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The Trickster, Hiding in My Novel All This Time

For half of my writing time, I write this blog. For the other half, I write fiction. I’ve been working for three years or so on a young adult fantasy novel which is in a final edit before I send it out into the world.

For my blog, I’ve been exploring the Trickster archetype—that bizarre mixture of godly power, childish foolery, brilliant insight, and hilarious vulgarity that crops up in myth and folklore all over the world. I’ve been taking note of the qualities writers share with Tricksters, and thinking of ways we might use the archetype in our writing lives. The shapeshifting, the rule-breaking, the creativity, the cunning. The Trickster has much to offer.

What I haven’t been paying attention to was how the Trickster has been at work in my own fiction writing. While I wasn’t looking, he’s been rummaging around in my novel, inserting weird images, twisting my words, altering my plot in ways I had no hand in. Now, as I reread my completed and much-revised work, I find him popping up like a jack-in-the-box when I turn the pages, laughing at me (not with me), and giving me the raspberry. 

Angela Booth, a successful ghostwriter and creator of web content says, “At least once in any writing session, you'll surprise yourself. That's the magic of writing, and it's what makes writing so much fun.” I wish I could agree, but the fact is I don’t surprise myself at every writing session. Pretty much, I bore myself to death. 

Yet, I have had a few surprises writing my novel, and now, when I read it back as a whole, every thing about it seems unexpected, like a work someone else wrote. If it ever gets published, someone is almost certainly going to ask me where I got these bizarro ideas, and I have no answer. Did I lift them from authors I read as a child and no longer consciously remember? (“Good writers borrow; great writers steal,” they say, although stealing is the last thing I want to do in my writing.) Did the ideas somehow sneak like imps out of my id? What links were made in my neural net that led me to come up with the goofy stuff on these pages? 

I started out with the idea of writing a sweet little story. How did grotesque images and violence creep in? There are boys cursed with weird afflictions and monsters that are half human/half sea-animal, and gooey creatures of the dark. Of course, murders and monsters have long been the stuff of children’s literature (read a good fairytale lately?) but I had something tender and delicate in mind, and ended up with something creepy and chilling. 

I suppose I shouldn't complain. The Trickster is a liar, a thief, and a prankster; he’s reckless, and he's dangerous. But he’s also a font of creativity and the force that leads us to take risks, violate rules, shake things up. So maybe I should thank him for messing with my novel, changing it around when I wasn’t looking. He made it a more demanding work. He gave it an edge. 

But I can’t help feeling annoyed at the way he had me fooled. I can hear his laughter even now. And you thought you were in control, he says. Guess again! 


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for reachng the final edit stage of your new novel.

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Thanks, Kim.

Thanks, Kim.