outpace me.

Blog-assisted inspiration

I’ve been blogging for just under 2 weeks, and I really feel that it is helping me. Helping to give me focus in my writing. I have been in a writing slump for nearly half a year: I set aside my novel 4&20 and my fairy tale fantasy world, and they’ve been gathering dust in a shadowy corner. Although I have not yet added anything to my word count for Four and Twenty Blackbirds, it has been foremost in my thoughts this past fortnight. I have been world building and developing my characters, something that I have not done in an age. I’ve also signed up for a drop-in writing class this Thursday with the very awesome Anne Aylor, which I really think will help get my proverbial ink flowing.

100-Word story: jeffrey archer short story challenge

On other fronts, I have finished my 100-word story for the Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge, entitled FreeCycle. I will be going over it with my writing group WLWG on Wednesday, and will post it here after submitting it to the competition.

Happy writing, one and all.

The Terrifying Blank Page

I’ve been blogging about resolutions, of which I have given myself a handful (double meaning of handful intended). ‘THEY’ say that if you want something done, give it to a busy person, so I am applying that rationale here, if I laden myself with tasks, perhaps things will indeed get done.

So continuing with my ‘blog everyday for 100 days‘ resolution, this morning, I was staring at my “Add New Post” page with every good intention, but my mind was a blank. I couldn’t think of anything at all to blog about. It is really amazing running-inspirationthat we have so many blog-appropriate thoughts but when the moment comes to connect the dots, everything evaporates. So I turned to another resolution – exercise, and I conquered the many excuses and made it  out for a run. Although the at the start it was a struggle, at the end I was really getting into my pace. For me, there is definitely a link between exercise and peace of mind, and leading on from peace of mind, I get clarity on my creativity. Basically, during my run my mind had the opportunity to be distraction-free and I thought of lots of things to blog about and many ways to address my writer’s block for Four and Twenty Blackbirds.

Addressing writer’s block

Firstly, I am going to map out some family trees for my main characters: parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, friends, relations, family feuds, etc. I think it would be a good exercise.

Along side that, I am going to do a little world building: sketching out maps of the world that I am creating. In a spurt of either desperation or enthusiasm, I recently purchased some slightly pricey software by Profantasy called Campaign Cartographer. While it does seem to be able to make brilliant maps for fantastical worlds (which is perfect for my fairy tale world), it also requires some practice and perhaps watching a couple of tutorials on how to make the best of it, which I have not yet bothered with. However, rather than get distracted from my drive to move my story forward, I think I will sketch by hand first, and perhaps leave the specialist cartography for another day.

London Super Comic-Con 2013

OK, slightly off the topic of writing appaand books, but still in the fairy tale, fantasy zone (somewhat), my charming and rather indulgent BF has bought me tickets to a day at London Super Comic-Con 2013 on February 23rd. Although I am a hard and fast fantasy/sci-fi/superhero geek of the highest order, the only comic-esk convention I’ve ever attended was when I was interning at SFX magazine many moons ago. And I didn’t even get to attend the main convention in that instance, so I’m not sure that that counts.

In any case, I am very excited, and although BF’s tastes differ somewhat from mine, there are mutual geek-grounds that we can meet on. One point of order is that we’ve agreed to do a little dressing up for the part of the comic convention (a must do, methinks). We have not yet sourced our outfits, but we’ve decided on Avatar: The Last Airbender (the TV series, not the movie), specifically we’ve both decided to go as Appa, the Avatar‘s flying Bison, the show’s secret star.

We need to get into action sorting out our respective outfits. We are not going all-out crazy with dressing up, but we are looking at getting the hat below for my BF and the dress for me (Hat and Dress both available via Etsy). I am so excited to go, and hope that it goes some way towards getting inspired to write.

Appa Hatappa dress

Fairytales and Nightmares: Liar’s League HK

Liar's League HK

The support of my writing group WLWG is invaluable, and it’s amazing to know that even after fellow members leave they still provide support and opportunities from across the globe.

I’ve been struggling to write for ages, and this blog i.am.sophus is a tool to get me back on track to finishing my novel Four and Twenty BlackbirdsYsabelle, a former WLWG member, has got in touch since I set up i.am.sophus. and started tweeting about it in earnest. She’s set up Liar’s League in Hong Kong, huge respect to Ysabelle. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Liar’s League, it has been running in London for about 5 years and has branches in New York and Leeds. It can be simply described as a live literary night, occuring monthly, where trained actors read out original short stories. There are two separate focus points: to mentor and train actors to read out dramatic monologues as opposed to scripts, and to mentor and train and pull in talented new authors from around the world. Liar’s League accept submissions from anyone, anywhere, every month. Each monthly event has a theme, and the next theme for Liar’s League HK is Fairytales & Nightmares (very apt for my genre of writing, Ysabelle noted). The deadline is 8th February and the submission must be between 800-1200 words (essentially flash fiction).

It may be most of the way across the world, but it fit’s my writing meme so well that it seems almost fated. I’ve never written flash fiction before, but I have a lot of mini-dramas that need to happen in 4&20 and and the 8th February deadline is doable, so, challenge accepted!

More updates on my progress (undoubtedly) to come.

 

Minimalist Fairytale Art

Rowan Stocks 1

I am a huge fan of new takes on old tales. I’ve recently come across the artwork of Rowan Stocks-Moore. He uses a limited colour palette and takes advantage of the negative space in an image to create a stark picture, sometimes coupled with an optical illusion (NB the Snow White image above – with the lovers and the apple core in one). His clever, often darkly humorous takes on classic tales gives a new perspective and new life to well trodden tropes. A path I hope to emulate and perchance equal in Four and Twenty Blackbirds.

Rowan Stocks-Moore’s work is available for purchase via Esty.

Rowan Stocks 2