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Some brainstorming - Peter Hentges

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November 30th, 2005

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05:04 am - Some brainstorming
For a while, I've wanted to write a story about faeries in a modern setting. Probably inspired by War For The Oaks way back, but it's always something that I've come back to. So for the writing project I refer to in my previous entry, I've been doing some brainstorming on the back-story. One of the elements of that is the "rules" for faeries in a modern setting.

Some of these are going to be close to what they are for the stories handed down from medieval times. Some of them, however, are going to have to be different in order to allow faeries to co-exist with humans in the human world.

First out the door is the conflict between faeries and Christianity. Many stories tell of faeries killed by the sounding a church bell, or unable to trespass upon holy land. Still, as we moved more into cities, it seems the faeries came with us and also infiltrated our worship. In Italy, for example, there are said to exist faeries that take the form of little monks that fulfill for the houses of God, the same duties that traditional brownies do in more modest residences. Plus, Christianity is no longer a monolithic entity. Fractured many ways, any power that entity had over the supernatural is diminished. (Though some individuals may be able to focus power to thwart the supernatural.)

Next we come to iron. This might present a problem for the faerie in a modern setting because of the amount of metal that exists there. The traditional weakness, though, is specific to iron. Perhaps limiting it to that would be enough to keep a sense of tradition without overly limiting faeries in a modern setting. Steel, after all, is much more common in a modern setting that straight iron. In some cases, steel is a refined form of iron, but many everyday objects are alloys of iron and other metals. This would, I propose, reduce the effect of the iron on the faerie. So while they might prefer to use tools of wood or non-ferrous metal, they won't be killed by a butter knife.

Other traditional restrictions seem as if they would fit nicely in a modern setting. The obligation faeries feel for reciprocating gifts (which is why you don't thank a faerie for something; the thanks is the reciprocation and a cheap one at that) hold no special problems for a faerie in the modern world. Neither, the feudal structure of faerie society, as it lies outside of any man-made structure. A faerie loyal to its court and Queen would have no undue trouble with human authorities and yet would be subject to interesting plot possibilities. Finally, some stories talk about faeries ability to deceive but suggest that they may not directly lie. (They might tell you about a sign, neglecting to mention the sign is red, but they would be unable to tell you the sign is blue.) This presents interesting possibilities to the storyteller, but I wonder if it might be too restrictive for my narrative needs. I'll table that one for now.

Interestingly enough, the Game of Life I linked to earlier, has a way of infecting my thoughts on this as well. Humans, in my estimation, are what is called a breeder. That is, they grow quickly in population, filling all available space. Faeries, on the other hand, are more often forms of still life or oscillators. That is, they are either stable and do not change or remain unchanged while cycling through distinct states. Interestingly, if you seed Life with a breeder that begins to fill all the available space and then introduce an oscillator or still life, the previously static pattern erupts into swirls of chaotic change. To me, this means the relationship between human and faerie is one of symbiosis. Without humans, faeries would remain unchanged and while the change forced upon them by humans may mean that some of them are destroyed, it is also the only way new faeries can be created. Similarly, left unchecked, humans would fill all available space and would remain stagnant. Faeries in our midst keep us in check but also stimulate our creativity.

The question that confronts me now is: What is the premise of my story? Beyond the "faeries live in a modern world with humans," what is the conflict at the core of my story? This will drive the plot and help determine what characters will be drawn from the setting. Of course, the characters will have something to say about the plot and about the conflict, I'm sure. Left to my own devices, though, I tend to come up with characters that are lovingly detailed but who lack direct motivation. So I'm going to concentrate on the plot first in an attempt to summon from it the characters for whom the action of the plot is critical.
Current Mood: creativecreative

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:November 30th, 2005 12:43 pm (UTC)
Interesting ideas. I'd be interested in reading this once you've finished it.

Here are some of my thoughts on some of the things you've proposed here:

Re faeries vs. Christianity: I would imagine that only older (ordained pre-Vatican II) Catholic priests would have any sort of power over faeries, whereas Protestant ministers and post-Vacitan II priests would not. I think Orthodox Christian priests would also have power here.

Re faeries vs. iron: I like the idea of the faeries' vulnerability being strictly to iron, not to steel as well. In fact, you might want to further restrict it to wrought iron rather than cast iron (unless you think you'd need a scene where a character attacks a faery with kitchenware) - I have no basis for making this distinction other than that it seems to me to be more in line with the traditional stating of the faeries' vulnerability as being to "cold iron".
[User Picture]
Date:November 30th, 2005 01:28 pm (UTC)
I thoughto f the "cold iron" thing as well, but then thought of things like horseshoes used to ward off faeries (one of the reasons they were put over doors to bring luck). These were obviously forged and shaped with heat, so does "cold" iron still fit? Or is "cold iron" a way of saying iron that has not been purified with the high heat necessary to make steel? Either way, the cast-iron kitchenware wielding had also occurred to me.

Here's hoping I actually finish it so that people get a chance to read it. I've not had a great track record with finishing fiction prose pieces in the past.
[User Picture]
Date:November 30th, 2005 06:43 pm (UTC)
Rather than getting into the legalese of how the modern environment affects faeries in order to make things less difficult for them, I suggest taking the rules strictly, and fully embracing the difficulties this will cause.

This will (a) make your story more unique, and (b) really make you think about how it would be to be fay in the modern world.

Make your faeries avoid the churchbells. That's not so different from regular people taking care when they cross the street, or avoiding the third rail in a subway station.

Make your faeries avoid anything composed even partially of iron. It's not like there's a shortage of plastic in the world. Hell, faeries probably *invented* plastic to deal with that problem.

Instead of having humans with pointy ears and weird personalities, have alien beings who are legitimately different from regular people.

That's my two cents, anyway.
[User Picture]
Date:November 30th, 2005 07:24 pm (UTC)
Good thoughts. I definitely want the faeries to appear legitimately alien. My instict, however, is to ramble on about why this means they should have been killed off by now. Is there a happy medium? I'll give this some thought, though. Thanks!

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