an_owomoyela: Escher's rendering of two hands drawing each other. (Default)
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I grimaced at the sight of her hands – the grotesque twist of each finger against itself, the distended skin where tendons had knotted up, the scars which comprised more flesh than original skin must have. I composed myself, but she'd seen the reaction, and smiled.

For the second week of Write-a-Thon, I hammered out about 5,800 words of soft fantasy. This one concerned storytelling, misconceptions and prejudices about disability, crime and punishment, and how we interpret human dignity.

It also insisted in taking place in an alt-historical Mediterranean, which, combined with the disability angle, is what's going to give me the most grief in revision. Oh, the research I'm going to do.

I was a clinician. I abided by the Primum e Secondum: first, respect the dignity of life; second, do no harm.

This world is much, much closer to the real world than most non-urban fantasy I write; it seems to have one major jigger (the role of the Church in the post-Roman world) and one gimme (the Church has the ability to erase people's memories), and I'd honestly planned on making it a purely fabricated world, but then the narrator insisted on sneaking in references to moors and plebians. Even the Primum non Nocere snuck in there, though in altered form. I just wrote it down with the hope that revision would pave over my ignorance; there wasn't a lot of time to research while I was trying to get it complete.

She leaned forward, catching my eye with a questioning look. Then she pointed to my son's room, and then cradled her arms. She followed that with as close to a palms-up gesture of wondering as she could manage.

"The church provided a wet nurse," I told her. It seemed to be what she wanted; she nodded along.

One thing which was a lot of fun was working out communication between the narrator and the woman he encounters – someone he at first assumes is incapable of anything but the most rudimentary communication. He learns otherwise, and by late in the story comes to discover that she has her own adaptive skills to engage people and communicate.

"What it means," I grasped, and was rewarded with a look of relief. "What... it means all those people in his family must have blasphemed." As I said the words, as the professor watched me, unease grew in my stomach. "But to be erased – it could only be the one kind of blasphemy. A crime of memory."

Against that, the actual seed of the story took on an almost secondary importance. The story began as a mystery and a big, unanswered question: how do you understand your past when you can't access all of it? In the end, in the first draft, I think playing with communication became more fun.

The line which encapsulated the story seed didn't actually make it into the finished first draft. That line was what was going to be the opening: "Gods an government agencies; the only things I fear nowadays." Oddly, the fear bled itself out of the narrator and became part of the main character's story; the Church itself remained a part of the narrative, but aside from erasing people's memories, it was a thoroughly benevolent force. It fed and sheltered the homeless, provided caretakers for widowers' sons, declared amnesty and clemency left and right, and was just generally made up of good samaritans. If only they could work on that inflicted amnesia thing.

This week, I'm going to attack a short story called Frozen Voice – I finished the first draft some time ago, and it's time to hit it hard in revision. Tune back in about a week for a discussion of how that went, and as always, a hearty THANK YOU to my sponsors, and an expression of hope that a few of you may sponsor me by donating to Clarion West! Remember, donations are tax-deductible in the US.


an_owomoyela: Escher's rendering of two hands drawing each other. (Default)
An Owomoyela

May 2011

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