Berries and Elephants

Information comes from the weirdest places sometimes, doesn’t it?

Holly Lisle, who is one of my favorite writing teachers (and if you’re looking for writing classes, feel free to check hers out in my affiliate link above), has a saying about berries and elephants. I’m going to massacre it here, but the gist is that how much a writer should know about their world is the size of an elephant, but you don’t stick that elephant in the story, oh no. You only put in a berry here, and a berry here, and only what’s applicable to the story at hand.

(I think it was Holly Lisle. My memory is shoddy.)

I’m working on my changeling story again this month, though admittedly not going anywhere fast due to the same issues as last month, as well as, you know, having construction done on my house and not actually being there most of the time. (It is running twice as long as predicted. But soon, hopefully.) And while the story itself is moving okay, I can already tell that the worldbuilding is going to need some streamlining and fleshing out in revision.

Faerie lore is vast and contradictory, so I’m making do the best I can. Also, you know, trying not to have it feel like a generic faerie story. As such, I’m spending more time actively researching during writing, which is not my favorite thing to do. And I’m not sure it’s helping, since the Internet sources I tend to turn up are about the tiny little winged fairies you can attract to your gardens and whatnot and not the Faerie of mythology.

Now, because I’m doing a lot more driving (due to not being as close to my normal haunts as usual) I’ve been catching up on my podcasts, or attempting to, anyway. First I caught up on Limetown, which only has twelve episodes or something like that. One of my creepy mystery ones. I guess they wrote a novel, but I read the excerpt and Lord, it was awful. I couldn’t even get through it. I suspect it’s because the sort of telling you do in a fake investigative podcast doesn’t cross over so well.

(Which is the reason I always listen to the Welcome to Night Vale novels rather than read them. Maybe they’re fine to be read. But they sound like Night Vale episodes, so it makes the most sense to me to just listen to them.)

Then I caught up with Tanis, which I like but which also frustrates me. It’s designed to draw you in, but there are so many plot points that seem important that then just disappear. I’m not sure there’s an actual planned story arc so much as just throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the plot and seeing what sticks. I guess a new season is coming out soon, but it hasn’t yet, so huzzah, I’ll take it while I can.

Night Vale I’m not listening to because I’m most of the way through It Devours! which is their second novel. (Audiobook version, as discussed above.) That seems like it would be confusing.

So the podcast I am listening to while I’m driving about is Myths and Legends. (Sometimes I listen to It Devours! but there’s also a lot of cussing and the small, mobile ones are often with me, so sometimes it’s best to…not.) I like it because it draws on numerous mythologies and also because I like the guy telling the stories. Anyway, the last episode I listened to was the original version of Beauty and the Beast, which, as opposed to being an oral folktale, was a story written in 1740.

Apparently the original is much longer and stranger than the condensed version (which came out in 1756). I’ve been scanning through it because Myths and Legends guy said that there were 20 pages (out of a 100-page story) about Faerie politics.

Said narrator was obviously not into said 20 pages of Faerie politics, but it sounds like it might be a good resource for me. I have found the Faerie politics, but thus far haven’t learned much. But hey! Still have ten pages to go.

I just thought it was funny that potentially-helpful Faerie politics showed up, in all things, in a podcast about the original version of Beauty and the Beast.

I also saw a neat thing on Writer Unboxed about using a setting mindmap to drive potential plot points. Might give that a try too.

How are you, squider? I hope to back in my house by the end of the week at the latest (but then, you know, I have to put the house back together, so it’ll probably be Monday before things are functional again).

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