Fairy Tales

Saturday, March 01, 2014
In my NaNo novel, a cozy mystery featuring a retired librarian who likes Shakespeare and raises African violets, my muse threw me--fairies! This was truly a weird experience since I had no intention of writing anything fanciful. But it was November and anything goes in November. Now, like most of you, I pictured something like this:

Or maybe Tinker Bell from the Walt Disney cartoon of Peter Pan. In other words, a tiny woman, often scantily clad, with wings. The wings, like those in the picture above, sometimes resemble butterfly wings.

Now, although my mother read lots of fairytales to me when I was young, I realized I didn't know a whole lot about fairies. Since I needed to know something about this little colony of fairies, I did what I always do. I ordered a book. For reference. (snicker)

I got another book from the library. What both books agreed on was that fairies, rather than being the benign, even helpful, creatures of current popular culture are "more likely to bring about magical mischief than to benefit any mortal." In some traditions, fairies are downright malicious and vindictive. And they're not always beautiful. The book from the library had multiple examples of ugly fairies.

This was very discouraging since, with my previous exposure to fairies being what it was, I had already come up with a subplot counting on them being very nice little creatures. I was then faced with a typical writer's dilemma: do I make my story factually correct (if there is such a thing when you're dealing with mythical creatures) or do I keep my own image of what fairies are like?

This comes up often, especially in historical fiction and mysteries. Readers of these genres are knowledgable and unusually quick to call a writer on things the writer gets wrong. On the other hand, sticking to the truth doesn't always make a good story. There's a reason Lawrence Block called his book on writing "Telling Lies for Fun and Profit."

On the other hand, Lee Lofland, a retired law enforcement officer, does his best to help writers describe police procedure and weapons accurately. This is where I've found that the truth is often not colorful enough.

So what did I decide for my particular dilemma? I'm not sure it's decided yet. I have yet to start revisions on that novel, but hope to publish it later this year under the title "Blue Murder." You'll have to read it to find out.

Picture Credits:
Monarch Fairy by MrsKyoha via DeviantArt http://mrskyoya.deviantart.com/art/Monarch-Fairy-342122203

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