Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Word on Wordspinners

Image credit goes to this artist on DeviantArt

Good afternoon, dear readers!
Have you been enjoying the excerpts from my latest (and most complete) work-in-progress, "The Last Inkweaver"? If so, that makes me very happy!

Today I just wanted to take the time to explain a few things about the premise and the world, which a few readers have expressed confusion over.

First and foremost...

What are Wordspinners?

Wordspinners are basically a guild of "regular" craftsmen and women. I put regular in parentheses because the world of the Wordspinners is slightly different than the real world in that storytelling has an innate power in that world, the power to build, fashion, and mend. 

It started with an idea I had, of a woman who had made a dress by telling a story, and by and by, the dress tore, but the rip actually caused a "wrong turn" in the story. To mend it, the woman merely retold that part of the story, changing it a little so that the characters could survive the aberration. 

From there, it grew along the lines of: what if there were these kind of Wordspinners for the other elements, too? I am deeply committed to such fantasy works as the Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke and the Bayern Books by Shannon Hale, and those had the same storytelling idea (like the Silvertongues in Inkheart) and the "select group of people who hear voices in the elements and resonate with these voices in order to manipulate said elements" (each Bayern book deals with a character with a different ability, and how they all have to work together or their powers will get them into trouble) which I borrowed and mulled into my own idea.

Hence the Wordspinner guild grew into four primary factions:

Inkweavers, of course, worked with thread and cloth to make clothing, linens, blankets, and tapestries.
Talesmiths worked with raw metal and stone to carve and shape statues and weapons and tools, pots, and pans.
The Earth-Tellers shapes earthenware and pottery and worked with clay.
Story-Healers were like the herbalists of the Wordspinner guild. They could tell a story to fashion a draught or an herb that would perform exactly as the patient needed.

The Glaring Plot Hole

I thought I was done, once I had these. I was sure, at the end of it, that my character Shereya would become the next Inkweaver, and this whole "rite of passage" would end with the Inkweaver passing the mantle to her.

I got through about half the novel with this concept, but as it progressed beyond this point, I became stumped, and writing halted for a while.

My problem was this: "The Last Inkweaver" should have been a parable about the inherent power of storytelling as a general concept. Shereya had encountered many different Wordspinners in her journey, but the way she had been hearing the Tales should not have been the case of she was going to be an Inkweaver. The more I thought about it, the more the Tales felt like an extension of the Wordspinner's particular skill. For Shereya-the-Inkweaver to be able to hear a Talesmith's Tales, it would be like a weaver knowing how to make a horseshoe: improbable as well as impractical.
So... If not an Inkweaver, what exactly was my main character?

The Fifth Guild

The epiphany came when I was trying to figure out "Moon Valley." I know, it sounds strange to hear somebody who is a writer talk about the story as if somebody else wrote it, and I'm just finding these things out; we can all roll our eyes at the writers who act like the story happens in the absence of themselves... "I turn my back for two minutes, and my characters have taken over my word processor and typed up sixteen new pages in my novel! I don't even know what they're doing anymore!"
But, as I write this particular novel—more than any of the other stories I've written—because of its unique subject, I am finding that there is a large part of any story that the writer really doesn't know until he or she starts writing. I can plot it out all I want, but the novel I plan is rarely an indication of the novel that results.

Anyway, I had been wrestling with this for some time--in fact, ever since I had concluded definitively that "The Last Inkweaver" would be my testament to the inherent power of storytelling, and that, through Shereya, I would explore the different attitudes and modes of a writer: the way sometimes the lines blur between fictional characters and real-life people (as in the case of Greyna); the way some people think we are crazy... except the ones who need to hear what we have to say (like Delia); the way just trying to "get through" a scenario will often result in things getting badly messed up and we are forced to go back and take our time anyway, or risk producing something half-baked (like Moon Valley)...

I began to realize that these traits, while they deal with writing and storytelling, might not necessarily have to do with any of the Wordspinners in particular, least of all Inkweavers. Shereya isn't weaving, she's experiencing a journey. It's not any particular guild that will end up succeeding in the long run; it's all of them working together. So what unites the four guilds?

What if there was a fifth guild? One that largely escaped notice, because they didn't actually make merchandise like the other guilds did. They didn't shape any materials with their powerful storytelling. They possessed the ability to hear the Tales of any Wordspinner because it was their duty to Write the Tale, and record it for the benefit of others. This was a guild of Writers.

It made total sense, especially since--what with storytelling being reserved for a handful of people, and having such inherent power--this was a largely illiterate world. There wouldn't be any stories outside of those Told by a Wordspinner or Written by the Writer.
This revelation brought me to a possible true reason the Wordspinners "fell" from favor with the people, when their skill was usually so beneficial and wholesome: those opposed to story-Telling merely had to begin by confiscating the stories. Once the people no longer had Tales to read, the Writers could be gotten rid of quietly without anyone realizing it. And without the Writers, the Wordspinners' craft was reduced to the spoken word, which is easily twisted, misrepresented, misheard, or forgotten. From there it was easy to spread the rumor that the Wordspinner craft was actually witchcraft, and in fact all kinds of "speculation" or exercising the imagination in any way was an abomination.

This is what Shereya is up against. This is how she was raised, and now, as the first new Writer in over a generation, she must not only be willing to accept storytelling as a form of truth-telling and source of wisdom--but she must find a way to spread this throughout the kingdom as well.
Here's the fun part: It also explains why this initial story exists, and in the first person. Shereya the Writer has recorded "The Last Inkweaver" as her first Tale. The novel will also have a series of ten tales that correspond with key points in the story. At first, it was just something fun that I threw together, because I was inspired by the "Fairy Tales, ReTold" by Regina Doman, and the way she used snippets from the original fairy tale with all her chapters. Now that Shereya is to be a Writer, though, she could have preserved the Tales that she heard from the Inkweaver's tapestry during her journey, and that's why they are together.

Sometimes, writing is just SO MUCH FUN.

Catch you further Upstream!