When It Doesn’t Work—Until It Does

From the moment I published last week’s post I knew there was unfinished business at hand. That post, about finally unearthing a story for Following the Essence Stone, continues to fall into place. The narrative outline is done and I’m presently tweaking it.

In other words, Essence Stone didn’t work—until it did.

That tale, in many ways, is the epitome of anything that takes awhile to gel. It was a similar experience to when I was ready to write Riparia’s Bk4, which I’ve also posted about (I’ll drat that novel in the autumn). After drafting Bk3, I stalled. Then, when my creative mind was ready, the flurries became a blizzard of ideas and the novel worked.

When it’s working, you know it.

Cover: CA Hawthorne

In August 2019, as I was finishing my first edit of Protecting the Pneuma Key, a similar blizzard struck. The idea of a noir story in a foggy Pannulus city buried me with ideas faster than I could write them down. The Case of the Deadly Stroll was born. The fantasy noir-esque story I’d long wanted to write happened.

Yes, there’d been no story—until there was.

Of course, that’s creativity. True, but it was also how I found myself as a writer. I was floundering—until I wasn’t. The secret, of course, was to cease trying to be someone else, both as a person and a writer.

When the pieces clicked into place—I was me. That led to more clearly sorting the pieces that would make up my writing—and then it worked, too.

The sad part is that I still hear the following argument:

Wisdom: “If there’s a book you’ve always wanted to read, but can’t find, then you must write it.”

Me: “I wrote it!”

“Great, but it’s an octagonal peg. Now you need to sand it so it fits into a square hole.”

“But then it wouldn’t be the book I’ve always wanted to read.”

“You want it to sell big, don’t you?” What I want is for people to find that book they couldn’t find, the one I couldn’t find.

The growing number of sub-genres says there are people who are as unsatisfied with mainstream trends and tropes as I’ve been since I was in high school. Yet, for all that, how radical is my writing?

Not very much.

I don’t ignore structure or character arcs or theme or any of that. Really, all I do is build modern stories upon an otherworld fantasy foundation. That means there’s magic, magic technology, and sometimes unusual creatures.

Cover: CA Hawthorne

Taking Flight (on this site) is a good example. It’s otherworld fantasy in Pannulus with a gender spirited heroine (possible because of magic). There’s a slight steampunk (magic technology) vibe, but no steam. Beyond that, it’s a cute, fun story about an insecure woman (with a forceful friend) who’s suffered at the hands of prejudiced people, but stumbles into unexpected kindness.

Another way to look at it goes like this. Let’s take a really old movie, one many have seen. I’ll go with Casablanca. We’ll relocate it to, say, Pannulus. We’ll add magic. We’ll not hesitate to sprinkle in LGBT characters with significant roles. After all that is done (and more) we’ll roll the film and watch it all play out in a new way.

*No, I don’t literally rework specific old movies.

Take Talma Loyal’s story, for instance. It looks a bit like the Roaring Twenties, but it’s also a magical world that’s evolved differently. Its noir feel is a shadow of a lot of old movies, but there are LGBT characters. It’s also about a serial killer (try and find that in old Hollywood).

After years and years of me searching for a fit, I’d begun to wonder if I’d ever find a storytelling fit—until I did. It’s a unique fit, but then isn’t that what we all want? For decades I couldn’t make Christina work—but then she did, and then so did her writing. Guess that says a lot about honesty, too.


About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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