Sunday, September 12, 2010

Anatomy of an Idea: The Naming Braid

I think I've talked about this story before, possibly more than once, but to recap now that it is available for your reading pleasure ...

The idea for The Naming Braid goes back to my Celtic and Nordic Myth and Religion course, in which we studied the Lais of Marie de France. I was intrigued by the stories of chivalry and magic and the overlay of Christianity on much older myths. Much later, I decided I wanted to write a story based on one of the lais, so I reread them in search of inspiration.

What I noticed was that, even when the woman was the goal / prize of the story, she almost never had a name. She was "Protagonist's beloved" or "Antagonist's wife" or some other combination of male-and-relation. My reaction was both indignation and, "Hmm, there's a story here ..."

So I conceived of a world where people were given epithet-like names in honor of some trait they displayed or deed they performed ... and names were exclusively given to men, the proported history-makers. I decided to weave together three of the Lais in this world in the context of someone naming each woman - effectively giving them power and identity. It took me a bit to figure out how to intertwine the stories and how to pace them in the telling so they all peaked at the same time. I also wanted to set it up so the one most dependent on coincidence didn't come last.

Of course, ironically, one of the Lais I chose - Le Fresne - is one of the few where the woman has a name, but that's neither here nor there ...

There may be another story of similar timbre happening in the future: I am the proud owner of Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, and the books are sitting next to me flooded with pink post-it notes of ballads I think would convert into intriguing fantasy stories. Maybe I'll even try another multiple weave (braid!) like this one. We'll see.

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