Wicked World Building: Filling the Space in Wicked Lovely

Before I get into what that title is all about, it’s time to reveal the winner of another book, this one by the fabulous Adi Rule. Click here for the interview with Adi if you missed it.

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The winner of Strange Sweet Song is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Ellar Cooper!

Congrats, Ellar! Please confirm below, then email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to provide your snail mail address! If for some reason, you do not wish to receive the book you won or already have a copy of the book, please comment below and I’ll choose another winner. Thanks for commenting!

Moving on, here’s a question for you (um, not just Ellar—anyone can answer): Why is the art of Maurits Cornelis Escher so fascinating? He plays with our perspective in illustrations of stunning symmetry. In one illustration, he’ll fill up every inch of space evenly. For example, M. C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry by Doris Schattschneider features an illustration entitled “Baarn XII-48” (Schattschneider 174; see illustration below right). In it, Escher shows a series of boats—the same brown boat each time—going west. What at first appears to be a green backdrop of waves is really a series of fish heading in the same direction. You have to take a closer look to see them.

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305234Melissa Marr is like Escher in the way she built the world of Wicked Lovely, a young adult paranormal romance. (This isn’t a new release, so you should easily find it at your library if you’re interested.) Two worlds are depicted within the same space. At first glance we see a town as real as anyplace found in our world. This is Huntsdale, where the main character, 18-year-old Aislinn Foy lives. It has pool halls, Catholic schools, and tattoo parlors. But take a closer look. Marr fill up every inch of space with a second world enmeshed with the first. That’s the faery world.

Feeling claustrophobic yet? You will.

A hint of the interlinked worlds occurs when Marr introduces Aislinn in a pool hall:

Aislinn circled the table, paused, and chalked the cue. Around her the cracks of balls colliding, low laughter, even the endless stream of country and blues from the jukebox kept her grounded in the real world: the human world, the safe world. It wasn’t the only world, no matter how much Aislinn wanted it to be. But it hid the other world—the ugly one—for brief moments. (4)

Marr shows the claustrophobia of Aislinn’s world, thanks to the intrusive, relentless faeries. A few paragraphs later, a faery gets up close and personal with Aislinn by blowing on her neck and touching her hair, confident that he can’t be seen, heard, or felt by normal humans. But Aislinn is anything but normal. She has “the Sight”—an ability (or curse in her case) to see and feel the fey. But to protect herself, she has to pretend that she’s “normal” and therefore, can’t feel or see the fey.

Aislinn lives by three rules: “Don’t stare at invisible faeries, Rule #3” (11); “don’t answer invisible faeries, Rule #2” (12); and rule #3: “Don’t ever attract faeries’ attention” (13). Unfortunately for her, the fey have a way of forcing her to break those rules. One such faery, Keenan, the Summer King, is relentless in his pursuit of her. And that’s the conflict of Wicked Lovely.

There are two things a fantasy writer can do to build a fantasy world: (1) adapt an existing world or (2) invent a new world. Either way, the world has to make sense to the reader.

To populate her world, Marr used the hierarchy of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts from Scottish folklore and William Butler Yeats’s solitary and trooping fey classification from Irish folklore.

19432758The fey are the sidhe—“the Good People” or the Fair Folk. The fey of the Seelie Court are considered benevolent (Seelie means “blessed” according to Wikipedia) while the Unseelie Court fey are malevolent. The trooping fey, according to Yeats in Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, are fallen angels “not good enough to be saved, nor bad enough to be lost” (Yeats, 11). They are fairy royalty with entourages, while the solitary fey lack an allegiance to a court and come in many styles: leprechauns—from the Irish leith bhrogan or “one-shoemaker”; cluricauns—drunken leprechauns; far darrig—“red man”—leprechauns with red caps who play horrible jokes on people; fear gorta—“man of hunger”—a spirit that goes around begging for food; house spirits; and others (57). Many solitary fey are evil (Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty below) while others are merely mischievous.

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In Marr’s world, Aislinn and other humans are powerless against the machinations of the fey. Aislinn constantly watches as the fey play pranks on humans, most of whom remain oblivious.

By the end of the book and the defeat of the antagonist, Aislinn has grown in confidence and even sets some rules of her own that the fey have to live with. Aislinn’s rules are her way of making the best of the world she now inhabits—a world even more enmeshed than when the story began.

Now that’s some wicked world building!

Works Cited
“Classification of fairies.” Wikipedia. Web. 13 March 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classifications_of_fairies>
Marr, Melissa. Wicked Lovely. New York: HarperTeen, 2007. Print.
Schattschneider, Doris. M. C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry. New York: W. H. Freedman and Company, 1990. Print.
Yeats, William Butler, editor. Irish Fairy and Folk Tales. Digireads.com Publishing, 2010. eBook.

Escher image, “Baarn XII-48,” found at Pinterest.com. Maleficent from fanpop.com. Book covers from Goodreads.

Fractals: The Purpose of the Pattern

Before I get into fractals (and I know you’re holding your breath until I do), let me first announce the winner of the Ice Cream Giveaway discussed in Monday’s post.

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The winner is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Phillip McCollum!

Congrats, Phillip! Please email me at this address—lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com—to let me know your snail mail address and phone number for package delivery purposes.

Now, about those fractals. . . . For some reason, I woke up the other day thinking of them. This is either because of the large amount of snow my area has received or because I’ve been doing a Lumosity workout every morning.

Anyway, according to Wikipedia:

A fractal is a mathematical set described by fractal Geometry, the study of figures exhibiting fractal dimension. A fractal set when plotted typically displays self-similar patterns, which means they are “the same from near as from far.” . . . The concept of fractal extends beyond trivial self-similarity and includes the idea of a detailed pattern repeating itself. (Emphasis added.)

But I probably didn’t have to tell you that. The Koch snowflake (below), developed by Swedish mathematician Niels Fabian Helge von Koch, is a fractal made of equilateral triangles. Dutch artist M. C. Escher also featured fractals in many of his illustrations.

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Yeah, yeah. I know. You couldn’t possibly care less, right? Okay. I’ll get to the point. When I think of replicated patterns, I can’t help thinking of my writing. What I see replicated at times is a pattern of procrastination. When scenes seem insurmountable, I turn to other activities: games like Plants vs. Zombies, checking email, texting, or reading other people’s blogs. I even sometimes use my Lumosity workout, which takes a few minutes at most, as an excuse. (BTW: Ingrid Sundberg wrote a great post on measuring productivity: http://ingridsnotes.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/keeping-track-of-time/)

So, as I began writing this post, I started to get down on myself about my procrastination. But after thinking about it, I decided to take a radical view and look for what’s positive about this pattern of behavior. No, I’m not crazy. I’m trying to follow the pattern of fractals in nature. If you’ve observed these patterns (snowflakes, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.), you’ve seen the beauty in them. (BTW: The WebEcoist has beautiful photos of fractals in nature here: http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2008/09/07/17-amazing-examples-of-fractals-in-nature/)

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Romanesco broccoli—another fractal

So, there had to be something good about my pattern of procrastination. And I discovered just what that something was. You see, I often procrastinate, believe it or not, when I’m going in the wrong direction in my writing. Only, I don’t often know right away that I’m going in the wrong direction. When I approach a scene for which I have no energy and no thoughts about how it could work; when I try to shoehorn a plot point into the narrative, thinking that someone might judge my story as boring without it, I immediately think of other things more enjoyable to do—like playing Plants vs. Zombies. However, when I’m writing a scene for which I have great emotional investment, I usually work on it until it’s done, with no interruptions other than the necessary ones (like going to the bathroom or eating chocolate).

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Case in point: for the last few days I’ve been going in circles about adding to my novel some chapters involving a side quest. You see, one of my characters is dying at this point in the story. Yet I had great plans of writing a couple of chapters in which the dying character’s companions explore a beautiful cavern and make a discovery about their people. But I couldn’t make much progress on the chapters, even after free writing and brainstorming. I found myself going back to Plants vs. Zombies out of frustration. A vicious cycle? I’d like to think of it as an opportunity for reflection. Why did I pick up that game again and again? Because it’s fun and fast paced. Note the words fast paced.

After reading a post at Charles Yallowitz’s Legends of Windemere blog (“Distractions from the Plot or Character Building?”), I determined that the proposed chapters are probably a distraction. I asked myself: If a character in this scene is dying, why would his companions take the time to explore a cavern? Shouldn’t they continue their search for help for the dying person as quickly as possible? After all, that’s the ticking clock element. By trying to squeeze in this side trek, I had inadvertently sabotaged the pacing of the story by decreasing the tension. And I learned that through procrastination.

Now, I’m not justifying a habit of procrastination. We all know its negatives. None are more apparent than in my life. But sometimes, you have to look for patterns and what they tell you. There may be a purpose to that pattern, if you’ll take the time to look. Speaking of looking . . .

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Have you thought about what your procrastination might be telling you?

Ice cream image from hfboards.hockeysfuture.com. Koch snowflake and broccoli images from Wikipedia. Wrong way sign from myparkingsign.com. Ninja cat from LOL Cats.