Episode 33 of the first draft of my novel (available elsewhere on the site) was written on the evening of my fortieth birthday. Time flies.

Episodes 33 to 35 were all pretty easy to write and I'm quite happy with them, though I do think 35 could use more characterisation and less exposition. I'll fix it in the next draft.

The power of myth

At the end of episode 31 my protagonist had disappeared into some kind of water-related other world. The challenge for episode 32 was to figure out what he found there.

I saw a number of different options.

One was the Washer at the Ford, who I first encountered in Caitlin and John Matthews' Arthurian Tarot. The book that comes with the tarot deck says the following about her: "The Washer at the Ford is one of the oldest figures of death in Celtic tradition. Those who see her washing out bloody linen are normally warriors whose vision of her presages their pending death in battle. [...] The Washer at the Ford is one of the aspects of Morgan, who inherits the mythos attached to the Morrighan. Geoffry of Monmouth describes her as 'Morgen, a Goddess, who receives Arthur into her island realm of Avalon, there to heal him of his wounds'. [...] The Washer at the Ford is essentially a challenging figure, yet she is also known as the Dark Woman of Knowledge in tradition because she is a teacher who initiates us into knowledge of ourselves." I knew I wanted to work her in somehow.

One idea that didn't make it was mermaids (or mermen). Not the Disney version, of course, but the merfolk I had read about in Frisian folk tales. Wild, dangerous creatures with sharp, pointy teeth.

In fantasy novels a lot of myth-related themes have been done to death already, so it's a challenge to avoid cliche. This is certainly true for heroes coming across some magical artefact that may have the power to either save or destroy the world. By creating the jewel out of blood, spittle and dust and having the hero pocket it and forget about it I tried to do just that.

Also, I think that if you were to come across a magical artefact in real life that is probably what would happen. You'd have no idea what it was or what you were supposed to do with it. (And, back to writing a novel, how would your protagonist find out? Find a book of ancient prophecy at the local library that gives all the answers? Lame. Remember bits of childhood tales that take on new meaning now he or she has found the artefact? Better. Dreams? Visions? Encounters with different people who all provide part of what he or she needs to know? Definitely better. But all of it needs to come naturally.)


This article was written after writing episode 35 of the first draft of my novel After the War.
After the War (35)

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