June 15, 2024

Recycling Titles and the Problem With Fairy Tales

As I'm now nearly careening toward the finish line with Voices in the Briars, I'm getting myself ready for the next book on my to-do list. I'm also at that somewhat vulnerable point where I'm looking all over the place for inspiration. I blogged recently about doppelgängers and how a piece of music got me rethinking a story idea that kept getting stuffed back in the trunk. 

This time around, I got another needed boost at the day job while I was listening to my favorite Halloween-themed ambient playlist, which reminded me so much of one of my favorite fairy tales when I was a kid. Back then I remember it being titled "The Boy Who Didn't Know How to Shudder", but apparently the Wikipedia page for it calls it "The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was". That's a mouthful, innit? 

But I was able to find parallels between the playlist I was listening to -- since the sequence of the songs followed an actual storyline -- and the Brothers Grimm's fairy tale (which I still love following a reread). With that connection also came a recycling of an old fanfic title of mine -- whose bare bones plot actually inspired the idea behind The Twilight Gods years after I wrote it -- because it was the only title that actually fit the plot of this new story.

And since the muse-feeding was in full swing, I got the main plot pegged, and it's pretty rock-solid, soooo...

Why, yes, I'm exceptionally proud of this title. :D And it'll enjoy a second life as a published book (wholly different story in case that wasn't clear) that I'm aiming to release in 2026 following Doppelgänger. The cover art is pretty set though I might be tweaking the colors and overall effects later. So add this to my calendar, yes? 

As for the second part of this post's title, it's an ongoing challenge for me whenever I write something that's my take on a fairy tale. Rewriting fairy tales or giving them your own spin allows you a pretty basic story template to manipulate, but fairy tales being fairy tales, they're all very generic and broad in terms of plots and characters. So it's up to you to expand on those further, color them with your own special ideas, etc. 

Voices in the Briars is my own version of the "Bluebeard" fairy tale, but it's a gothic horror and gay romance that's set in Hungary (as a nod to the legend, however false, of Elizabeth Báthory). The original fairy tale also has variants, and I opted to go for the Estonian one that involves the bride's childhood friend who's instrumental in helping her escape and subsequently marries her. So since part of my focus is on that friends-to-lovers trope, I have to give my MCs a pretty expansive backstory to justify what happens in the second half of the book. 

With nothing to go by even by way of a passage or anything on the Estonian variant, I'm pretty much on my own coming up with that history between Lóránt and Dávid. The tricky part, of course, is not letting the new details run off with the story so that you're tumbling down a wholly different canyon before you know it. I've done that so many times before and ended up dumping the draft and starting over. Not fun. So far it's been a bit of a tightrope act with this WiP, but now that I'm finally hitting my stride with the actual fairy tale part of the book (the first third is dedicated to the two boys and how their lives are entwined), the template's guiding me more effectively.

And I can see something similarly tricky in the pipeline for Compline (a gothic retelling of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin") and The Shadow Groom (see above). Compline will pose more of a challenge since the original fairy tale reads more like an analogy than a straightforward story, but I'll need to read up some more on its possible sources before diving in. The Shadow Groom, which will also echo the dark humor of the original Brothers Grimm version, won't be as nutty to take on, but I expect it to be a lot of fun. Seriously, read the fairy tale. I laughed at some of the scenes because of how ridiculous they are plus the fact that the boy is an utter dingbat all the way to the end. 

At any rate, it'll be great to turn that story into a dark comedy with a healthy dose of dry humor a la Nightshade's Emporium.

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