The Birth of a Story
The Birth of a Story; that sounds big and important, doesn’t it? And in one way, it is; you need a birth to have a life. But there are so many ways that a story can be born. Every writer has their own methods and, really, every story has its own beginning. I’ve written little shorts that I have just come out, in one smooth writing binge, and then there are stories like the one that I am publishing, where it took years to become anything at all. It’s that process, the birth of Turned/Red that has been the most eye opening for me.
It began in a quiet moment when I was substitute teaching and I had a prep hour. I usually scribbled away or doodled, but this time, I had this wacky notion of a really messed up fairy tale family tree/web. There was no reason to do it, but that there was this little spark, the notion that someone was going to revolve around Snow White and her little known sister, Rose Red. Thus the sprout grew branches and leaves and then became very twisted. One day, when I dig up that old family tree, I’ll post it.
The idea was just that: an idea to pass the time away during an empty hour. Then the question popped into my head: if Snow White got the fairytale ending, what happened to her sister? She got the second prince, sure, but what of it? That’s how it all began, with that simple question. Of course, the question was simple, but the answer was far from it.
Turned/Red, an untitled project at that point, had many beginnings, but no real “birth.” One began as a fantasy period piece but Rose Red’s voice was too modern and the fairytale mash-ups were too literal. It never got past the third chapter. So I transplanted it to a modern world, but kept nearly the same concept. It fell flat before the end of the first chapter. I tried the same concept again, got three chapters it and let it die. All of them centered around this baby and protecting her and blah, blah, blah. Boring. Connectionless.
And that a scene, one scene came into my head on a drive home from work. It was tragic and heartbreaking. There was real emotion and motivation. So I wrote it down, and stared at it, and stared at it. I stared at it for a long time before it went anywhere.
Until another bolt of an idea, a quote that I heard somewhere: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” What did that mean? Especially now. The political science kid in me couldn’t let that idea disappear.
I’ll credit a lot of that to a small group of writers and literary enthusiasts who got together during a lunch break at a local literary convention called ConTroll. We all needed, wanted, the push to write our stories. That push was the best thing to happen to this story. I wrote a chapter a week and let it go. It twisted and turned into a dystopian (a genre very near and dear to my heart that I’ll probably write on soon), and it ran away from the literal fairytale allusions (though they are still there just because I can’t let them go completely).
What began as an idea to write a multitude of books all centered on a fairytale heroine, became one story (two books) about a girl named Red, torn between two sides of a war that she doesn’t quite believe in, and her desperation to have her own life.
It was then and only then that Turned/Red was born. A title found its way to me. A character wrapped herself around my brain. The stories of these people haunt my dreams.
When that happens, you know your story is born. Its birth is its hook on your life and your desperate need to tell it… and have others read it.