That is the premise behind the story I began last week. At this point, I don’t know a lot about the characters or the setting; I only have the premise that interests me enough to explore.
I love fairy tales. I like that the original versions are always so much darker than the sanitised ‘Disney’ versions. I am also fascinated with the idea that there are always two sides to every story (at least), and often we only hear one side.
This week, I’ve changed a few things. Last week, Andrew was a general merchant; this week he’s a baker. That fitted better with the Hansel and Gretel premise. In this scene, we learn a bit more about Andrew: he’s no stranger to magical happenings (Gran, and the way he prepares to pick up the coin); he’s realistic but not necessarily fatalistic; he knows when his choices are limited but still makes sure his chances are as good as he can make them—showing determination and ability to think on his feet; he maintains a hard-won calmness.
I’m nearly ready to begin writing down some things about Andrew, fleshing out his profile. I’ll begin that before I write the next scene.
We also meet another character—the tall, thin man cooking bacon. We don’t know much about him, other than he cooks his own meals, he didn’t expect Andrew to drop in, and he’s been waiting for him (or someone at least). The coin was obviously placed to bring whoever picked it up to him. We don’t know yet whether or not he placed the coin, but he definitely knew it or something like it was out there to bring someone to him.
What I’m hoping to achieve with each scene:
- Move the story forward,
- Learn more about each character,
- Increase tension/intrigue, raise questions etc, to keep the reader reading.
Each week I’ll post the first draft of the scene I’m writing in this blog. The edited versions will be added to the stories page of my website. I’m calling the story The Gingerbread House (but that might change).
The forest was dim, the air thick with damp earth and decaying wood. Somewhere to Andrew’s left, water dripped. Everything else was silent. The birds he’d listened to throughout the morning no longer sang. The path ran under his feet in a straight line through the forest in front and behind. When he turned to his right, the path ran there as well, still straight. The same when he turned to the left.
Andrew’s heart pounded and he clamped down on the urge to spin in a circle in a desperate attempt to find a way through. He already felt disoriented enough to be unsure which way was forward and back.
At his feet, the coin glowed eerily in the low light. Not a normal coin, then. He bent down and reached for it, drawing his fingers back from touching it at the last minute. What had his gran told him about touching magical things? He couldn’t remember, but nothing good, that’s for sure. Gran’s stories of magic and magical beings were the main reason Andrew decided to become a baker.
Sweat prickled his spine. He was still breathing fast from his dash under the house, as if he’d been running an hour or more. The sun-dappled forest appeared only a few feet away. Andrew took three slow steps. With each step, he drew closer to freedom, only to have it slip away as soon as he put weight on his forward foot. The coin remained resolutely beside his left foot.
Andrew stopped, his shoulders slumping. He’d lost the ability to make any other choice when he decided to make a run for it rather than go around. He adjusted his pack on his shoulders and tightened the straps across his chest. He pulled his hat tighter onto his head and made should everything in his pockets was shoved as deeply as possible. Then he crouched and took a few deliberate, deep breaths. Finally, as prepared as he could be, he took a deep breath and held it as he lifted the coin with his fingertips.
Thunder rolled as the coin left the ground. When it settled into his palm, warm and getting hotter, lightning flashed. The ground began to spin, faster and faster, falling away under him, and Andrew closed his eyes against the growing nausea. His lungs burned with the need to breathe and he slowly released some air, trying to fool his body he’d breathe in again soon.
He landed with a thump, falling to his side and knocking all the remaining air from his lungs. He gasped and opened his eyes, spots swimming in the flashing after-images from the lightning. Beneath him, the mulched forest path was gone. In its place were floorboards, worn smooth with years of wear. The rich forest smell was gone, replaced by the scent of bacon and onions. Andrew looked toward the sizzling to find a tall, thin man, wooden spoon in hand, mouth agape, staring at him.
Behind the man was a huge, ancient aga. A deep pan sat on top, gently smoking as the bacon and onions continued to cook, unsupervised. Andrew pushed himself to his feet, checked his hat and backpack were still in place. He patted his pockets, reassured at the familiar lumps and bumps. He held the cooling coin up by the edge so the tall man could see it.
“You called?” Andrew said, pleased his voice showed none of the heart-pounding, trembling terror racing through him.
The man’s mouth moved, like a fish gulping, but no sound came out.
Andrew pocketed the coin, using the motion to take a deep, calming breath as he looked around. No one else was in the rustic room. There was only a small table with two chairs and a large bed piled high with quilts and cushions. Amongst the nest appeared to be a mound of wool with the points of several knitting needles poking out. The bedside table was almost buried under teetering piles of books.
The wooden spoon clattering to the floor brought Andrew’s attention back to the man. A fierce scowl greeted him. “Who are you?” He strode toward Andrew. “How did you get in here?”