Want some more noodling about the writing process of The Audacity Gambit? Like you have a choice. Let’s talk themes. I’ll outline them even.
I grew up in a double-wide trailer on the outskirts of, what was at the time, a 13,000-ish population town. I lived between there and what could politely be called a township—there was a payphone box, even—of a couple hundred-ish. A good percentage of people I knew lived in trailer parks, which was rather different than the acre of land our mobile home was on. I was jealous of the kids who lived there, with their built-in neighbours and plenty of friends their own age.
There is something wonderful about the old mobile homes from the 1970-1980. The layouts of each are nearly identical, regardless of manufacturer, with only the slightest of add-on variations, depending on what the original owners sprung for (I’ve only known two people who bought brand-new mobile homes and one of them was a lotto winner). So somebody might have a fireplace, or a panelled “feature wall”, or a raised area in the living room to separate it more clearly from the kitchen—but the bedrooms were always at the same end, everybody had a sliding glass door and the bathroom was probably across from the dining room.
It was so noticeably different than actual houses. I mean, you often still pay DMV fees on your home, even if it is never going anywhere. There’s a culture there and though it wasn’t a huge part of the story I was dealing with, it informed the characters’ relationships quite a bit.
The teens of small towns
I’ve found a pervasive misconception about those shitty little towns that line highways, forcing you into one-way grids for a mile or two before spitting cars back out into runways through the fields and forests. You know these towns. They struggle to become a respectable bedroom community after the mill closes.
They’re not backwaters, devoid of culture. The people are not idiots. There’s just less people, so what idiots they have stand out more. Teens tend to suffer under similar pre-judgement—they are, for all their youth, actual people. They feel and think and reason, only with less years to pull their reasoning from. A lot of them still retain hope and impossible dreams, tatters that haven’t been beat out of them by life quite yet. They’re in the process of trying to learn the social dances that make society accept you as an adult who’s opinion is worthy of listening to and possibly respecting.
There’s not much to do as a teen in a small town. The people I grew up with would go on aimless drives, create intricate master plans that could never come to fruition and play videogames in a group—half the people watching the other half play. We were pretty good and boring kids. The other end of the spectrum is Over the Edge. You have to make your own fun and sometimes it isn’t very.
The chosen one trope
In the 80’s and 90’s I think there was a sort of barrage of this trope. I love it, and have looked at it before. What kid doesn’t hope that for realsies they’ll find the creepy shop with the magical whatsit, or meet the goblin king (and stay with him, because seriously), or whatever. Your trials would all have been preparation for your life as a hero. You were chosen.
I’m sure modern YA still carries the banner for this theme, it’s a great trope. But my interest was in a group’s attempt to manipulate it. Fairies like rules, it’s my favourite thing about them. And rules that exist because that’s how things have always been done and told are just as legit as any rule in the book.
From here on out, it might be kind of spoilery, not outright so much, but in feeling
There is something I know I do well in writing and that is the open-ended bummer. I mean, look through the writingcrap tag and count how many stories don’t quite end and leave you without that all-wrapped-up-with-a-bow satisfaction.
So my Sidhe is kind of weird, but mostly boring. Elves are dicks. Nothing is clear and generally my poor protagonist is a pawn in a game that gets shittier as she goes along. But it doesn’t get like, deathly shitty. Not to the point where it gets exciting. Like life is a lot!
I’m super fond of stories where there’s no redemption. Where there may not be a happy bow at the end, just a serviceable knot.
Despite wanting a philosophy minor in college (which I decided against for various reasons), I’m not hella hip on the full ins and outs of what exactly defines existentialism. But I do know some things. And what I know definitely informed The Audacity Gambit. This passage from Sartre’s “Existentialism is Humanism” especially:
“But, after all, these people being so base, how can you make them into heroes?” That objection is really rather comic, for it implies that people are born heroes: and that is, at bottom, what such people would like to think. If you are born cowards, you can be quite content, you can do nothing about it and you will be cowards all your lives whatever you do; and if you are born heroes you can again be quite content; you will be heroes all your lives eating and drinking heroically. Whereas the existentialist says that the coward makes himself cowardly, the hero makes himself heroic; and that there is always a possibility for the coward to give up cowardice and for the hero to stop being a hero. What counts is the total commitment, and it is not by a particular case or particular action that you are committed altogether.
That last line would totally be the hella deep lit quote that gets put in the front of a book. For me, it’s good when there’s not a clear hero or winner (Sleeping is one that I do this at the end more overtly, I think). People are people and they’re all very grey and make their own way in the world. Maybe I just hate endings.