The Last Motley: Behind the pages - djedwardson.com

The Last Motley: Behind the pages

Welcome to another stop on the Clean Fiction Blog Tour, sponsored by Storyquest Academy. Storyquest provides resources for teens to become better writers through writing short stories. If you homeschool or just want to see your child’s writing improve, consider trying one of their online courses. They are an amazing value.

The author vs. the man

As C.S. Lewis points out in his essay, “Sometimes Fairy Stories Say Best What’s to Be Said”, every story is the product of both the Author and the Man. The Author has the vision, the inspiration to set to paper some story, but then the Man comes in and has his say. “Is it worth all the time and effort?” he wonders. “Is there any point or purpose? Will it be successful (which will mean different things to different people)? Is this vision any good?”

And so it goes back and forth until either the Author wins out and the story gets written, or he gives in and moves on to other stories or perhaps no story at all.

When setting out to write anything, I always have at the back of my thinking what I call the Hippocratic Oath for Authors. It goes something like this: “A writer must seek the highest good for his readers and above all, do no harm.” That is one of the reasons I’m so encouraged by Storyquest and this Clean Fiction Blog Tour. The world needs authors who care about their readers and see themselves as accountable and responsible for not only the kinds of stories they tell but the manner in which they are told.

In other words, it’s not enough for the Author to desire to share his vision. The Man needs to come in and ensure that the vision is worth sharing.

The story behind the story

The Last Motley book cover for the fantasy adventure by DJ Edwardson

When I set down to write The Last Motley, I had in mind a short story about a boy who was hunted for some unknown reason. As I started setting down the events, I knew very little about the details and the setting. But the image of a jester’s coat, with its motley patterns seemed intriguing. What if this hunted person had skin like that? That might very well attract some interest. And then of course came the follow-up question, why did he have skin like that?

Slowly the details took shape, but once I’d gotten about fifteen or twenty pages in, I saw that I wouldn’t be satisfied with a short story. A larger tale was beginning to emerge. Unexpectedly, ideas for two other stories that had been bouncing around in my imagination presented themselves as connected to this larger tale. Before I knew it, I was furiously scribbling out an outline not just for a short story or even a stand-alone novel, but an entire trilogy. All because of a curious little boy with candy-colored, patchwork skin.

Of magic and men

The final two novels of the trilogy unfortunately are on permanent hold while I work on The Swordspeaker Saga, but the overall theme for me in the series was always intended to be the way people misuse the gifts God has given to them. I don’t think most readers, if any, have picked that up from the first book. Perhaps it would take the other two to make that more apparent.

But in these books, magic is sort of a metaphor for the gifts God has given to men. What poets would call “inspiration.” Only the world of Arinn has become trapped because the magic, which was meant to be shared with everyone in more diluted, everyday forms like painting or invention, became concentrated in one person, the motley, and this created disastrous consequences. It was inspiration out of balance. It was art expressed in ways too potent and pure for one finite person to control. It was chaos rather than creation.

A family tale

That was the idea, but in telling the tale, what ended up taking prominence was the relationships between the main characters. Roderick, the main character in The Last Motley, is a husband and a father first and foremost. I tend to prefer non-traditional or “everyman” heroes in my stories and Roderick certainly fits that bill. Because of his character and the importance of family, the larger story of magic and misguided inspiration take a back seat to the need to protect and care for those you love.

I’m happy with the way the story turned out, though. Roderick became for me, sort of the father I always wish I had, and the one I aspired to be. I don’t think strong fathers are all that common in fantasy. I hope through this story that readers come to appreciate the value a father has in the life of his family.

More pages to discover

And that’s a brief little meditation on the way The Last Motley came to be what it is. I hope you enjoyed this quick look “behind the pages.” Every story is a compromise between Author and Man, and I hope, in the end, that what I have crafted here is worthy of those who will choose to read it.

Thanks again to Storyquest for allowing me to participate in the Clean Fiction Blog Tour.

Check out the links below for more clean fiction resources:

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