Sorcery and Cecelia: Having Fun With Storytelling

A teapot (not Erik). Or maybe a chocolate pot? An enchanted chocolate pot! Keep reading and it will become relevant. I am not crazy (like Erik).

Hello, again! Erik is currently hiding in a corner mumbling about laser thingies and teapots.  Apparently, the fact that I, the mistress of fantasy, can write a post on science fiction has made Erik question the relevance of his existence.  So I told him I’d take over his post for the day and let him recover and find new meaning in his life.  With counseling, he should be fine.

For this post, I want to talk about a specific book and the general concept that it used that I really enjoyed.  Many times, it seems like the world-building, characterizations and plotting are the only places that an author can truly be creative.  But what I’ve found is that the method of telling the story can be as engaging and exciting as the actual story – if done well.  That’s the key, though.  There have been some books that are downright annoying because the writer had a good story, but a poor execution. I know because I’ve written them.

Now, we all know about the ideas of first person and second person.  There is the concept of an omniscient narrator or a limited narrator.  There are several other ways of telling a story, though.  Some authors use time sequences, jumping forward or backward to draw the story together.  I’ve also seen books that consisted of diary entries or letters, such as Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series that can really change how a story is read.  If you’ve ever read Dracula by Bram Stoker, you are familiar with this method and how interesting and unique it can be with several characters submitting various letters and entries to contribute to the story.  Speaking of gothic novels, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein manages to tell a story within a story within a story, using several perspectives to tell different parts of the same story.

Sometimes, it can be fun to try a new storytelling style, rather like trying a new way of painting or a new haircut… only not.   One of the first books to really strike me as brilliant for its creative style of storytelling is Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot.

Awesome book cover too, I feel...

This book, cowritten by well known author Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, is wonderful for many reasons.  It has an historical-fantasy setting (I do love those.  See: Temeraire post), incorporating magic into an otherwise normal 1800’s regency England (Mr Norrel & Jonathan Strange by Susan Clarke did something similar on a much, much deeper level).  The story is enjoyable, a mystery/romance involving magic.

What makes this storytelling method so incredible is that the two authors started with nothing more than a world and a premise.  They each chose a character and then they wrote letters from the perspectives of those characters to each other, creating an epistolary novel as they went along.  The authors did not plan the story out in detail (which makes me a huge fan since a plotter, I am not), but it comes together wonderfully, with an enchanted chocolate pot playing a pivotal role.

A good friend of mine and I were so inspired by this method that we tried it for ourselves.  Unfortuantely, our first efforts were rather unsuccessful.  Our second was much more promising, but we never finished.  It sits in a file within a file of unfinished bestsellers that I might someday revisit.

The idea is splendid, however.  Kate and Cecelia write letters to each other about their relatively disconnected lives (one in London making her comeout and one trapped in the country), but their stories slowly come together.  The authors took cues from each other and wove the lives of the two girls together until the story seemed to have a single plot.

I have not read the two sequels, but I have trouble believing two authors can recapture the same spontaneous quality three times over... perhaps I am too skeptical.

It is not a deeply complex book (with a subtitle like The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, are you really surprised?) but it is a fun one (with a subtitle like The Enchanted Chocolate Pot… well, I mean, really) and the two characters with their individual voices add something special to the story.  The book comes to life as two authors write letters to each other and enjoy the development of a story while having no clear idea where it will go.

If you and a friend want to give it a try, it can be both entertaining and instructive.  Create a world together, enjoy an ongoing storyline with surprising developments, and see what happens!

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About Melissa

generally in love with things Celtic, mythological, fantastic, sharp and pointy, cute and fuzzy, intellectual, snarky, cheerful, or some combination thereof. Such things as sarcastic bunnies wielding claymores might come to mind...

Posted on June 1, 2011, in Book Review, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Melissa Rogers, Plot, Story, Style and Structure and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Does the pot dispense enchanted chocolate? Is that anything like enchanted Turkish Delight? Does chocolate even need to be enchanted? Or maybe it’s the endless supply that constitutes the enchantment? Questions that need to be asked . . .

    • I would be okay with an enchanted teapot with enchanted tea as well, but alas. Actually, I believe I will go and makes myself some, in my own cast-iron tetsubin (it has dragonflies on it, but its not enchanted as far as I know). Also, cowering. I’ll be back next week, for sure.

  2. Ah, but they did (recapture that same spontaneous quality). And the plots get even deeper and more interwoven. 🙂

  3. I thought the second one was ok but entirely forgettable. I have the 3rd, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

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