Saturday, June 7, 2008

Inkling: A Project By Any Other Name

"There’s a garden I visit nightly. It’s vast. I’m a lucid dreamer of the astral trailer park variety. These characters are part of the pantheon of my personal mythology, representations of myself, my friends, my obsessions, desires, fears… played out in urban fairy tale action adventures."
Alfonso Kellenberger

, ideas... they tickle the back of your mind so you twitch uncomfortably in the midst of doing other things, making you want to screech to a halt and grab them before they dissipate in your exiting Muse's jet stream.

That impulse doesn't guarantee they'll be any good when you get a close look at them but the promise that they might be..? Every writer knows it's worth risking a pulled brain-muscle over, even if it's only to stop and check.

I had one of those rubber-braining ideas last night.

But first let me give you some context.

I've been trying to think of a way to combine subjects and genres I love into one big, ongoing writing-plus project and I think I'm getting close.

(What's a 'writing-plus' project? Hmm. I think I'll keep that under my hat for now. You'll just have to wait and see...)

This pot I've been throwing things into has the following predictable ingredients (well - it's predictable if you know me at all): a base soup of fairy tales (ye olde gritty ones), generous rashes of retold fairy tales (sometimes more of a stretch from their origins than you might think), rough chunks of urban fantasy (where the otherworld overlaps and influences the mortal one), a mix of myths and legends to taste and suspense for spice.

It's not a new idea to combine these facets to make a single type of story, or in my case string of stories, but pinning down exactly what I want the emphasis to be has been on the slippery side. I want enough room on the menu to serve a large enough variety to keep the reader's interest (and mine!) but still retain a specific 'genre-cuisine'.

Names help with that. Titles. They set up expectations as well as provide boundaries. For example, whatever this project ends up being called I want it to imply 'the fantastic' in a contemporary setting - a setting that's unlikely to cater to having the main characters argue about the efficiency of warp drives, for example.

So the question is:
How do you attract the attention of the edgier UF crowd as well as the Retold Fairy Tale enthusiasts?

It's not as simple as trying to figure out what would catch my attention because I'll look into anything if there's even a whiff of fairy tales about it. The books labeled as being written in the Urban Fantasy sub-genre just need a unique angle to make me read beyond the blurb.

I really think half the battle will be won if I can just find the right title... (the other half, of course, is making sure the stories have enough of everything to keep them all reading - including that original voice that they won't be able to get enough of... but that's a concern for another day.)

Last night at the ridiculous hour of 4am-and-change I found it! It had everything I was looking for including a creative use of the word 'Fae' to imply the fairy tale aspect.

One problem though - and it's kind of a big one.

The fairy tales I love and the re-tellings I admire contain a distinct LACK of Fae (faeries and fairies too!). The fact that they're called 'fairy tales' is rather incongruous and I totally understand why literary professors prefer to call these tales by the German word Marchen or simply Wonder Tales.

And that's my problem too. Though my stories qualify for the label 'urban fantasy' and the word 'Fae' (in the context I used it) implied 'fairy tales' my stories rarely have actual Fae in them. More often there's an incidental oh-by-the-way-this-amazing-thing-happened event that, while being a catalyst, isn't what the story is REALLY about at all.

Kinda like fairy tales.

So it's rather misleading to use 'Fae' or 'fairy' in the title when in fact the fairies are very few and far between. Werewolves? Yes. Magic practitioners? Certainly. Happily ever after with pixie-dust? Absolutely not. But I will be using fairy tales (some might say 'abusing' but that depends on your perspective), myths, legends and folktales to ground my stories.

Magic being used to give stories reality
- ironic, no?
Perhaps there's a clue right there...

And if any fairies appear there's a good chance they'll have teeth - sharp ones.

For now I think I'll just call it:
'Project Bite Me*'.

* An oft quoted Buffy-ism. I wonder if faeries like irony?

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