Day Three {First Times}

There they lie in Ilwëa forgotten,
There they lie asleep.
And no one shall awake them,
Nor stir their shifting dreams.
There they lie with all their
Secrets scatter’d round:
Their books, their jewels,
Their histories engraven on their shadow-beds.
In Ilwëa they lay down,
From Ilwëa they shall never rise
Though all weep for them.
One day Ilwëa shall go down into the Sea,
One day it shall be lost in the Deep
From which Enmella and Midwëo were made.
Let the Sea be silent of the Noliam,
Of Uoi and Yusala, of the mighty sons
Born of the Armelfar.
All time for them has ended.
Let the names of the Noliam
Wash clean from all the forsaken tombs.
There they lie in Ilwäea forgotton.
There they lie asleep.

day three: your first attempt at writing

It's Day Three of Lerowen's fifteen-day writer's challenge. This is probably the most embarrassing of the fifteen questions, considering a writer's skills (we hope) improve over time. Going back and digging up original works from the dark early days is like taking a good long look at the stuff we wore in the early nineties...

Well, I don't actually have my very first piece of writing any more, and it has been so many years that I don't remember it very well. To its credit, I seem to recall that it had some kind of plot, but that's about as much credit as I can give it. So, for the sake of clarity, I'm going to fix on the piece that really launched me into a comfortable world of writing. This piece is a fantasy weighing in around 317,734 words (not including the massive amount of history, backstory, and poetry that went along with it) and styling itself under the title of The Starling. Of all my pieces of writing up to that point, this was the first that really pulled together the things I had learned scrawling my more imaginary works, the works that were really just the writer playing with her characters. The Starling was its own work, my first real piece of stand-alone fiction, the first piece I had written that I could really (in a creator's way) be proud of.

To poke some fun at myself, I have to say that I'm a real American story. I taught myself how to write, I pulled myself up by my own No. 2 pencils. The Starling was my first independent work, but in its own way it was still just another exercise as I honed my skills to make a publishable work. I'm still a little proud of The Starling, though the poor thing bears the tell-tale markings of amateur fantasy.

the characters

The plot is very character-driven, so it would make most sense to touch on the characters for explanation. With elves and humans, and brownies and stars, I had quite a cast to manage. My country-at-the-world's-end was populated by lots of different folk, and a sort of country that is fading out of its primal magical state. But a bit of magic still remained in veins and pockets, and my main character, you might say, was one of those. He was a Starling, a half-breed, part human and part star. Auran Starling was a lot of fun to write. He was a man in his late twenties, early thirties with a young wife and a nephew, he was very close to the land and had a good hand with horses, and in general he was a very strong, quiet individual. His orphaned nephew Cirdil was almost the spitting image of his uncle, having grown up with almost no other standard to go by. The two were peas in a pod. Into this pea-pod I tossed another fellow, a follow-the-leader sort of young man who attached himself willingly to Auran's shadow; I tossed an elf, I tossed a brownie, I tossed another starling. Through all the shifting peoples of my countries, these folk stayed the course together and, though primitive as far as my current skills are concerned, it was enjoyable to see them come together into a single whole with a single purpose.

the single purpose

So, what's the point of all this, hmm? The point goes back, as any epic will, to a happenstance in the past. If Hel had decided to take over Asgard, it would have been similar to Haierel, a fallen star, getting it into her mind that she wanted to take not only her revenge for (from her point of view) past wrongs, but wanting to take everything. She was my cruelest, most calculating, most wicked and womanish character I had written before. When Auran signed up to take on the job of dissuading her from her goals or putting a knife in the hollow of her throat, he was not fully aware of what he was getting into. She was my first stab at the Infernal Venus, and she did not turn out so very badly, either.

This was my world-building story, my chance to get the hang of writing a new world, new peoples, new cultures, new histories and mythologies and whatnot, so on, and further. It's 317,734 plus words of serious abandon, and those 317,734 plus words, I think, really paid off. I still look on Auran and Cirdil, Aeofern and Kelan, and Brownie, with fondness. They taught me a lot.

Star would fall and Starling rise,
Clearing the dark and clouded skies.
Night will fade and dayspring come,
And Fire give way to light of Sun...

5 ripostes:

  1. This is Dad, masquerading as Abigail as I do not have a tag (or whatever it is called). Just wanted to say that I am enjoying these immensely...and I never agreed with you about giving up on The Starling. I only read the few chapters you gave me, but loved every one. Maybe someday your first work will come under a more mature pen? Love you, honey.

  2. This is Jenny, masquerading as Jenny. Glancing over The Starling, I have to agree with you. It has the potential to become something, but it's one massive embryo just now. I hope to revisit it one day. It has potential, way down in there. Somewhere. I may need to borrow a digger to find it.

    But thank you for all your encouragement and prodding and coaxing. You are the best father ever, and hopefully we'll be able to look through a proper manuscript of The Starling some day.

    After I finish the eternal editing of Adamantine.

  3. Jenny, this was such a delight to read. I've wanted to know more about your earliest scribbles--there's Boxen, of course, which is lovely; but that was written after the fact, so it's not quite the same. This, though, seems to bear the inexplicable Jenny-mark. The idea of the Starlings, I like that. It's you. And I think I would like Auran, even at this late date.

    Wonderful, isn't it, how such small seeds shape our futures?

  4. And what, pray, did you wear in the early nineties that has you so embarrassed, besides diapers?

    So that this post doesn't consist simply of that snide aside, I'll say that I wish I had figured out earlier that the best way to get good at writing was to write, and not to expect that I could haul off and set down some Mark Helprin-meets-Neil Gaiman-meets-Tolstoy-meets-Faulkner awesomesauce just because my mind said I should. Of course, I had to read all those authors first, as well, but I see now the benefits of practice.

    I can't remember that I wrote anything recognizable as fiction (beyond the inevitable childhood rambles) until I got to college, and even since then my output's been minimal. I promised myself I would finish my Metallica-inspired, novella-length story that I began freshman year before I graduated - now 10 years on I'm still in the opening third. Barring that, the earliest extant works from my high school days are an essay on Tolkien I wrote for my BritLit class and a cringe-worthily smug polemic entitled "Stupidity Theory" in which I explained why I was the only one who could understand the world and its oh-so transparent workings aright. Actually, checking my archives, it seems I deleted it. Just as well.

  5. I briefly considered doing my Boxen, but I decided against it. My current scraps of my Boxen are reworks off of the original, so it would have been cheating to use those. And I don't remember which came first, The Starling or my Boxen.

    So many stories, not enough time.

    I remember what I wore in the early nineties. I particularly remember an excruciating watermelon dress with bloomers, of all things. I hated those bloomers. They pinched and stung and had too much elastic. I can remember back to my fourth birthday, so that covers the bulk of the nineties.

    I suppose it helped that I started writing so young, before I began to be self-conscious. Without that impediment I was able to cobble together some skills that enabled me to write something I could be proud of by the time I reached a self-conscious state.