December 27, 2012

Helen Ayim on Fortune's Edge

Guest post by Helen Ayim ...

The few short stories I published with JMS Books all had their beginnings in a writing group. We took turns to pick a topic and after a week or three we'd get back together again and read our efforts to one another.

Reading a story aloud to other people is a good way of catching mistakes. That favorite, overused word falls like a hammer blow on the ear the third time you speak it. It's a bit like performing a one-man play. Exposing. Nerve-wracking.

After a while we all noticed that no matter what the topic, each of us gravitated to a certain kind of tale.

I'm drawn to the paranormal, and it slipped into every story.

Guardian Spirits? Shamanistic animal spirits/angels fighting to the death in a library over arcane knowledge.

Fairy Night? The enduring fairy/alien myth recurring in some benign, pastoral future.

Spook Patrol? A short ghost-hunting story with a twist in the tail.

Fortune's Edge? The story of a girl called Holly who finds herself on the edge -- the sidelines of village life, the end of her tether, the edge of several hard decisions-playing out in a hazy, green past.

Fortune's Edge started out with the prompt 'on the edge of a knife.' In the story a Tarot card reading is one of the pivotal events. As the story turned out, it became a story about choice, and the realization that every choice leads to a different fate.

I don't sit down thinking I want to convey this or that message. When I got the prompt, it sat in the back of my mind for a while and then Holly walked into view as we see her in the opening scene: it's early morning, dew is still grey on the grass, and her skirt is dragging a path as she walks along.

I knew she was very angry behind her stolid exterior. I knew she carried a knife hidden under her shirt, as a symbol of her resentment at being trapped in her situation. I knew how important it was for her to carry some means of cutting loose.

I experience the process of writing on two levels. The best part is the creative flux, the birthing of the story -- sometimes painful, some stillborn efforts, but when everything works, when the writing happens, it is THE BEST part of writing.

Then later, when it comes to editing, and every word is weighed and polished, only then do I get to see what was on my mind. I'm often surprised and amused, but also gratified, to learn so much about my own psyche.

Stories are powerful. They are how we cope. To paraphrase a quote I read recently: better to slay your demons in fiction, than to have them destroy you in reality.

You can download it for FREE for today only: Fortune's Edge.

Helen Ayim

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