Monday, January 31, 2011

Story Notes for "When Good Stories Go Bad"

Yesterday's story "When Good Stories Go Bad" was based on a Korean folktale I had heard a long time ago. That story immediately struck me with a strong resonance on many levels.

As a writer, of course, I giggled at the idea of uncooperative stories. Yes, I knew, they DO go bad if you don't treat them right. I had written other stories on that theme, including one with a poor writer who lived in a garret, whose books got in an argument as to whose fault it was.

But the larger thing that struck a chord was the concept of storytelling. In the version of the tale I'd heard, there wasn't a storyteller as a character. It was just about a boy who had collected stories in a bag -- it didn't really say much about those he got the stories from. But I felt those people were implied.

There's a tradition of oral storytelling in my family which goes back at least to my great grandmother, a woman we all referred to as "Great." I knew, when I wanted to write this story, that I wanted to set it in the early days of Michigan. I also wanted a motivation for the locking up and neglect of the stories -- because how could someone who loved stories neglect them?

(I always thought Little Jackie Paper was kind of a rat for abandoning Puff the Magic Dragon. I mean they said "a dragon lives forever but not so little boys..." but the implication was was that the kid didn't die, he grew up. I mean, maybe later he died, but there was nothing in the song about him showing up as a young man or a middle-aged man, or an old guy, or bringing his kids to see his most important childhood mentor. And if growing up makes you a rat, I didn't want to do it. So I didn't.)

The other element of the story that didn't work for me was the fact that the hero was an old servant. You just won't find a loyal old servant who risks his life and his job to save an unappreciative brat in pioneer Michigan. Especially one who also won't actually say why he's being such a troublemaker. A mother or sibling might be that loyal, but only an animal can't speak up. And if we're having anthropomorphized ideas, well, we can have smart animals.

The other thing I did like about the servant and the animals, was the anonymous nature of their actions. And with the animals I had a kind of autonomous collective/Congregationalist/volunteer fireman thing going. It was, after all, no skin off their noses if the girl got killed, but they knew about it, so it was up to them to fix it.

This is why I like folk and fairy tales. They have meaning, and that meaning shifts and develops from culture to culture, generation to generation, or even or person to person. This is why I feel stories are a living thing. (And why I do not like the DMCA or other "lock downs" on intellectual property. IMHO, copyright law has become downright excessive; greed rules, and orphaned stories -- stories upon which major parts of our culture are founded -- are neglected, sicken and die.)

Anyway, writing progress update: my progress has been slow, because I have been revamping how I'm going to handle the next sequence, and I've been pulling things apart and putting them together in new ways in the work-in-progress.

I have made some minor changes in my publishing schedule for this year. I realize that there are a few other things that I really will need to pause and get done, so instead of publishing twelve new ebooks this year (one a month) I'm only going to do eleven. I will commit April to updating websites and blurbs and other things I have been neglecting. I'll also get ahead on more work on future covers and blurbs and things.


a said...

Because I've had teenagers through the era of music downloading, I've always been conflicted about DMCA etc. Cultural producers have a right to be compensated; those that work in supporting roles deserve financial recognition, too. However, bloated industries involving lots of "spin" and market-making are another matter. It wasn't until I read Larry Lessig's Remix that I found a logical foundation for my feelings. He makes the same argument you made, Camille.

The Daring Novelist said...

Piracy is irrelevant to the length of copyright. Copyright is supposed to secure for the creators FOR A LIMITED TIME a shot at recouping losses.

Lifetime is really long enough. Maybe a little buffer after that to protect the interests of publishers who may have just bought rights from an author who then died. But honestly, anything over lifetime plus ten is just pure greed and control-freakism.