Monday, March 28, 2011

Story Notes - Away He Run

Yesterday's Sunday Story was "Away He Run" - a contemporary fantasy which was published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine a very long time ago. These notes will involve spoilers, so you may want to go back and read it. (It's short.)

This story started in what I assume is the most traditional way to write a story ever. I sat down and emoted. I started with a feeling, and imagined myself in an unknown character, and then built the story around that.

The image that came to me was that of someone hiding and fearful. I knew it was a child. And I knew the person looking for him did not mean him harm.

Why did I want the child to be hiding from someone who meant well? Because it was the most interesting immediate conflict. Fear in spite of good intentions -- not scary fake good intentions, but real honest good intentions. That's interesting and immediate.

There was another reason that image came to me though: I was working on a novel called Moon Child: Ready or Not (which I hope to release this fall). In the novel, Charlie is an orphan, lost and alone in our world, who knows only one thing about himself -- he is really a magic prince who is destined to save another world. If he doesn't show up to take up his destiny, horrible things will happen, so the story begins as he hides from the authorities as he casts a spell to take himself home. Except that he accidentally takes one of the cops with him. (The cop in question, Jasper Wardell, is a secondary character in the title story of The Bellhound collection, btw.)

That story is a very warm story about an anxiety-ridden kid and the laid-back adult who mentors him. And I that warmth infused my imagination when I wrote "Away He Run." But in the short story I got the chance to explore a more traditional father/son relationship, with the father taking responsibility for decisions which the child has to live with. In the novel, the responsible child's decisions affect the laid-back grown up.

The last element that formed this into a story was an old folktale. I don't even remember the full plot, or if it had a full plot. It was about a childless couple who get a witch to transform a mouse into a child for them. They are loving parents but the mouse needs to grow up to be a mouse.

And that's when something clicked with the image of someone hiding from a benign caregiver. A cat hiding from a trip to the vet -- and suddenly I had the whole form of the story. The vet becomes the doctor/witch, and the growing up to be a human becomes a metaphor for just plain growing up. Losing childhood to become an adult, seeing the world as something beyond oneself.

I always loved this story, even though it really did not seem right as a children's story. It seemed too mature, and perhaps even disturbing for younger children. But I was happy to find that Marion Zimmer Bradley liked it as well as I did and published it with no changes.

Last year I put this in a collection of my children's fiction The Enchanted Tree And Other Tales of Transformation, but I decided that it belonged in a more mature collection. It's now the second story in the new collection The Bellhound, Four Tales of Modern Magic.

(You can find The Bellhound at Amazon Kindle, Kindle UK, and Smashwords.)

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