Sunday, February 25, 2007

Accomplishments and the alternative, writing.

The Willow Knot hit 65k yesterday, which means I'm within 10-15k of finishing the first draft. Bearing in mind that experience has shown that I'm not very good at estimating the wordage needed for specific plot events. Both the Elfland story and "Fluke" were meant to be regular-length short stories and ended up at 11k each (Elfland later flensed to 9k, and yes, better for it).

Things I'm happy about:
I got to use a classic fairytale motif, and bonus, one that most modern readers will neither be familiar with nor find easy to accept--motif T(2) 1962.2 'sleep by lousing'. Those fairy tales where the ogre or the dragon or the hero puts his head into the maiden's lap and she 'combs his hair' to put him to sleep? Lousing him.
This is the second rescue, which Myl accomplishes by guile, where Tyl accomplished the first rescue by unexpected and resolute action. Myl louses the old woman who keeps house for the robbers (as well as fixing her a restful posset and filling her straw mattress-tick with soothing herbs as well as straw) causing her to fall asleep, so Myl can get at the barred door.
In another part of the forest, whoops, the story, I'm building the threat to Alard. The background needs working out yet, so many details may change, but it looks as if Alard will be aided three times by actions Myl took in the past, each triggered by Tyl.
First he escapes his pursuers by Tyl leading him to the track Myl built in the marsh.
Second, some attackers are done in by being driven into the osier field, linked to Myl through the willow and her use of the osiers, and by Tyl (this is quite pencilly) scratching Alard and flicking his blood into the marsh to pay for its alliance.
Last, the rescued princess, now grown to warrior-queen and hunting outlaws, with her guard does in the remaining attackers, then realises that she has Alard in her power (and her counsellors have been advocating invasion), but as she and Alard discuss this, Tyl comes forward and she recognises him as the deer-companion of the wild girl who rescued her, and who refused reward, asking only for one favour in some time to come.
The really fun part of this is the princess/queen, who is very odd indeed. Jim Macdonald did say to cherish your secondary characters, and certainly Sefina and the princess are blossoming. Or night-blooming, in the latter instance.

Less happy:
The braiding / knotting / basketwork motif arose unexpectedly while I was writing the opening chapters. It's turned out to be quite important. While I don't aim for the Dick Francis ideal of learning a new skill for each book (it was his wife who got her pilot's licence, I think, for one book) I do like to have some slight acquaintance with how it feels to do something.
I can braid my hair, but otherwise I have very little manual dexterity with the fibre arts. My mum tried to teach me how to knit, and I couldn't do it. A couple of accomplished spinners have tried to teach me how to spin, and it didn't take. I can sew on buttons and that sort of thing, but tying a weaver's knot to join two pieces of thread is beyond me.
Working with thread seems to provoke a sort of allergic reaction, where my hands, although they do not change in outward seeming, function with the equivalent grace and skill of cartoon hands, the kind with three fat fingers and fewer joints.
But I must learn. So I took out The Ashley Book of Knots, by Clifford Ashley, chockfull of information and helpful diagrams. Here's an illustrative anecdote:
"Several years ago, from my printed directions in the Sportsman Magazine, and with no other assistance, my cousin, Hope Knowles, tied without error Knot #2217, which has forty-nine crossings, making therewith a covering for the knob of her father's automobile gear-shift lever. She was barely eleven years old at the time."
Can I follow in young Hope Knowles's footsteps (fingermarks?)? No, apparently I can't. I've managed to follow Ashley's diagrams for precisely one (1) knot thus far, and that's the granny knot. Besides the lack of manual dexterity, I seem to lack the ability to make any sense at all of his diagrams. I can do one step, but how the cords get from that one step to the next is a complete mystery to me. In fact, I've done better looking at the diagrams of completed knots and working it out from those.

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