**SPOILERS BELOW. If you have not read the story and want to be (hopefully) surprised, come back to this when you’re done.**
The title for this one changed on the last day. Again, I started with different phrases from a Robert Frost poem (The Line-Gang) and picked the one that lit up my ear the most. In this case, “An Oath of Towns” was the winner.
I had another image in my head that I wanted to incorporate: A giant squid monster. This thought makes a regular appearance since I read a National Geographic article late last year. The funny thing is I wanted to provide a link to that article, only to discover it’s about…wait for it…octopuses. I guess they’re both cephalopods, but still…
Goes to show that even a faulty memory can work in one’s favor.
My initial instinct was to create a story based on a group of towns that made a pact to go out and fight this squid monster.
How did I end up setting this in 16th-century Poland and with a monster that had nothing to do with squids?
Before I get into that, I want to mention that I’ve always had this impression that an artist’s influences had to operate on a subconscious level. That actively stealing was considered ill form. But I’m quickly learning that belief makes little sense. Stealing is stealing and all great artists do it — it’s all about execution. How you get the ideas shouldn’t really matter.
The latest issue of Military History Quarterly had a couple of essays on Polish soldiers: One about a man named Casimir Pulaski (now you know where my protagonist’s first name from), father of the U.S. Calvary. The other about Józef Piłsudski (…and there’s the last name), a soldier who fought back the Red Army. As you can see, neither of these men were around before the 19th century. I thought an earlier period worked better for the story because it was a time during which, especially in remote regions, superstitions and local mythologies could still be so real.
What about the squid monster? I somehow came up with the idea of the beast eating people because it craved their experiences and that’s how it absorbed them. If it could be done another way, like through perceiving human expression through art (also influenced by a NatGeo article), it would. I couldn’t figure out an easy way to have the villagers make art underwater, but maybe that could be for another story at another time.
Here’s the general scratch file:
You may notice a pattern with these scratch files. I’ll start one, fill in some information, come back to it occasionally, but it’s rarely ever a fully fleshed out document. I primarily use it as a sounding board and when I get what I need, I set it aside and dive into the prose itself.
And the daily journal entries:
It’s interesting for me to look back on these because I had so many ideas that never came to fruition or seeds that bloomed into full-blown, fruit-bearing trees.
As always, thanks for reading and I hope you’ve found following my process, if not interesting, at least affirming of your own.