word craft


Story Behind the Story #17:
Bright Shadow

Bright ShadowI recent­ly wrote about my book, S.O.R. Losers, and how it was the fastest book I ever wrote: one day. Now I’ll write about Bright Shad­ow, which from the time I first start­ed to write it, until pub­li­ca­tion day, required four­teen years.

I can­not recall what trig­gered me to start this book. I sus­pect I was read­ing fairy tales to my two old­er boys. It con­tains two aspects (com­mon in fairy tales) that made it hard for me. It is a fan­ta­sy, and I had nev­er writ­ten one before. It was also a fan­ta­sy which had, as its core, a dying gift of wish­es, a kind of riddle.

The last wish­es are here. They will bring thee long life if thou keep thy­self from harm, but noth­ing for thy­self. Use them well. Tell no one what thou has or before thy time, or all, both thee and they, shall be lost. For when the wish­es are gone, so too shall thee be.

My hero­ine, Mor­wen­na, is giv­en this gift of a few wish­es, but-ah ha!—she does not know it. How­ev­er, her boyfriend—if you will—thinks he has the wish­es and is for­ev­er get­ting into trou­ble, which forces Mor­wen­na to use the wish­es to save him. By so doing, she moves ever clos­er to her demise. It takes time-the plot-for her to under­stand what is hap­pen­ing, not just to the wish­es, but to her.

Clever, yes? Alas, too clever by half. I loved the idea, its irony, its para­ble-like qual­i­ty, its hero­ine. The prob­lem was I could­n’t fig­ure out how to put it all togeth­er. I would work on it, give it up, put it aside, work on oth­er books, pick it up again, only to give up—but nev­er com­plete­ly. Back I’d go, while refer­ring to this unend­ing project as my “hob­by.”

Some­how I fig­ured it out. Four­teen years. In short (so to speak), beware of wish­es: they can take a long, long time to come true.

Actu­al­ly the book starts off with a riddle:

When bright, it’s dark, when dark­est, it’s gone.
When gone for good, so are you.
What am I?

When dark, it’s bright, when bright­est, it’s gone.
When gone for good, so will I be.
What am I?

But please don’t think I’m going to give you the answer here.

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