THE MERMAID AS… NARRATIVE

I’m writing a short story, inspired by the Buxton Mermaid who is currently on show in the town’s museum. If you haven’t seen her, you should, because she’s amazing. One of the spookiest things you’ll ever see.

I’m going to call my story…

D E E P

I’ve knocked up a little trailer, because that’s the modern way.

When I grew up, if you bought a potato, you took it home and ate it. It was a simple transaction. These days, the potato’s marketing department want to know if you’d like to receive regular Tweets from your potato, join it’s mailing list or know where it was sourced. Life is complex. Anyway…

Before I begin, I thought this would be a good opportunity to show you how to write a story of your own. A sneak peek at the mechanics of how a story is constructed. The good news is, it’s not complex. It’s so simple, you can sum it up in one word:

C O N F L I C T

We all know what a boring story looks like. The characters just stand around, yacking. Nothing happens. How tedious is that? (answer: very)  That’s because there’s no conflict.

So, let’s create some…

You create conflict by picking a character then giving them a challenge. As a random example, let’s pick a… Penguin! Now ask yourself this, “What would be really hard for a Penguin to do?” Fly is the obvious one but what about…

  • Learn the trapeze?
  • Date an ostrich?
  • Play the piano?

Once you’ve chosen a challenge, you’re well on the way to crafting a story. You now know the beginning, middle and end – or as I like to call them, the Starter, Main and Pud.

The Starter gets your juices flowing with a perky little question. Questions are good because they demand answers, “Why can’t I fly?” Already, something is happening. The penguin is no longer just standing around, wondering what to do, she’s restless. Her epic quest has begun.

The Main part of the story investigates WHY she can’t fly. We watch her try, fail and try again. We cheer as our plucky little bird learns to triumph over adversity. Then, in her darkest moment, she unearths a truth that will transform her from a dumpy little penguin into a real-life hero. Hooray!

The Pudding is sweet because that’s when the answer is revealed. But it’s not the one you expected. Sure, our hero can’t fly but she’s so smart, she’s thought of Plan B. She’s booked herself a Quantas flight for Australia, in the hope of meeting an Ostrich and maybe, just maybe, find love.

That’s it! That’s all there is to crafting a bog-standard narrative. Cheesy but easy!

So, let’s pick a hero for my mermaid story. There are two choices: the mermaid or me? Let’s go with me, as I’ve no mermaid experience.

Now let’s find the conflict, “What would be a really hard thing for me to do?” Well, I’m a rubbish swimmer and scared of dark water, so dating a mermaid would be tough. The whole idea of an inter-species relationship with a mythical character is loaded with challenges. She’s not real, I can’t breathe underwater and she smells of fish. Those are genuine hurdles to a relationship. But, on the plus side, we have now established the central conflict of the story. Here it is:

MY GIRLFRIEND IS AN ALIEN

What could possibly go wrong?

Now let’s drill down to the details.

Where will the story be set? If only I knew where mermaids live around here? A quick look at the Wonders of the Peak website tells me that there are lots of places in the Peak District that are steeped in myth and legend. Such as Blake Mere Pool, a spooky mermaid portal if ever there was one. Rumour has it, that to this day, no animal with drink from it. No bird will fly over it. How fabulous is that? Let’s set some scenes in Buxton too, maybe a “Night in the Museum”.

And our hero? What will he look like? Sadly, I don’t look like Chris Hemsworth in Thor so how about an anxious boy instead? And he can’t be too cool, or no-one will like him. A true hero is always an underdog, so let’s make him poor, awkward and shy – then when he does triumph over adversity, we’ll be proud.

Can you see how the story is beginning to pull together? Without any writing at all?

There’s just one decision left to make:

GENRE

What type of story should it be? Let’s take one last look at the Buxton mermaid.

THE BUXTON MERMAID

Does that look like Ariel to you? No, me neither. She’s not pretty, lilac or cute but hey, so what? That whole beauty thing is overrated anyway. She’s our love interest and everyone’s worthy of love.

Stay tuned…

 

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