A week into National Novel Writing Month 2012, and I’m actually on task. This has to be a first for me, in my four years of experience. Apparently the fifth time is the charm! It’s day eight, and I finished my writing session tonight unexpectedly when I realized I’d already passed today’s word goal to end at 13,398 words.
As I’ve been telling everyone who will listen, this year I’m writing a fantasy novel, but really I’m not. There isn’t any magic in this story, and the only thing that makes it really count as fantasy is that, in the back story, dragons were something my characters’ ancestors had to contend with. Otherwise, this story of a princess whose kingdom is attacked by the enemy while she is away on a ritual tour of the allied kingdoms is nothing more than, what — historical fiction? I’m not sure what to call a story that takes place in a fictional land in a medieval time setting that does not utilize fantastical elements. I feel like I should toss in a treacherous woodland creature simply for the simplicity of calling this fantasy.
At first, it was the mere presence of my main character, Elen, the middle princess, that caused my mind to scream “fantasy,” but later I realized how biased that is of me. In all ways other than that dragons once roamed the land of the princess’s continent, this world could be real (or maybe was once upon a time in Europe.) I researched authentic medieval-style names online to give my characters depth and christened them according to their strengths and weaknesses as adults, which is an author’s privilege. But other than that deviation from reality, my story is as real as I could make it while knowing as little as I do about medieval story lines.
So I guess my story is not really a fantasy novel — at least not yet — but if it isn’t, I am at a loss what to call it. I read online yesterday in a summary of “The Man in the Iron Mask,” that it was classified a historical epic, even though little to none of the story line has any basis in historical reality. The only truth seems to be that there once was a king of France named Louis XIV. That’s it. The rest is built upon a collection of fact and fiction all molded together into a story and assigned it the adjective “historical.” It might as well have taken place in Middle Earth.
So I have dragons in the back story of my novel. And Earth has dinosaurs in its past. Where does that leave my story?
An excerpt, just for fun:
“Halt,” said the tallest of the three. “You there.” Elen turned, frantic to close the few steps between her and the door, and reached it only half a breath later. Fitting through its opening proved to be more than impossible within the short amount of time she now had, and before she even could fit her head and right arm in through its access, a hand closed across her shoulder.
Yanked backwards off of her feet, she screamed, and the man who had seized her released her as, with a jerk, he spun her around to face him. Trapped against the wooden wall of the building with the other two men closing in on her, she did all she could think to do in that instant, and she fell to the earth in a heap, wailing as she threw her arms across her face.
She had no idea if this would work. It might sway a man of a kindly hearted nature to show concern for her, but after hearing what she had earlier, following the commander’s order to treat the people of the march with as much cruelty as the soldiers desired, she worried that her show would have little more effect than to excite three brutes who could not have cared less of her suffering. Therefore, hers was not merely a show, but an actual illustration of her fears. In her exhaustion and hunger, she could not have better painted a perfect match of her feelings if she had had all day to plan for it.
“There, there,” one man shocked her by saying, however removed is voice was from actual passion of speech. “Get up, would you? We mean you no harm.”
“Speak for yourself,” said another, Elen thought the one who earlier had misjudged girls of the Realm as weak. He reached for her, jovially attempting to woo her toward falling for his advances, but she pulled away her arm and began rocking back and forth, praying for wisdom as the tears began matting her hair against her face. Would her traveling cloak betray her? Was it likely any other girl from the march or a nearby county would have had the wherewithal to throw on a cloak before attempting escape?
“Here now,” said the first man, who had spoken kindly following her collapse, “it’s all right. I assure you no harm will come to you.” He reached for her, ignoring her flinch as he adjusted his sword and placed both hands on her shoulders. Before she could think how to stop him, he had pulled her to her feet and was running a finger across her forehead to clear it of hairs. She continued to watch the ground, hoping to appear only fearful and humble than wishful of avoiding identification. Perhaps he was used to women lowering their gaze in his presence, but he did not remark on her choice. Instead, he ran the same finger down her face, past her ear, and secured it under her chin, which he raised until he could see her tear-streaked face. She still refused eye contact.
“You’re a pretty one, are not you?” he said, with surprising gentility, considering his rude mates. Coming from anyone else, the remark would have sounded to be spoken with a sneer, but instead it almost made her want to match his eyes—almost. “What were you trying to do, sneaking past us like you did?” His words were gentle yes, but laced with threats, and she dared not offer an answer that would enrage him. She weighed the benefits of not answering at all but thought her continued silence might enrage him even more.
“I was hiding from the fire, sir.”
“Hiding,” he said, considering her a moment before continuing. “Here, in this yard.” She nodded infinitesimally, and he made a quick sweep of the area with his eyes. “So you were listening to us talk and thought you would pass along what you had heard to your country men.”
“No, sir,” she said, thinking quickly. “I only just awoke. I must have….swooned.” The other two men chuckled and backed away with clear indication that they no longer cared what she had to say. “I had such hunger, you see. I wanted only a bit of food.”
“I see,” said the man who now held her chin within the grip of two fingers and rested his other hand on her shoulder. He swept his eyes over her clothing. “You are dressed for flight.”
“When I heard the noise outside, I threw on my cloak; it was the first piece of clothing I could find.” She was not helping her cause, she knew. He did not believe her. “My arms, you see; I am a leper.” That did it. He released her immediately and backed a good two feet away before glaring at her.
“Why didst not thee say something earlier?”
“I apologize, sir.” She bowed her head, clutching the cloak more tightly around her.
“Be off with you,” he said. She did not hesitate, turning back to the door and trying it a couple times before resigning herself to climbing inside.
“Revolting.” The word followed her within, and she could not help but smile as she ran a hand over her brow to stall the formation of perspiration before her hand found her weary eyes.