rachelatarms (rachelatarms) wrote,

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In Which the Title of "Cuddle Monsters" becomes Thematically Appropriate

Depending on how long you've been lurking around here, you may remember  this post, in which an angst-ridden Rachel complained at length about having only snippets of scenes and no plot for her Shiny New Idea. 

Now, look over at the sidebar under the meter marking my progress on CM. 

Look back at that post. 

...I found a plot. 

Not only did I find a plot, but I found a plot in which nearly every element I listed earlier fit in organically—one or two aren't present, but I'm not going to tell you what they are. (Shush. I'm pretending that people are actually curious about this, and that I can be secretive and sneaky out of a sense of duty to the WIP rather than just embarrassment at my Potential for Suck.) I spent about a week doing nothing but hammering out each scene that was vital to the plot, which makes this my first really-for-real outlined WIP. In the middle of the massive power outage that followed the derecho, I spent time fiddling around by candlelight with nothing but my paper and pencil. It was rather magical. 

But it still terrifies me anyway. 

I should back up a bit, and bring Little!Rachel back into the picture. You see, Little!Rachel started writing and telling stories very early, and—as very little writers often do—they were quite derivative of things Little!Rachel liked. All things considered, Little!Rachel was relatively good at parroting other works, but didn't realize that quite yet—and heaven help the person who pointed out the derivation, because that would send even a pint-sized (err...younger, that is. I'm still short.) Rachel into a fit of angsty rage. Of course, maybe if Little!Rachel had accepted this fact, her actual craft would've improved long before *cough* her freshman year of college, when she finished re-writing what I've retroactively dubbed The First Novel (For Realz). It wasn't terribly good, but it was a valiant first effort, and not derivative at all. It was also rather dry and uninteresting, although I still like the world.

So...I never actually grew out of what I call a general fear of unoriginality. For a *cough* very long time, my thought process when writing looked a lot like this: "holy crap I'm a talentless hack and no amount of work will ever fix my writing and everything good in my WIPs was actually written first by someone else what will I do ARGH".  As a result, I have half a dozen unfinished WIPs saved on my computer...and I gave up on them all. I toyed with the idea of, y'know, just not writing, and it failed horribly. Throughout the whole time, though, I continued to study and work on my craft as best I could. 

Then CM started to come together, and I wanted to cry. I loved what I saw—those snippets and little scenes of something lovely and dark—but if I wrote what needed to be written for the story's sake, I would use the very same things that haunted me for years. I weighed it. On one hand, if it ended up as just another unoriginal craptastic draft, I could give up on it and not suffer the consequences. I'm not agented, so I didn't have to answer to them. This story could be for me—just for me—and I could do whatever the heck I wanted with it. 

At the same time, and probably instrumental in CM's development on a subconscious level, I was researching folklore and mythology. I realized soon that I could connect the dots and see archetypes everywhere. If you asked me why this was, I would've responded quite reasonably that archetypes and tropes exist because they work. They were literally made to be used. No wonder they show up in every culture's myth and legend with a fair amount of reliability, right?


So I decided to embrace the archetypes in a Hug of Doom and try to wring every last bit of usefulness out of them. I would do nothing but tell the truth about the story (you can do that in fiction, right?) and see what happens. 

Well. I love it. 

For the first time, everything seems to just work. Not that drafting hasn't been difficult and trying, but I actually feel like I know what I'm doing within the story—part of which is no doubt due to the fact that I've done a great deal of reading on structure and plotting. On the other hand, though, I can't help but think that it's also connected to the fact that I'm learning to accept that nihil novi sub sole—and, as a result, I can use the tools created long ago to tell a decent story without feeling like I'm nothing more than a plagiarist with an occasional good turn of phrase. I've been able to plot and explore and play with it like never before—all thanks to these types. CM can be what it is because those archetypical figures and folkloric tales are in its genes—a vital part of what it is, but not all it is. 

But it's still terrifying, because others could see only the bones of the archetypes and think I'm derivative all the same, or if I managed to royally screw up my very favorite archetypes. That fear of being dull, stupid, unoriginal, and anything else you can think of is still there, and it's continually dragging down my ability to proceed with this WIP (example: what am I doing right now? Or, more specifically, if I'm writing this blog post, what am I not doing? Yeah.). But I've managed as best I can—trying to let my love of the story carry me through the endless Fear of Suck waves. If I write, then I can get better. If I don't, I never will. 

This fear is precisely why I need to write this story. Even if it doesn't go anywhere at all (and I want it to go somewhere, of course, because I love it immensely and hope that others would as well), the fact that it scares me so much is a sign that I'll grow through it. It is funny, I think, that while my characters have to fight many monsters in the story, I have to fight my own just to write it. Life must be lived, fear must be conquered, and words must be written. Rather like Victor Frankenstein, we create our own monsters. We have to choose what to do with them. 
Tags: books, character development, cuddle monsters, fairy-tales, stories, writing

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