This is my first commentary post on a book I’ve written, so I thought I’d explain a little bit what these commentary posts are all about.
Basically, it’s a chance for readers to step inside my mind. Reading the commentary posts, you’ll find out why I write the way I do, where I get my ideas, what revisions I’ve made and so on. If you’re the kind of person that likes to know the “why?” about everything, then these commentary posts are for you. I’ll do my best to put up spoiler alerts so as not to ruin any parts of my book or storyline for visitors who haven’t yet read the book.
The first thing you should know about this chapter is that it wasn’t originally the first chapter. I wrote these seven pages after I got into several chapters of the book. Going back and reading the beginning I realized that I had jumped over what could be a really great opening scene–an old fairy godmother, flying through the air, lamenting all the terrible things befalling her home world. I decided that giving doubt and remorse to a character who we would expect to have power to fix things, like a fairy godmother, would be a great way to start showing how this book isn’t your normal fairy tale. Things don’t just work out, at least, not without lots of effort. And that’s one of the points of the book. If you want good things to happen, you have to work at them.
Because the chapter starts off on a sad tone I eventually entitled it “Tears.” Initially, I didn’t give any of my chapters titles, but after some thought I decided it would be helpful for a number of reasons.
First of all, a chapter title that has something to do with an event in the chapter made it easier for me to jump around the book and do some edits. I didn’t have to remember parts of the story by the chapter number–the title took care of that for me. If you look at my chapter titles before and after reading the book you’ll see they form a kind of rough outline of the book. Plus, the occasional gripping title can keep a reader going where they might have stopped for the night. I can’t tell you how many times I was reading a book when I thought, “Man it’s late, but I’ll at least take a look at the beginning of the next chapter.” Sometimes the title or even the first sentence of that next chapter has kept me reading through the night. So I realized chapter titles are a good thing all around.
Now, a number of tidbits of information are revealed in these opening pages, and we’ll talk about all of them in turn.
Fairy godmothers Wish. That’s just what they do, and that’s essentially how the magic works. The mechanics of how the magic works is explained in more detail to Jill in chapter 12. But here in the beginning we see Ruth shivering and then she makes a Wish, “I Wish it were warmer.” We see that she’s given the feeling of warmth, but that she also loses energy.
For many writers and fantasy connoisseurs, magic is supposed to be this wonderful unexplainable thing that we can never understand and just happens to solve things at important plot points. That’s not how I like to think of magic.
I like to align myself in the camp that believes magic in books should have rules. One of my rules in Wishes is that all magic requires some kind of life force or energy. Here we see Grandma Ruth using magic and it costs her some strength–it makes her a little more tired.
I also think this instance of magic use, which lasts two or three sentences, is a good example of showing versus telling. If you’ve never written anything before but start in on the process, you’ll hear this phrase a lot: show, don’t tell. When Ruth uses the magic, I don’t stop the narrative and explain what’s happening. That’s what commentary posts are for 🙂 Instead, I just mention the results of the magic Ruth is using. Most readers can infer that using magic requires some kind of energy, and it makes sense when magic is explained later on.
Again, this is another instance of showing instead of telling. A large portion of the book revolves around the fairy godmother wings–beating the witch to the wings and using their power. I thought it would be good for readers to see the wings in the first chapter and see what they do instead of having some vague idea of what the wings are like.
Snow White is by far one of my favorite characters in the book. And she’s here to stay. You’ll see her later on in the book. For those who have read the first chapter and seen her come back up again near the end, you can tell that she’s a complex character deserving of a book all on her own. In this opening scene she wears black because she’s mourning the death of her late husband, King Coal. Later on in the book, Snow White continues to wear only black, as a result of her continued mourning of both her husband and son. Ideally, Snow White will wear black through the entire series with few exceptions.
I always envisioned Snow White as a strong-willed woman. No tears fall from her eyes until she gives her son to Ruth and walks away from her son for what could be the last time.
I should also mention a few things about mirrors since that topic comes up. While the mythology behind the Rhymers isn’t completely explained in book one, it does have a back story all on its own. The Rhymers, as Ruth says later on, are the creators of Foreverland. Magic mirrors are items created by Rhymers for specific purposes. To make a mirror work you have to Rhyme to it–what else would you do? Ruth also mentions Mother Goose in her conversation with Snow White. Mother Goose is the last of the Rhymers. When I first outlined Wishes I planned to have Jack go and visit Mother Goose and have a chapter in near complete rhyme. That chapter never happened, but I have plans for Mother Goose in the future.
That’s pretty much it for chapter 1. Ruth takes Jack from Snow White and gallops away from Avelin to go and get Jill. The next time we see any of these characters is a little more than 14 years later. See you at the next commentary post.