i’m participating in national novel writing month again this year, and have done for most of the last decade (50,000 words in a month, about 2,000 a day – 100 pages).
i’m using it as a way of steaming into the middle of a story i’ve been considering all summer. there are many issues and problems to be worked out in this story, and i’m going to wade in and start tossing stuff into various corners until i have workable piles of things to be sorted and placed, or thrown into another pile of to-be-deleteds. just the same thing i’ve been doing up at my mom’s house, clearing it out for sale now that she’s in assisted living and needs the money. in her house, with concentration and energy, chaos resolves into large piles that become progressively larger until they’re small, and then you can sweep up the trash and dust and throw the rest away. so it is with the structure of this story i’m about to start.
since i’ve been keeping a notebook of ideas and references, and since i’m not transferring it to these pages, they’ll remain a hidden part of working out all the storyline details. so, no notes. it’ll feel just like i’m making it up as i go along, because i will be, mostly.
but i do know a few things about how it needs to go.
hedinsfjordur, the town of the hidden people, includes a sizeable population of trolls (do trolls and huldufolk and elves mix socially? do they live together?). its buildings and streets are oddly similar to the layout of its nearest neighbors – siglufjordur to its west, and olafsfjordur to its east.
because i am loath to overly describe the people of olafsfjordur, to make guesses about their private lives, to libel their reputations out of ignorance and otherwise offend them in countless ways, i can’t make the story about them directly. the real people have to become background characters, and the main characters have to be the murals come to life. about these obviously fictional characters i can say and do anything, and nobody’s going to spit on the ground when they see me. i can illustrate the personality quirks of drawings i painted on the walls and make up life stories that have more to do with being a troll than in being a member of the town. and by putting the characters in hedinsfjordur, which looks just like olafsfjordur, i can impart my limited understanding of how the town works without mangling the complex structure of the tight little society. which i would like to get to know much better.
in the beginning of the story, i’m going to use the main character of my would-be children’s book, a human woman who marries a troll and eventually comes down out of the mountains with her family, to find somewhere else to live. she settles in hendinsfjordur, a town of huldufolk, where her kind are tolerated as outsiders (not family), and opens a troll bnb, which causes all sorts of polarization in the town.
so in the beginning, we hear about the history of the hidden people and their culture, and the trolls. humans are hardly mentioned. then, an artist – me – comes to town and draws all number of trolls on peoples’ houses. this is where we meet the people of olafsfjordur, and the artist and her grandkid connor. life in a small town. the nature.
then we go away, the trolls wake up in olafsfjordur, the people who live in the houses of the troll murals wake up in hedinsfjordur, and everybody has to cope.
after they get used to this (a few years), connor returns and dives right in, exposing and solving and having a great time doing coming of age stuff.
i want to work in some themes from my real life, as well. we’re dealing with family stuff right now, with mom getting old and the adult children dealing with the things and the stuff. there are some powerful dynamics in that. family stuff is heady. and my family has some interesting characters in it that shouldn’t go to waste.
my challenge is to make the circle of drawn trolls into viable characters, and characters that work with each other, without trying to rip off the people who live there f’real. so for that, i need the example of family members of my own. and i have plenty of them. old sores and alliances, old betrayals and new twists of rusty knives in scarred backs. i wrote another novel loosely based on my family several years ago. it’s not for the faint of heart.
i still have a lot of problems in the story structure. mostly of knowledge. i don’t know how huldufolk live, what the difference is between huldufolk and elves, whether trolls, huldufolk and elves could live together in the same town. whether elves and trolls and huldufolk use patronymics the way the humans in iceland do (mammas-dottir and pabbis-son), or are they more descriptive, like troll names (head-banger, spoon-licker)? do trolls form clans of close knit relatives, the way icelandic humans do? are huldufolk sociable and family-oriented? how do elves feel about the importance of family?
in iceland, family structures are the basic blocks of social life, in reykjavik, in foreign countries, icelandic people will search each others’ eyes for a sign of recognition, because they’re bound to be related in some degree, and it is the height of rudeness not to acknowledge kin. but i don’t know the structure of the families in olafsfjordur, so i can’t use the web of family connections the way i want to – another reason why not to use the actual people. i can make all my trolls part of a big family, tho, and have fun with it, because it’s so much a factor of how the town functions, and i think the people would be amused at a spoof of family dynamics – fed from my own family’s escapades thru the decades and generations.
i haven’t figured out how all this blending has to work, or how it translates as chapter structure, or which character should represent which trait and function and ghakkkkkkkkkkkk.
i’ll have a chapter structure by the time i start. i’ll slap it up here. it might bear no resemblance to what actually gets written, or when.