The Legend of Iveswood

Where hope hides in shadow.

A Fallen Folk-Hero~

Hello, friends! Summer heat is already upon us in my neck of the woods, and it seems like a good time to reflect on how projects are going.

I had been planning to post the first of the ‘Tales of the Shadow’ short-stories back in April (in addition to the world-building entry on Shape-shifters), but was having difficulty working out the right tone of voice for it. Originally, I assumed the Shadow had always been hated by the Skylian common-folk, and considered a mysteriously-vicious master thief—and that the tales about his exploits would be akin to horror stories painting him as villainous and utterly unsympathetic. Stories about horrible people seem to be found entertaining regardless of whether the main figure in them is relatable, as the appeal of them lies more in the art of making us cringe, and feel relief that it’s not our reality, I think. And yet, while I was tinkering with a voice meant to sound like some gruff storyteller from a village like Kennfirth, one that could keep a wild heist engaging, something about it just didn’t seem right. 

When beginning a new story, I love hunting for bits and pieces from any books, movies, history, even songs or poems, that remind me in some way of the themes and style I’m trying to achieve—especially if I’m unfamiliar with the genre I’m trying, or world-building. In the earliest brainstorming for Iveswood, the Shadow started out simply as, “He’s Robin Hood, if literally everyone hated him for some reason, too much to notice he’s actually a good guy.” He forms a gang, but a falling-out between him and the rest of them leads even other fugitives to dislike him. The Shadow, functioning as the surface of Phantom and Storm that the public sees, didn’t really shift from that…until now. 

Struggling to plot these short-stories made me decide to reexamine the Shadow’s role within the series—and to reconsider his roots. I’m in the midst of reading Howard Pyle’s edition of “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” which has lovely illustrations and all the classic stories, but a heavy dose of fake old-English, and is ‘watered down’ for children to some degree, so I plan to read some older versions as well, to get a fuller picture of them. I’ve also been collecting sources for researching heists in the Middle Ages, which isn’t the easiest topic to find info on, unfortunately, but is fascinating nonetheless. And that’s when it happened. In the midst of reading real folktales about a thief who was still regarded favorably in the eyes of the people.

If I were a kid (like 12-year-old Clara Higden), living in a village (like Kennfirth), and here to listen to the local storyteller…what would I find compelling? What would truly make tales of the Shadow among my favorite to hear?

What if the Shadow wasn’t always an unsympathetic villain?

What if he became a well-known figure within Skylia, before events caused by Storm’s monstrous shape-shifting made him seem scary and dangerous to everyone?

…And, what could bring about hatred from a lot of people he hadn’t personally wronged? 

A sense of betrayal.

A hero who isn’t living up to their old (or false) reputation for whatever reason is probably a familiar archetype to you. They can make for very compelling antagonists, after all. But what might happen if a character with a reputation like that of a folk-hero, were to turn on the common people like a monster out of a scary campfire story? How much more would those listening to his adventures feel sucker-punched when a sympathetic thief suddenly becomes such an unpredictable threat, rather than remaining a criminal who has always been despised? 

The Tales of the Shadow were at first going to focus merely on a danger that should not be overlooked. “Beware and be warned,” they said. Now, they begin with the story of a sympathetic young man who’s down on his luck, who finds that the “easy way out” might just be the start of a spiral that he no longer controls. Choose your friends wisely. Actions come with ramifications even the wise may not expect. 

Such a seemingly simple adjustment to the Shadow’s lore and cultural significance within Skylia has had quite a ripple-effect on the trajectory of the short-stories, as well as Fentimus “Phantom” and Storm’s backstories within the series. I suppose that shift was enough for me to feel far more eager to work on them…and yet, working on them will have to wait awhile longer, because… 

~It’s Revision Time~

It’s finally time to revise Volume 1!

Heh. I’m excited.

Maybe it seems a little silly, but after years of getting stuck in the cycle of rewriting the entire story, and wondering if I would ever actually finish a novel, having a complete manuscript to tinker with feels like a long overdue change of pace. I’m a turtle when it comes to drafting, partly thanks to my constant urge to fix things as I write them, so the prospect of unleashing my ruthless inner-editor at last has me raring to go.

My battle against Vol.1 kicks off with a reading challenge! I’m attempting to read all 120,522 words as fast as possible, to get a birds-eye view of the pacing and structure first. Then, I’m going to write up a ton of notes, and start revising things biggest to smallest, which I can hopefully knock out within the next month or two. Then it’s on to drafting Vol.2! It’s hard to say exactly how long from now that will be, given the other things I’m juggling, but I can’t wait to post another update claiming that Vol.1 is done! I shall have to post something special in celebration.

Anyways, here’s to enjoying the sunshine, re-discovering classics, and looking at things from a new angle! Do let me know what you think of the idea of a “fallen folk-hero,” and whether you too are embarking on a challenge, in the comments! 

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