April 4th, 2010


Folklore and Relationships

When I come across little nuggets from my reading adventures I like to share them. (Who says only children are selfish?) Sharing keeps the “rules” fresh and it’s  . . . fun. Today’s lesson is brought to you by way of Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore. First, it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great. Yet, there are aspects of the story that will linger with me. Not the story itself. No. The story will likely fade from my memory. However what I learned about the craft of writing will hopefully take up residency in my mind.


So on with it then . . .


If you’re writing a story that involves popular folklore, make sure you know the general rules. If you’re changing the rules, establish that change up front. Nimira, the MC of the story, takes a job that requires her to sing with an automaton. Come to find out, the automaton is actually Erris, a fairy prince imprisoned in a clockwork when his family was dethroned in a human vs. fairy war. Humans feared fairies were overstepping their boundaries with magic and the land. Okay, this is believable. It matches what I know about fairies: they are tricksters, magical, and earthly. Here is where things get dicey. I’m supposed to believe that a fairy prince who has been trapped in a clockwork for 30-years falls in love with Nimira after one Morris-code conversation. Really? And this is no trick? No fairy spell? No hidden agenda? Hmmm? On the one hand this can be refreshing. After all, three humans (all dead but one) in the story sought a human-fairy alliance. However, why they believed this was possible given the distrust between the two groups escapes me. This lack of explanation makes the stray from the norm less than refreshing.


Let’s move on to trusting emotions in romantic relationships. In order for me to believe the emotions one character has for another, I need to see the connection evolve. This is especially important if each character possesses other motives for liking/loving someone. For instance, Hollin Parry offers Nimira the singing job. After a ride in his carriage I’m to believe he loves her. However, his character flaws are avoidance and denial. Most of his behaviors are motivated by guilt or appeasement. Given these flaws and the quickness of his emotions, I didn't and stil don't believe he loves her. I already discussed my suspicions about the emotions between Erris and Nimira. The only person who seems to have a genuine emotion is someone who is supposed to be dead. As a reader, it’s hard to invest in characters, if they don’t seem invested in each other.  


Are you getting what I’m saying here? If you’re changing the rules of well-established folklore lay the foundation early. If your character has multiple reasons underlying their like or love for someone, allow the reader to watch the initial emotions become something more. A weak foundation leads to cracks.


Thus endith thy lesson.