Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On the Origin of Stories

Happy Leap Day!

I didn't do a lot of writing this past week -- I've been alternating between busy and exhausted. I did, however, spend some time working on a background/history/origin story for my new D&D character.

"Mother?" The girl's voice rings out in the still silence of the hall, but the woman does not turn from the window, does not even move to indicate she has heard.

The woman's waist-length braid is as white as driven snow, her thin shoulders bowed with age and long years of being hunched over her books and experiments. Her hands are still as they rest on the windowsill, her eyes seeing something that cannot be there.

"Mother!" The girl stamps a foot, impatient with her mother's daydreaming.

Finally, the woman turns, and the grey eyes, so like the girl's, focus once more. "What is it?"

The girl holds out a book, accusation in her every movement. "What is this?"

The woman takes the book, pretending not to notice the girl's anger, and flips through a few pages. "It looks like one of your father's old journals." Involuntarily, her eyes seek the window again.

"It says." The girl pauses to take a deeper breath. "It says he was in Seng Wa, in Kara Tur, during the White Lotus slave rebellion."

"Ah." The woman knows, now, what the girl has come to say. To ask. "Yes. He was." She looks down at the journal so that she will not have to look at her daughter's face.

"That was in the spring. And I was born that winter."

"So you were."

"He's not my father." The girl's voice breaks.

"He loves you, very much."

"He's not my father!" the girl yells, angry that her mother has not denied the charge, explained away the inconsistency with some tweak of fate.


I think I've spent more energy on character origin stories than any other kind of writing. For that matter, all my very favorite pieces have been origin stories, or at least begun that way.

I've got reams of stories written in a fantasy world called Gaena, including a complete novel that I wrote with Lynn (that eventually should be split into two separate novels) and sketches for half a dozen more. All of them -- all of them -- had their genesis in origin stories for my MeadeHall characters Zoya and Kevil.

Safe Harbor began its long road as an origin story for my character, Dawn. (His ending in Safe Harbor is quite different from his ending in the game, though. Funny how little changes can make huge differences in a person's life.) For that matter, Safe Harbor is set in Gaena, but the original story wasn't.

One of my favorite things I've ever written was essentially an origin story for a character in a novel Lynn wrote. I've since altered it so it's not quite so derivative, in case she ever decides to publish her novel. I'm still trying to figure out how to get it published, though. I'm thinking I might have to commission some art and self-publish, unfortunately, because there aren't any fantasy e-book publishers out there taking novelette-length stories that I can find.

I love writing origin stories. I love that they end with a beginning. I love examining the twists and turns that lead someone down a particular path.

I've often wondered if I should advertise myself at cons to write origin stories on commission -- like artists do character sketches. I'm not sure how it would work, but it sure could be fun to try. What do you think? Would you pay for a short story telling the tale of how your favorite character got into the adventuring gig? If so, how much?

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