My Writing Process For ‘The Wildkin’s Curse’, by Kate Forsyth
Writing a novel is a big undertaking. It takes about a year or more, usually, and lots of problems, both little and large, present themselves along the way.
I have learned to trust the process and to know I’ll receive help when I need it. Sometimes the way the answer comes to me is very mysterious and magical.
The best example is what happened to me one morning early in the writing of my teen fantasy novel, The Wildkin’s Curse.
I’ve described in an earlier post how the idea came to me with the image of a boy falling from an impossibly tall crystal tower and the fragment of a prophecy, ‘Next shall be the king-breaker, the king-maker, though broken himself he shall be.’
It’s not much to work with.
I began, as always, by asking myself questions. Who was the boy? Why did he fall from the crystal tower? Had he been climbing it? Trying to get inside? To rescue someone? Who? A girl? Why was she locked away?
Slowly I built up my cast of characters – Zed and his best friend Merry, children of the heroes of The Starthorn Tree; Rozalina, the wildkin princess kept imprisoned because she has the power to make wishes (and curses) comes true; and her cousin, Liliana, determined to rescue her and calling upon Zed and Merry to help.
Then I was stuck. I had absolutely no idea how my three heroes were to rescue the wildkin girl from that crystal tower.
I also had no thematic structure for the book.
I have never really liked fantasy books where the heroes just wander about having typical fantasy-style adventures (i.e. attack by monster in lake, misadventure while eating stew in roadside inn) until, at last, they battle for whatever it is they are trying to get. I have always believed a story is like a sword – it must have a point.
So I always build my story very carefully, with each adventure or encounter having some kind of importance in the over-arching themes and symbolism of the story.
In The Gypsy Crown, Emilia and Luka must search for, and find, a talisman in each book in order to try and fix a broken charm bracelet. Each charm has some kind of meaning, linked thematically to the lesson the children must learn, and the cost that must be paid, before they can win the charm. For example, in ‘The Silver Horse’, Emilia must give up her beloved mare Alida to another Gypsy clan in return for them giving her their lucky horse charm.
Similarly, in The Wildkin’s Curse, I wanted each obstacle my characters overcame to have some kind of symbolic significance as well as a practical function in propelling along the plot. I had been puzzling over this particular problem for some time, but had not yet worked out a solution.
I could not sleep one night for worrying about this problem. I got up in the early hush of the dawn and went walking, something I do often when I am puzzling over a problem. It was a pale, misty dawn, and the harbour shone silver where the sun was rising. I strode along, thinking, ‘how can they rescue Rozalina? How?’
Suddenly a raven took to the air, right in front of me, its wings so close I felt them brush past my face.
A black feather dropped at my feet.
I bent and picked up the feather.
A feather, I thought. Perhaps they have a cloak of feathers… perhaps it is damaged… it’s missing seven feathers… each one from a different bird… a raven, symbol of death and wisdom… they could find that feather at the end of a tragic battle scene… an eagle, symbol of power and royalty… perhaps they must climb a dangerous cliff to find it… a nightingale, symbol of true love… a tender romantic scene late in the book… when my hero and heroine kiss for the first time… I walked faster and faster and faster, my mind leaping from one idea to another. By the time I got home I had my entire novel fully plotted out. I sat down and worked feverishly, writing it all down in my notebook.
I had my method of rescue, I had my thematic structure. All because a raven dropped a feather at my feet.
Kate Forsyth’s author website: www.kateforsyth.com.au
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