Double, double toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble
When it comes to story-telling I am unabashedly fascinated with the supernatural. Witches, warlocks, magic, dragons, angels, demons, ghosts, fairies, monsters, werewolves, vampires…you name it.
I was bit as soon as I was read my first fairy tale. As soon as I could read myself, I devoured all sorts of fairy tales by the likes of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen and progressed to other books about magic children and otherworldly powers.
I guess, if I’m honest, a big draw to stories of people with powers out of the ordinary, is because as a small child I often felt powerless. Not because I had a terrible upbringing or was mercilessly bullied in school…although I had a taste of it. I guess no one goes completely unscathed when it comes to bullying.
I think when you’re a little kid life often feels just plain unfair. I remember being told “you’re not old enough” or “just wait until you’re old enough” when there was something I yearned to do RIGHT NOW!
Sometimes I did run out and openly defy my parents or my grandmother Meme who helped raise my siblings and myself but I wasn’t exactly a wild child…except in my imagination. I often retreated into my own world and gave myself special powers, did whatever I desired and was whomever I wanted. At times, I was truly diabolical.
As I got older and did encounter bullies – whether another kid or an adult – I would often think if I were a witch or a wizard I could really pay those goofs back big time!
Revenge fantasies are a guilty pleasure but exacting actual revenge in real life is a whole other thing. I know in my gut that it’s something that will make you feel worse not better. Psych studies have actually proven this to be true.
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
Despite the adverse affects of revenge in real life – the mix of power, revenge and the supernatural is the stuff that great stories are made of.
Recently I went to Stratford, Ontario to see a production of Macbeth at the Stratford Festival. The production is riveting and has been getting rave reviews.
It’s one of William Shakespeare’s shortest plays and also among his most popular tragedies. It follows the journey of Macbeth from the position of a prominent soldier to that of a murderous king. His accomplice is his scheming wife Lady Macbeth.
It’s a bloody tale of greed, ego, morality, the dangers of the lust of power and it’s riddled with passion and the supernatural. I would even go as far as calling it a horror story.
It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood.
Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak.
Augurs and understood relations have
By magot pies and choughs and rooks brought forth
The secret’st man of blood.—What is the night?
Almost at odds with morning, which is which.
The three “wayward sisters” or witches who present Macbeth with a prophecy predicting that he will one day become king are some of my favourite literary characters of all time. They are so deliciously creepy, elemental and powerful. I love them!
Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.
In fact, the supernatural YA (Young Adult) novel I’m working on will have supporting characters inspired by Shakespeare’s witches. I plan on creating my own mythology for them but Shakespeare himself was said to have been inspired by Greek mythology. They are based on the Moirai or The Fates – the three female incarnations of destiny who controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal from birth to death.
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Some analysts declares that the witches are instruments of evil while others insist that they merely gave Macbeth the prophecy — what he did afterwards was his own doing.
Whatever they are — they are undisputed fascinating characters. They appear in the first scene setting the play’s dramatic tone and the promise of the supernatural story that’s about to unfold. When writing novels, one technique is to use a prologue to set the tone or “promise” of the book. It can tease and tantalize the reader and give your novel the kickstart it needs.
The insanely popular Game of Thrones actually starts with such a prologue. It introduces the world of George R.R. Martin’s saga, both the threat and the promise. It depicts three characters’ of the Night’s Watch terrifying encounter with the White Walkers, but the three characters never play any further part in the books thereafter.
American sci-fi and horror writer Dan Wells has coined a phrase for what Martin did as the “Ice Monster Prologue”.
Wells has developed a Seven Point System of Story structure that he explains in his five-part YouTube Series.
Not everyone will choose to plot their novel like Dan suggests – but there’s plenty of great take-away about plot and story structure using popular novels, plays ad films as examples. I got a lot out of it.
A Final Incantation
Try writing a prologue for the novel you’re working on…or for a novel that already exists but has no prologue. It could be a mystery, thriller, a fantasy, sci-fi, horror or romance – whatever strikes your fancy. Give yourself 15 minutes of writing with no self-editing and see what you come up with!
Looking for another writing challenge? Enter the Geist Can’t Lit Without It CanLit Short Story Contest. You generate a CanLit premise at canlitgenerator.com and use the premise for a 500 word or less story of any genre. Deadline is August 1, 2016. First three winners get cash money and will be published in Geist magazine and on geist.com