Guest Post: The Writing Process by Frank Montellano
The Writing Process: War of the Woods
Frank Montellano has worked (in no particular order) as a movie projectionist, travelling stuffed animal salesman, sailor, aircraft electrician, teacher, KMart employee, vice-principal, and media specialist. He is also a veteran, retired from the U.S. Navy after 24 years of service. He is married, living in Louisiana, and has four children.
The writing process for me begins in flashes, in pieces, in small things that grow into big things. This is how my short stories come into being. The kernel of a story can be any phrase or idea that comes to me through a dream, an observation or something that catches my attention. That kernel goes into a file with a bunch of other kernels waiting to be grown and when I deposit a new idea I usually take a few moments to see how my idea garden is growing.
Let’s take a look and see what is in there at the moment. I have a phrase waiting: The War of the Woods. Come along as I work it into a short story…
I turn the phrase over in my mind… war of the woods. A war, between two separate woods. Hmm, the science teacher in me thinks of a deciduous forest and an evergreen? Maybe something else. My unfinished trilogy relates the consequences of planes colliding and intermingling. I can do that. So, elves are creatures of greenery. One forest will be an Elven forest, growing into our world, invading from theirs. The Elf Woods are filled with bushes, ivy, trees, creatures of Faerie and the other-worldly elves themselves. Are they the good guys? Usually, but in this case their ecology is invading our world. Maybe they see it as an improvement over the current age of man. The flora and fauna of the Elf Woods are not of this world and are invaders from the Elven realm that are adapting to and conquering ours.
The other… how about a nearby forest, local, maybe Deciduous. Yes, this is beginning to shape up nicely. The elves are the bad guys, trying to force their way in, and the forces of the homeland biome are the defending good guys. I like it. Woodpeckers of the forest unite!
Let’s pick a direction to help lay out the players. The Dark Woods will be to the south. Full of tall black, brown and grey trees, this forest is composed of denser and tougher woods than the Elf woods, but they grow very slowly in comparison. Maybe there are some witches living here now, or other former defenders from the past battles. Veterans. The witches can be minor characters, because I want the real battle to be between the two woods. Although outnumbered, the plants and creatures of the Dark Woods are very powerful. They are battle-tested and harder to kill.
Let’s throw a third into the mix. A constant reminder of the past. The Dead Woods to the West are undead, taken over, and lost from the elves. A former elven influx that lost the battle between the realms. And it is now a forest of Death. Talk about their tragic fate, how they were lost. What does it mean when a tree is undead? Maybe it acts in reverse, leaching the ground and life from the area. This can be used to foreshadow actions in the current war.
Trees fighting does sound dull. I can use treants, but I don’t think I want to go in that direction. The elves themselves are good enough for mobile protagonists. Trees usually don’t move and I think I want to keep it that way. But they can attract and repel things. The entire trophic pyramid can be the frontline troops, flora, fauna, ivy, birds, woodpeckers, larger creatures. Maybe have wolves in the Dark woods. Pollen, allergies are the result of plants trying to have sex in your nose. Might be some way to have that effect the war. Parachuting microscopic troops behind enemy lines to grow where they land.
If it’s a war, then we’ll need more weapons besides pollen. Advancement of the front lines through plant growth. Slow yet steady. Like some earthly wars, the most active times of the war will be in the spring and summer months.
Yes, I think that this idea is shaping up nicely. The War of the Woods, a battle between the vibrant and beautiful elves and the hardened inhabitants of the Dark Woods. The ‘corpse’ of the nearby Dead Woods a stark reminder of what happened the last time elves tried to invade our homeland. And that is how a short story is born.
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