Snippets about Writing & Fairy Tales

First it was the run up to the Medieval Women’s Choir concert (songs of pilgrimage), and the concert itself, and now I’m deep into the middle of Kate Clifford #3, in which I’ve been reacquainted with a beloved cast member of the Owen Archer series who is now elderly but still vibrant. At such times, my blog is sadly abandoned.

But it needn’t be! I thought I’d share some snippets of things that have caught my attention recently.

This morning, it was this exchange on Twitter, where it’s #folkloreThursday. I tweeted a quote I’d come across that I love:
A fairy tale is a story where one king goes to another king to borrow a cup of sugar.–Angela Carter
The moderator of the hashtag for that hour responded, Ouch – that’s a bit cynical – I’d have thought it was where one king visits another to borrow some unicorn horn.
And I said, Cynical?! Not at all! Down to earth.
And loads of women expressed delight at my tweet (one adding The queen’s words.)
How much better it would be for all of us if kings/queens/presidents/etc. peaceably swapped homely things like cups of sugar instead of sending armies to take all the sugar cane in the fields. I’m channeling Magda Digby here.

And then recently there was this article by the writer George Saunders, in which I discovered a kindred spirit. We have such similar processes! No, I don’t imagine the P and N on my forehead, but in essence, it’s spot on for me, especially section 7, about the pins.

“A work of fiction can be understood as a three-beat movement: a juggler gathers bowling pins; throws them in the air; catches them. This intuitive approach I’ve been discussing is most essential, I think, during the first phase: the gathering of the pins. This gathering phase really is: conjuring up the pins. Somehow the best pins are the ones made inadvertently… Concentrating on the line-to-line sound of the prose, or some matter of internal logic, or describing a certain swath of nature in the most evocative way (that is, by doing whatever gives us delight, and about which we have a strong opinion), we suddenly find that we’ve made a pin. Which pin? Better not to name it. To name it is to reduce it. Often “pin” exists simply as some form of imperative, or a thing about which we’re curious; a threat, a promise, a pattern, a vow we feel must soon be broken. Scrooge says it would be best if Tiny Tim died and eliminated the surplus population; Romeo loves Juliet; Akaky Akakievich needs a new overcoat; Gatsby really wants Daisy. (The colour grey keeps showing up; everything that occurs in the story does so in pairs.)

“Then: up go the pins. The reader knows they are up there and waits for them to come down and be caught. If they don’t come down (Romeo decides not to date Juliet after all, but to go to law school; the weather in St Petersburg suddenly gets tropical, and the overcoat will not be needed; Gatsby sours on Daisy, falls for Betty; the writer seems to have forgotten about his grey motif) the reader cries foul, …  and she throws down the book and wanders away ….

“The writer, having tossed up some suitably interesting pins, knows they have to come down, and, in my experience, the greatest pleasure in writing fiction is when they come down in a surprising way that conveys more and better meaning than you’d had any idea was possible. One of the new pleasures I experienced writing this, my first novel, was simply that the pins were more numerous, stayed in the air longer, and landed in ways that were more unforeseen and complexly instructive to me than has happened in shorter works.”

It’s a rich, thoughtful article.

Until next time!

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