The Edge of Magic, the Land of Tals and a Soundtrack

A few months ago, I described a dream I had of mapping several of my magical-realism shorts together to create a world and a short-story collection. This post is an update of my progress.

Since the stories are fantastic folktales — magic-realism shorts, I decided to title the book The Edge of Magic and the land Tals. Yeah, Tals ranks right up there with Fantasia, Wonderland, Faerie and similarly trivial names, but for now I like it.

Obviously, many of the tales are complete. A few need polishing to make them publishable. Consistency and unity are concerns, since the stories were never written to fit together. I am undecided whether I want to rewrite them for consistency or publish them as is.

However, I have outlined a few connector and origin stories and am currently writing one of these. This story, Glint and Bite, will serve as the origin story of two of my already complete ones, A Pril of the Thirst and A Giant or a Nack?. It is coming along well.

I even mapped the landscape where this short is set. The map is not necessary, but I wanted to materialize the Stair that I visualize for the story.

I also created a soundtrack for the story, something new for me that was actually quite revealing. This is what I wanted to share with you today.

Glint and Bite: The Soundtrack

The music in the soundtrack captures the tonal flow of the story, rather than the events and characters. The lyrics in some fit the story, but those of others do not. Some work well on their own; others interact. Some juxtapositions are creepy. They will definitely pull you in and raise the hairs on your neck. The songs mirror the mood I want you to feel when you read the story.

Several of the songs go together to stimulate an overarching mood. I rarely listen to music, so I made the best selections I could from dozens of YouTube searches. No doubt other songs would capture the mood I want you to feel better than these. If you have suggestions, by the way, I’d be willing to consider them over some of these songs.

I compiled the songs on a playlist on my Youtube channel. Here I categorize and describe them in more depth.

Glint and Bite Soundtrack
© Compiled by Shawn Urban, June 29, 2017
 

Theme

The Living Years — Mike and the Mechanics


Valley

This is the setting of the story as viewed from one of the characters who live in the valley. The songs, except the last one, reflect this character’s love of the valley. The last song is actually a playlist of ice-thawing sounds.

Beauty : Start of Time — Gabrielle Aplin

Paradise : Children (Dream Version) — Robert Miles

Echoes of Ice : Playlist of Videos


Watching Glint

Here the viewpoint character is rejoicing in the life of a loved one, who also lives in the valley.

Proud, Happy, Serene : Happy — Marina and the Diamonds

Nostalgia : Paradise (0-44 sec) — Benny Benassi and Chris Brown

Owe : I Am — Nicole Nordeman

Care : Lullaby — Libera


Enter Kids

Two young teens intrude in the valley as the viewpoint character watches Glint. Here I wanted to capture the spirit of adolescence and all the freedom, potential, hope, dreams and audacity of this age.

Narcissism : Children of a Miracle — Don Diablo and Marnik

Own It All : The World is Ours — Eleven Past One

Able : Young Blood — Bea Miller


Ah, flirting. The boy’s efforts to woo the girl and her aloof teasing causes him through the next three sections to up his game toward recklessness.

Boy Hitting On Girl (Part 1)

Promise : Rule the World — Take That

Infatuation : Magic — Coldplay

Desire : Music to Watch Boys To — Lana Del Rey

Woo : Can’t Pretend — Torn Odell

Impress : Everyday Superhero — Smash Mouth


Girl Admiring Boy

Notice : Secret Admirer — Lisa Punch

Falling : No Name — Ryan O-Shaughnessy

Encourage : Keep Holding On — Avril Lavigne


Boy Hitting On Girl (Part 2)

Want Me : Impress You — Haris

Pay Attention : Attention to Me — Nolan Sisters

Together Strong : We Can Move the World — Alessandro Fortin

Entice, Exhilaration : Everything is Happening, the Clouds Have Parted, I’m Free — City of the Sun


Glint Dying (Part 1, Placeholder)

The killing of Glint is sudden and surprises everyone. The story skips from the recklessness of Everything is Happening, the Clouds Have Parted, I’m Free to the anguish of Wait. In the story the transition is abrupt, but the soundtrack makes more sense with this expository placeholder. What do you think? Do you like the soundtrack with or without this song?

Earth Song — Michael Jackson


Bite Angry (Part 1)

Glint’s death is the inciting incident. It pivots the story which quickly turns dark. So obviously in the soundtrack I want to build Bite’s loss and anger.

Sad, Loss : Wait — M83

World Changed : Slipped Away — Avril Lavigne

Slow Rage : Arsonist’s Lullabye — Hozier

Revenge : Everybody Wants to Rule the World — Lorde


These next two sections are my favourite in the story and soundtrack. This is where the action peaks. This is also where the soundtrack reveals a surprising (to me) twist and dramatic irony in the story. Notice the change in tone from the last song to the next one. I hope the story is just as creepy.

Bite Attacks

Disarm, Lure : Children of the Night — Kate Covington

Promises : Paparazzi — Greyson Chance

Attack : Going Rogue — Blake Neely


Kids in Danger

Trouble : Run Boy Run — Woodkid

Confusion : Hide and Seek — Imogen Heap

Trapped (Betrayed), Regret : Toy Soldiers — Martika

Determination : Star Trek Voyager Pop Intro — Jerry Goldsmith


In the story a lot of events occur quickly and simultaneously. So while Bite is overwhelmed with loss and rage, Glint tries to calm Bite, and the girl begs for forgiveness and peace.

Glint Dying (Part 2)

Forgive, Accept : Daddy, You Can Let Go Now — Crystal Shawanda

Love, Goodbye : My Heart Will Go On — Celine Dion

Always With You : I Will Always Be With You — Sheena Easton and Jesse Corti


Girl — Sorrow, Forgiveness and Peace

Girl to Bite : While My Guitar Gently Weeps — Regina Spektor

Girl to Boy : Silhouette — Aquilo


Glint Dying (Part 3) — Girl Dying

Both the girl and Glint die here. This section bridges Glint and Bite and A Pril of the Thirst.

Glint’s Advice : Live Your Life — Yuna

Transcend to Pril : Music to Help You Uplift to Higher Frequency (0-282 [4:42] sec) — AwakenByArchangels


Boy — Sorrow

After Glint and the girl die, shock and regret overwhelm the boy.

Regret : Forever Young — Alphaville

Miss : I Found — Amber Run


End Theme

Resonance : Time — Libera

Silence : The Sound of Silence — Simon and Garfunkle


Epilogue — Bite Angry (Part 2)

The story ends with this bridge between Glint and Bite and A Giant or a Nack?.

Boy Anger : Evil In Me (Requiem for a Dream Remix) — Thomas Edwards

Descend to Nack : Footsteps — Pop Evil



 

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World Creation: A Book From a Map

For fifteen minutes after every lunch when I was in grade six, from her desk in the far front corner of the room, Penny Gwillim read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to our class. I was already a storyteller by then, but those stories read by Penny Gwillim inspired me to write.

Tolkien populated his world with story. Every named element — person and place — had a purpose and story built into it. Every horizon hid a land beyond. Each name and land had a history and significance. This built boundless depth and breadth into Tolkien’s world. And, as these persons and places overlapped, so their purposes and stories intertwined.

Today’s post is about world building. It is about creating endless story potential by mapping instead of outlining.

My favourite Tolkien quote is this.

A story must be told or there’ll be no story, yet it is the untold stories that are most moving. I think you are moved by Celebrimbor because it conveys a sudden sense of endless untold stories: mountains seen far away, never to be climbed, distant trees (like Niggle’s) never to be approached — or if so only to become ‘near trees’ (unless in Paradise or N’s Parish).

— J.R.R. Tolkien (1945)

He also extolled, in the same letter (1945), “the heart-racking sense of the vanishing past”.

Tolkien’s underscoring of names and unexplored-places-beyond-horizons with histories and stories, to me, is a powerful way to build worlds.

Plotting and Pantsing

I am a plotter and a pantser. I typically write short stories and poems on my computer with no plotting nor sense of where the story is going, other than the steeping inspirational idea. Many of these stories and poems comprise my best writing. They sing and dance for others and me. Long stories and “important” poems I sketch, write on loose-leaf, then after several versions revise and edit further on computer.

The sketch is my tool of choice: a quick list, map or outline of places, events, scenes and characters that I typically then ignore and pants around. On the continuum of pantsing to plotting, I believe most writers do some form of sketching a little in each story. Usually I sketch after I get a good start on a story.

A Sudden Insight

I have been writing several unrelated magical-realism shorts over the years. I label these as fantastic folktales. They are subtle stories, with that unmistakable undercurrent of impossibility and fantastic flowing through them. They are explorations of my imagination and my craft, vents of my passion. They have different styles, different characters, different premises, nothing really connecting them.

One morning a couple of weeks ago, I woke with the idea of creating a map for one of these stories. And to this map I added the landscape of another story, then another. Suddenly, these stories all fit together. They even had a chronology to them. Further, the map and story element connections suggested several connector and origin shorts. And under them was that hidden undercurrent of overarching fantastic which suggested it own story.

It seems so obvious, with that map and the similarity of the genre of the stories, that the stories belong together, that beneath them was a larger, suggested, untold story.

Several of the stories are ready for publishing. Others need fleshing and tweaking. But this is a project I am excited to pursue. This is a book I want to write.

It would be just if my first book contained a selection of my short stories, which each took a short while to write, rather one of my long ones that I have worked on and played with for so long. And to discover this potential in an odd urge to create a single-short story map is thrilling.

My Take on Plots and Maps

Plots come in many forms. Some plots originate from intuitive exploration (pantsing). Some from first drafts. Some from outlines. Others from maps.

Maps also build worlds (more) and, unlike the constriction of outlines, manifest unending stories, just like Tolkien’s names and horizons.

Every map is an outline to endless stories. Details and names infill a world with story. Horizons in space and history inspire a broader and deeper world and more story.

A Comparison of Outlining and Mapping

Outline maps out a story. Like a pathfinder of new lands and events, it explores the lands and events and chops a route through them. The path it picks clearly leads further travel through the lands and events. But it also restricts the possibilities of exploration. It winds from point A to point B, however complex the labyrinth of its trail. Further travel may head off the outline, but in doing so will clear its own route — its own outline — between A and B.

The outline is a good guide and even its winding and rolling trails and oxbow loops can be revised into a smooth road.

Map outlines a world. It does not blaze a trail from point A to point B, but instead suggests wilderness (forests, oceans, city blocks), encounters and adventure between and far beyond the two points. The map opens new places, new events and new context to explore — in fact, uncounted places and events, and burgeoning context. But more importantly it reveals endless new places, events and context to explore once the current story is complete. And a map can be grown. Its limits can be pushed deeper and farther beyond what the map revealed before. Horizons always have story beyond them. Unnamed places can always be named.

The map is an atlas of unending potential tales. It is not direct and smooth like an outline, but it reveals possibilities and twists the outline misses.

Used together, the map and the outline can guide the writer to and through grand stories. The outline unearths and shepherds a story. The map opens and reveals a world of stories. Just like Tolkien emphasized.

How do maps influence your stories and build your worlds? Join the conversation. Comment below.

Resources

World-building Resources

Culture-generating Resources

Map-making Resources

Reference

Tolkien, J.R.R. (1945.) Letter 96. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. First Edition, 1981. Carpenter, H. and Tolkien, C. London: George Allen & Unwin. P. 125. https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/the_letters_of_j.rrtolkien.pdf.