Monday, June 20, 2011

Guest Author: Melissa Crandall

Diary of a Storyteller:  How It Begins

Weathercock is the offspring of ménage a toi between a two-person role-playing event (what, as children, we called "playing pretend"), a 1980's era liquor billboard advertisement, and a song by Jethro Tull.

Being a writer from a very young age, rather than put away the art of playing pretend when I entered high school, I submerged it.  (I was already viewed as a total geek, so I'm not sure what I was afraid of.  More ridicule?  How could there be more?)  Fortunately, I made a few friends in those dire halls of academia who also looked back with fondness on their childhood days of pretend.  We wrote stories together and play-acted scenes from Star Trek, Here Come the Brides, Starsky & Hutch, the Pern books of Anne McCaffrey, and our own first endeavors at original story-telling. 

One afternoon, a friend and I acted out a story about Kinara, a young woman on a quest (played by my friend) who ends up joining forces with mercenary soldiers Reynard (yours truly) and Banain (also yours truly).  We did the entire story start-to-finish (a fairly unusual occurrence) and something about it stayed with me, percolating in the back of my mind.

Fast-forward about 10 years.  I'm driving through Albany when two things occur simultaneously:  the song on the radio (Jethro Tull's "Weathercock") reaches the martial-air bridge, and I spy an enormous billboard advert for Rumple Minze in which a big-boobed warrior broad carrying a sword sits astride a raging polar bear.  (Seriously.  I'm not making this up.)

Honest to God, I heard the tumblers fall into place -- click, click, click, Ka-CHING!  I went home that night and started Weathercock, incorporating the tale of Kinara, Reynard, and Banain, the name Weathercock, and the idea of a female warrior savior.

It was awful.  Total dreck.  The worst possible rip-off of every bad fantasy you've ever read.  I got about twenty-five pages into it and the manuscript plowed face first into the ground.  It laid there, snout buried in the soil, rolling its eyes at me and whimpering until I kicked it to death.  And that was that.  I figured it was a done deal.  No story.

But Weathercock wasn't through with me yet.  It started to whisper.  And I listened.

I changed gender on every character.  Kinara became a young boy named Kinner, Reynard became a ragamuffin soldier named Rai, and Banain morphed into Banya.  And the story -- God bless it -- took off like a rocket.

There were six drafts of Weathercock before I was done -- everything from epic-length all the way to its present pared-down (and much improved) incarnation.  This story, the story within the story, and its determination to live taught me to listen to my inner voice.  It taught me to believe my characters when they tell me something is wrong, to trust my instincts when I stray from my personal truth, and to hold my feet to the fire if I'm tempted to do anything less than my very best.

And for that, I am forever grateful.


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