And now presenting Heather Dixon, author of Entwined. Welcome, Heather!
When I was in college and just writing Entwined and discouraged about it because it was in the horrible early stages and was all dark and weird and depressing (and it was, too–it was closer to the original fairy tale, which had witches and poisoned wine and such) I read my first Terry Pratchett book.
It was “Going Postal.” My family–already die-hard fans of the Discworld series–leant me the book, which had pages falling out from being thumbed through so much. I read the prologue, “The Nine-Thousand Year Prologue”, which had beautiful prose and made absolutely no sense. When I turned the page, there was another prologue–“The One-Month Prologue.” That one also didn’t make any sense.
And then, in the first chapter, the main character, Moist von Lipwig, is hanged.
What kind of sorcery is this? I thought.
He’s brought back to life, of course, and the city’s patrician (tyrant) forces him to get the derelict post office up and running again. Moist had been a conniving thief and swindler, and does whatever he can to get out of his new job. But as he resurrects the struggling post office, he begins to realize what a jerk he was, and by the end of the book, through clever prose, soulful, funny characters, and brilliant dialogue–my gosh, the dialogue. Such incredible dialogue. I could slice up Terry Pratchett dialogue and eat it as three square meals a day–and angels, Moist is redeemed.
I flipped back to the two prologues, re-read them, and now they made sense. They were about characters that had died, but who Moist, in his own redemption, had redeemed.
Brain splode. oiaefjksjdal;
In the world of creative writing, there are a lot of proclaimed do’s and don’t’s. Don’t start your book this way. Do make your chapters this long. Don’t write what people actually say. Do write what people actually say. Editors like this. Agents like that. Show, don’t tell. (<–that’s one “fix all” phrase I absolutely hate.) It’ll make any writer paranoid to distraction.
With Going Postal, I felt I left those pretensions behind. He broke all the rules. Prologues, jumping POV’s, footnotes, varying fonts and sizes, chapters of all sizes, such stylized characters, and he was funny. Every page made me laugh. In my reading journey, like Moist, I had transformed. I realized that I’d been caring too much what other people thought, and not being me.
With that in mind, I was able to tackle Entwined (then called The Great Slipper Scandal) again with a renewed sense of what the story–and my writing–needed to be. And, wouldn’t you know, I was able to craft it into a story that I hope, like Going Postal, told a story of redemption in a funny and entertaining way.
If there’s something I hope that readers of Emily’s blog here, and also writers (since book blog readers & writers are often one & the same), it’s this: Don’t be afraid to create things your way. The literary world is rife with people who criticize and woefully lacking in people who create. Find your song in creators and writers whose work you recognize transcendence, and learn from them.
It’s been years since my first encounter with Discworld, but Terry Pratchett solidly remains my favorite writer. My collection of his books are drowning in pencil highlights, notes in the margins, and falling-out pages. If you’re starting Terry Pratchett, it might be a hard nut to crack, as the books are entrenched in the Discworld world. Here are some recommendations to ease you in:
“Going Postal” (of course!)
“Going Postal” the SkyOne movie (<–I actually would recommend this one first, you can find it on Amazon.)
“Maurice and his Educated Rodents” (Winner of the Carnegie medal)
and, “Wee Free Men” (first of the Tiffany Aching series)
Thanks, Em, for letting me be a guest here!
Thank YOU, Heather! You are welcome to stop by any time.