anthimeria: Close up of cecropia moth wings, the words "Don't judge a fairy by her wings" (Fairy wings)
[personal profile] anthimeria
Remember when I said I'd tell you about my new project in my next post . . ?  Well, after eating my words, I am NOW going to tell you about my new project.  A month and a half later.  Oops?

After many moons of research, worldbuilding, more research, more worldbuilding, character profiling, and oh yeah, even more worldbuilding, I'm about to embark upon outlining a new middle grade fantasy.  About fairies.

Spoilers:
The elevator pitch I have for the plot so far is: Aster is a day fairy living in a forest at war.  When her mother is killed by night fairies, Aster must venture into their stronghold and sabotage the Night Queen in order to protect her people.

Of course, the pitch is deceptive in that this story is the result of a lifetime of building annoyance at all those kid's movies/books/tv shows/etc with an environmental message where the bad guys are the forces of death/decay/night/darkness.  I'm sorry, but no ecosystem can function without those forces!  Decay and rot are part of the life cycle, and are just as important as birth and growth.  They're not pretty, but they're needed.  What finally sparked me deciding to write about it was the movie Epic--awesome movie, loved it--but the bad guys are "boggans" that spread decay, and the Leafmen and the queen of the forest are the good guys and the forces of life, always at war.  The implication being, of course, that the forest stays alive despite the boggans/decay.  I've always wanted to tell a story where the forces of decay/night/darkness were the good guys.

One of the most difficult and fun parts of doing all the worldbuilding is deciding what my fairies are going to be like.  In a departure from my usual instinct to turn to history and the original myths (because of the metatextual dialogue this story engages in), I turned instead to modern fairies or pixies for inspiration for my fairies--Disney's Tinker Bell, Epic's Leafmen, FernGully.  My fairies are not the Fae of Celtic legend, but the forest spirits of modern western storytelling--and thus, I get free reign in deciding everything from magic to culture.  Which is part of the reason I ended up doing so much research!  The main, initial conceit of the story is that there are day fairies and night fairies, and I knew I wanted the day fairies to have butterfly wings and the night fairies to have moth wings.

I believe I talked about research spirals?  Yeah, I now know bunches about moths, butterflies, their wings, various species, differences between them, and a whole host of other things about the native flora and fauna of the far northeastern US.  Because the day fairies and the night fairies are native to that area, and named after species native to that area, and are allied with species native to that area, and--you get the idea.

Plus, I got to create fairy culture essentially from whole cloth.  There are some givens--they're between 5"-6" tall, they have pretty wings, they live in trees, they have magic, they're protectors of the forest--but within and beyond those, I got to make up all kinds of things.

Culture is where I focused first, because obviously something has broken down if the day fairies and the night fairies are at war.  This includes everything from clothing to alliances with different animal species.  Recently I've been poking at fairy physiology, things like--are they warm blooded?  Do they have any nonhuman senses?  Do they bioluminesce?  For all they look like tiny humans with wings, they aren't.

It's been a long time since I delved this deeply into worldbuilding, and for all that I love it, I'd forgotten how much work it is to start utterly from scratch.  The last time I did worldbuilding this intense was probably Skywatch, and then I was taking real history and cultures and utopia-steampunking them.  Flying Machines, of course, required its own worldbuilding, but because it's the sequel to Skywatch, a lot of this work had already been done, so I got to focus on the fun stuff.  This time I had only the natural world and modern fairies/pixies as scaffolding and inspiration, and everything else had to come from me and the story.

At this point, I think I've finished character profiling.  It's weird, because this is so much one character's story--Aster's--that I only have two characters who need full profiles.  I have notes on a few others, but this is very much Aster's story.  I have enough worldbuilding done that I feel like the rest should come organically, as I write.  And I have a mishmash of an outline: the document I stayed up until four in the morning writing after seeing Epic.  But that isn't anywhere near a proper outline, which I'm going to need.

Right now, my target age range for this is upper middle grade, 10-14.  Of my middle grade novels, I seem to have run the gamut: Skywatch is either true middle grade, 8-12, or edges into upper, 9-13.  Trial is young middle grade, I'd call it ages 7-10.  And this is 10-14.  That's mostly because of the subject matter--this is about war and death and disability and prejudice and racism and systematic oppression and anger, a lot of anger.  Aster is my angriest protagonist yet, and that's a contributing factor as to why this story has taken me so long to get a hold of.  Aster is angry and reckless and self-involved.

The working title, which I came up with literally as I was writing this post, is The Forest War.  (Previous working titles include the terrible and too-obvious Night and Day, and then Epic in homage to its inspiration.)  Interestingly, unlike Skywatch and Trial, The Forest War is a standalone.  I think it's also going to be longer than both of them--pushing the advisable length for middle grade long.  We'll see.

Now I need to get down to outlining.  Here goes nothing.

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anthimeria: unicorn rampant, first line of Kipling's "The Thousandth Man" (Default)
Lauren K. Moody

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There is hope in error, but none at all in perfection.
--Ursula K. Le Guin

The universe is made up of stories, not atoms.
--Muriel Rukeyser

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

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