Star-sisters: The Practical Origins of a Story
Posted by Brian
Every so often, I get struck with the idea for a story that–quite apart from any hope of publication–I want to keep writing for the simple reason that I want to know how it ends! I wish I could say that I was creative/prolific enough that such a story came to me more often than it does, but, sadly, I have to take what I can get. 🙂 About a month ago, a tale of that sort popped into my head, and the result was a rather dark short story that I’ve since come to call “Star-sisters.” With its impending release upon an unsuspecting world in the upcoming edition of Lantern Hollow’s free eZine, The Gallery of Worlds (due out October 31!), I thought I might talk a bit about its inspiration. My hope in this post (and its long-forgotten predecessor on “The Bear Mountain Lights”) is to show where some of my own particular thought come from on a practical level, and that doing so might give you some starting points too.
“Star-sisters” is the story of Aun and Lyj, two teenaged girls living in an Asian-flavored fantasy world called Khumkato. Every year (a “season” in their culture), they observe a Halloween-esque celebration called “Hai’ Lyn’s Night.” Hai’ Lyn’s developed from the ancient rituals of a sisterhood of dark witches (the Star-sister Order) who believed that one night in particular was the best time to pierce the veil of the heavens and communicate with the spirits of stars. At the time of the story, the star-sisters have been stamped out many decades before, and their practices have slowly morphed into a night of pranking and parties as the memory of the real star-sisters faded. Everyone in the village who ventures out of doors after dark on Hai’ Lyn’s night is fair game, and multi-generational pranking rivalries rule the night.
Aun and Lyj are supposed to meet up to pull one of those pranks, but Aun has a surprise for Lyj: She’s found an ancient book that actually describes how to perform one of the star-sisters’ binding rituals. She convinces Lyj to go along with her and attempt to contact one of the stars of Hai’ Lyn. That is a dangerous decision, as it later develops….
The idea for “Star-sisters” was sparked* by time spent listening to the music of Blackmore’s Night. As a group they are hard to pin down into one particular genre–sort of like my authorial career, I suppose. The best description I’ve seen this far is “neo-medieval rock.” (Yes, there is such a thing.) In a number of their songs, particularly “Fires at Midnight” and “Locked Within the Crystal Ball,” they sing about contacting the stars and joining with them. Several lines from the former caught my attention in particular:
I wished on the seven sisters,
Bring to me wisdom of age,
All that’s locked within the book of secrets,
I longed for the knowledge of the sage…
So, the sisters smiled to themselves,
And they whispered as they shone,
And it was from that very instant,
I knew I would never be alone.
This set me to thinking: What would happen if someone really did bind themselves to a star? What if the stars were more than just burning balls of cosmic gas? What if they had personalities and identities? Not like Coriakin from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but instead something much more fell. Even the worst of the demonic is rarely obviously evil. Instead, it promises one thing, but is revealed later as something else entirely. I wanted an idea that would make the promise that you “would never be alone” ring with an ominous tone.
My first thought was to set the story in the present day, perhaps with some girls playing around with a “Bloody Mary” type urban legend, and one of them is shocked when something actually answers. To be honest, I’m not sure why I didn’t take that route. As I tried to write it, I felt like I was banging my head against a wall to such an extent that I never really even got started on that version of the story.
Instead, I decided to use the story to explore Khumkato. Khumkato is one of the worlds I invented for Meg’s Waverly Hall series–it contains one of the master keys that Meg will need to restore to a proper user in order to complete the ultimate task for which she’s been chosen. Star-sisters would become my way of peeking into that world for the first time. This was an exciting prospect: Khumkato had been lurking in the back of my mind for some time, and now I would finally get the chance to see what it looked like!
The shift to Khumkato made all the difference. Now, instead of not being able to write at all, I got frustrated because I couldn’t type fast enough. Even more exciting, though, is the fact that what started as a stand-alone short story quickly became the hook for an entire book. Aun and Lyj both grew from fleeting characters into people who were almost living and breathing to me, and they will form the backbone of either the third or fourth book in the Waverly Hall series. There’s much more to be said about them.** 🙂
And so, I hope that you decide to take a look at “Star-sisters” when The Gallery of Worlds comes out on Halloween. I would be interested to hear your thoughts! The entire eZine will be darker this time, in keeping with the time of the year. So I suggest that you read it by candlelight, or perhaps in front of a good, bright fire. The flicker of the flames should keep the shadows just far enough at bay to send a chill up your spine, without letting them get too close to be dangerous….
Next Week: (Since I brought it up this week) Music to Write By!: Fires at Midnight by Blackmore’s Night
*I say “sparked” rather than “inspired” because Candice Night’s lyrics are much more “positive” about contact with the stars than what Aun and Lyj experience. So, while I hope that the story stays true to fantastical feel of the songs, the story is not supposed to reflect what the songs are about in any real way. It is its own animal.
**That, of course, is something for readers who prefer lighter fiction to keep in mind: This is only the beginning of the story. It has a dark beginning and their journey will be a difficult one, but I do ascribe to the C. S. Lewis school of thought where all the villains are “soundly killed” by the end of the book. You’ll have to read the eventual book to find out how it all comes about!
About BrianI am a history professor and author living with my family in the Virginia Mountains. It's hard to improve on a life like this!
Posted on October 13, 2011, in Authors, Books, Brian Melton, C. S. Lewis, Demons, Fairytales, Fantasy, Inspiration, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Waverly Hall, World Creation and tagged Aun, Blackmore's Night, Khumkato, Lantern Hollow Press, Lyj, Star-sisters, The Gallery of Worlds, Waverly Hall. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.