“Mrs. Begley’s son once said of his mother, Something in her had been broken, and when he said this I had thought, The ones who were killed were no the only ones who’d been lost.”
– The Lost, A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn
I don’t have any great writing lesson to share at the moment, so what I’m going to talk about is the joy I have suddenly found in writing a fairy tale. Some of you followed my Worlds before the Door blog and so you know what I used to write. You have my permission to skip the next paragraph. For those of you new to me, let me explain…that would take too long…let me sum up. 🙂 (Now you know exactly what kind of geek I am, and that I grew up happily in the 80’s.)
My writing is dark and detailed. Now it’s hasn’t been detailed for the readers, but under the hood, it’s complicated. I told all of my dark stories in a magical, fantastical setting. This fantastical magic had very intricate rules. It had to. If you’re going to give your supernatural heroes supernatural enemies and have consistent battles, or any type of battles, you have to know who can do what. Who can have visions and who can’t? What type of visions? When? That’s the details. I wrote about serial killers, mass murderers, insane asylums, and other such things. The darkness came pouring out of me because light shines brighter in the darkness. Hope is sweeter after emptiness. Healing only matters if you’re broken. Forgiveness is for the damned. This is why my stories are dark. I had to do a lot of emptying, breaking, and damning before I could bring hope, healing, and forgiveness.
The problem was very few people could stomach them. Those who actually made it through my 70-page prologue, where everyone died, did so with lots of shudders. A few readers told me they couldn’t read what I wrote. They loved the message but they couldn’t bear the depth of the darkness to get to the light. The people not interested in my stories far outweighed the people who loved them. (Thank you to everyone who loved them!!!)
I wanted to share my stories and I wanted to encourage the body of believers. I wanted to remind them through my stories that there is hope in the darkness when you’re broken and bleeding. I wanted to remind them of the power of forgiveness. I want to show a true love that is a choice of the mind instead of a whim of the heart. I didn’t want to be one of those people who stubbornly and rebelliously refused to change at the request of others or the dictates of the Lord out of some misguided desire to be true to self. What did I do? I started writing fairy tales for children.
For the past few months, I’ve pounded my head against a brick wall with my Fairy Tale: Icicle Rain. It was such a struggle. I had so much to learn about this world. Nothing felt comfortable, familiar, or smooth. I had to edit every scene already written as I wrote new scenes and discovered more about the story. Then it happened: I had a moment. The whole story came together. The darkness became so very dark and the light became ever brighter, if smaller for a time. I found a piece of the heart of the story:
(Just to make it clear, Gus is a mouse and Presto is a mushroom with many eyes. Oak is a dryad. I told you it’s a fairy tale, right?)
“And your heart?” Presto asked raising several eyebrows at Gus.
“My heart?” Oak patted his coat and trouser pockets. “Where’s my heart? Oh, yeah, I gave that away.”
“Do you know who has it?”
“No, but they needed it. Their own heart had been broken, so I gave them a new one. I gave them mine.”
“Can you tell us even one little thing about who has your heart?” Presto asked getting irritated.
Gus grunted at him.
“You know, sir,” the mouse turned to Oak. “It might be a good idea to know a little bit about this person. Your heart belongs to them now and that brings responsibilities and obligations.”
“I know that they are kind,” Oak said. He leaned forward, listening not with the ears he no longer had, or seeing with eyes no longer his own, but listening to what he had given away. “I know they needed hope. I know great sorrow and loss mark them. She lost everything she cared about, and that loss broke her free.”
“Did you say she?” Presto said, leaning forward.
“Yes. I gave my heart to a woman. She loved eight men and when the last one was safe or dead, or both, she left.”
“Sounds like a bit of a floozy if you ask me,” Presto muttered getting another pointed glare from Gus.
“No. No. Not grown men. There was only one grown man. The rest were growing men, her growing men.”
Gus gasped. “She had seven sons? You gave your heart to the mother of seven sons?”
“No. I gave my heart to a woman with a glint in her eye and a heart for trees.”
The mouse and the mushroom gasped.
“That’s impossible,” Presto said, never truly at a loss for words. “Impossible, I tell you.”
These few lines won’t mean a whole lot to you, but to me they were the moment I found a huge part of why I was writing this story. They represented all the darkness still coming, but it wasn’t an empty darkness. It was a darkness with lots of hope.
I fought against writing children’s literature for years. Poor writing plagues it. Everyone is doing it to try to capture some of the monetary magic of Twilight. I often find most YA, and Tween books filled with angst instead of adventure, worship of romance instead of the truth about real love, and lacking adults as if adults can’t be in YA fiction. (Obviously, there are exceptions.) I didn’t want to throw myself in with that mix, and yet…I love good children’s stories. Many of my favorite books are books I read in high school or were written for that age group: Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Sunshine, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Chronicles of Narnia. I love a well-written story for children.
So, I shook off the self-imposed stigma I had attached to writing for young people. Who cares if most of it out there is tripe or poorly written?
I embrace my new stories. I love writing a Fairy Tale because it can have all of the darkness, and not all the magic has to be explained like it was in my other stories. I love writing a Fairy Tale because I can pull from all the myths and truths that I love and hold dear. I love writing a Fairy Tale because I found a piece of the heart.
I’m not one of those people who believe that the best way to battle darkness is to pretend it doesn’t exist. I think it’s best battled by facing it head on. Heavy thoughts from someone with a blog covered in bright colors and paisley patterns who writes kids stories about her nieces and nephews, right? Nope. I consider myself the Kaylee of the battle against darkness. I can face the darkness with tears and a smile because my soul is safe. A Hand mightier than my own holds it. The darkness doesn’t like hope, laughter, and smiles.