Not many people realize it, but I don’t unilaterally fall in love with my stories. Don’t believe me? My hard drive is riddled with fragments and false starts that have never seen daylight, simply because they weren’t up to my standards or something was inherently wrong with them.
Take, as a case in point, “Ancient Magic.” I started this story back in June, with pure intentions and what I thought was a good idea. The problem was — it involved vampires.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with vampires. Check out my backlist, both here at Noble and elsewhere, and you’ll see vampires are a big part of my writing. But that was part of the problem: I’ve already got an established vampire mythos I use. (No, they don’t sparkle.) To create a vampire who would work within the framework of the world I was in the process of constructing, I would have had to go back to the drawing board, so to speak. Besides, I’d already done vampires for the Red Roses and Shattered Glass anthology, so I wanted to try something unique.
So what did that leave?
Angels? Nope. As much as I love them and exploring their erotic potential, I’ve already got plenty of those in my backlist, thanks just the same. Werewolves? Heh. I’m holding off on doing any more of those until I see how “Dancing On Flames” performs. Ghosts? Been there, done that, also in the Red Roses and Shattered Glass anthology.
I winced, cursed, swore, damned my absolute stupidity, questioned whether or not I was worth my keyboard, poked, prodded, and generally freaked out. Every combination I could come up with that seemed to fit with the “Timeless Desire” theme opened up whole new vistas of suckitude, and for the first time in my professional writing career I started to seriously consider the idea I might not be as immune to writers’ block as I’d like to believe. For me, this simple statement is an admission tantamount to a deathbed conversion.
Then the answer occurred to me. So simple and laughably obvious that I’d managed to completely ignore it.
Why not make the main characters human?
Sure, in most of my stories, there’s a human or quasi-human protagonist. But they almost invariably have some special talent or capability that removes them from the average press of humanity. In the case of “Ancient Magic,” I decided to go a different route and make my characters fully human, devoid of special or unique talents. No telepathy, no fangs, no magic. Just two people who were intended to be something more than what fate made them, but nevertheless capable of amazing but not supernatural deeds.
In fact, the only things I kept from the original three and a half thousand words of what started as “Night Eternal” were the setting and Varath’s name. The setting was inspired by the image of a ruined Greek temple; antiquity has always fascinated me, so Hell or high water, that element of the story wasn’t to be touched. Varath had a perfectly good name, so why waste time seeking something better?
While I was having my mental slugfest with my muse over the whys and wherefores of the story, my time to finish the story was inexorably running out. The contract had already been inked; the clock was ticking, and lost in the fog of battle with my recalcitrant plot, I didn’t notice until an email arrived in my inbox.
“When are you going to have the story done?”
Sometimes, you just need a good, sharp poke with a long stick. So I sat down and started to work. In two days, “Ancient Magic” was completed. I fired it off and anticipated a scathing email which boiled down to “WTF do you think you’re trying to pull?”
You’d think I would’ve known better; after all, Bryl hasn’t kicked back one single story I’ve subbed for Noble yet, so it would stand to reason after five accepted submissions it probably wouldn’t happen now either. But the first few days after I put in a submission are always characterized with a slightly panicky air of “Oh, shit. This is where everyone’s finally going to realize I’m a living monument to ineptitude and shouldn’t be permitted anywhere near the company of real authors.”
It’s admittedly a little melodramatic, but it’s part of my mojo. The stress over whether or not my work will be judged worthy inspires me to work all the harder, and some of my best writing has come out of post-submission jitters. And frankly, I fear the day when I don’t get that gut-clenching shrieking fear when I send out a manuscript, because that will be the day I lose my edge altogether.
Did I succeed with “Ancient Magic?”
You tell me.
Until next time,
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