“Steps as Soft as Chimney Smoke” – The Generation of New Ideas

So the other day I was rereading Pat Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear. One of my favorite writers ever. Period. I could read this guy writing about a desk for seven hundred pages and I wouldn’t be bored in the slightest. His prose is that good. Please go check it out.

The_Wise_Man's_Fear_UK_cover
Pictured: A really, really good book

Anyway, chapter one hundred and two (It’s doorstopper of a book and I enjoyed every second of it) has a sort-of poem-through-dialogue-thing between a creature named Felurian and our main character, Kvothe.  One line: “most fae are sly and subtle folk who step as soft as chimney smoke.” was so, so clever I couldn’t help but take the dialogue from that poem and…ahem…put it in my own words for lack of a better term. Just for fun.

And now I figured I could use this version of the poem as a springboard for a demonstration on generating new ideas. Many writers can and do suffer from writer’s block where the well just runs dry, and I have a few techniques I like to use to try to get past that. I’ll be sharing them in poem form below, but they work across genres.

(A quick disclaimer: if Mr. Rothfuss does in fact see this I would like to make it absolutely crystal clear make no mistake at all the fact that I have used his work as a springboard to demonstrate generating new ideas and overcoming writer’s block is in no way meant reflect on him as a writer. His books are doorstoppers that take time care and love that are very evident on the page. Seriously people. I cannot say it enough. Go buy his stuff.)

So here’s “my version” of Rothfuss’s poem:

 

Our moon is torn, half in your sky

She’s far away we Fae descry

We miss her so it comes to this:

The Fae will find out what’s amiss

 

For when the moon is bright and full

My kith in Faerie feel her pull

We have come to your world before

Through trees, stone, brambles and lakeshores

 

This skill belongs to any Fae

If they’ve the will and know the way

There are a thousand Faerie thrones

That lead from my world to your own.

 

To Fae they are not hard to miss

We need but only reminisce

Of times gone by with full bright skies.

And in your world we do arise

 

I wonder why you haven’t seen

A sign of those who walk between

Still Fae are sly and subtle folk

With steps as soft as chimney-smoke

 

But there are those of darker kith

That you nowadays think a myth

But ancients kept their kind at bay

With iron wills, weapons and ways.

 

They knew our games and so our rules

To keep out blacker Fae with tools

This is a greater thing we dread

Than the great power we unthread

 

So we stepped back from mortal earth

You were more trouble than you’re worth

We’ve secreted ourselves away

Now you’ve forgotten us: the Fae.

 

But you’ve forgotten something more

A warning we gave you before

For even though you may yet laugh

Know this: there’s still a darker half

 

A wise man knows to fear the night

When in the sky there is no light

 

They know not to be out, awake

For they know every step you take

 

Brings you unwitting to the Fae

Where you’ve no choice except to stay.

 

In such an unfamiliar place

Your kind welcomes a friendly face

 

Who may yet take you for their own

Old worlds and lives you will disown.

 

I warn you listen well and hear

Wise men see moonless nights with fear

____ ____ ____

For anyone who’s read the book, you’ll know it’s way to similar to Rothfuss’s own work to send anywhere, but it was fun to play around with. To see what I could do with the concept.

Now it’s time for a magic trick: I’m going to turn one poem into six. I’ll keep them short since they’re only here to prove a point. Will they be similar to what Mr. Rothfuss wrote? Sure. Will they be as blatant copies as the one above? No.

It is important to divorce what I am about to write from Mr. Rothfuss’ own dialogue/poem (That again–for emphasis–is not the one above, as I don’t want to include the original version without permission. Do not take my retread as his actual work. Please go read it yourself. Seriously. Read it.)

POEM #1: The Antithesis

Take the original poem and write the opposite.

 

Our moon is ever full and bright

But Fae see it as their birthright

To take the light that shines on us

Forever Fae we will mistrust

 

For when the moon stands high and halved

We ready for their tricksy crafts

They dance, alight, like candlesticks

Those smoking, burning, lunatics.

 

A man can burn yet any Fae

If he will protect the the causeway

There is but one way twixt our realms

We’ve men enough to overwhelm

 

Poems #2, 3, and 4 – Line by Line

Read over the first three lines of the original poem, and start over from that line

Our moon is torn, half in your sky

There’s many fears I can’t belie

When light ran roughshod through the sky

We’re somewhere else, I do descry.

 

The light has brought us somewhere new

Where many troubles do accrue

This place is a dangerous stew

Of festered flesh, bones, and mildew.

_ _ _ _

She’s far away we Fae descry

But we will find out where she lies

Beneath the dark and hidden earth.

Where she awaits her own rebirth.

 

We will keep searching for you still.

We watched you from your windowsill

Those many, many years ago.

When we still kept the status quo

_ _ _ _

We miss her so it comes to this:

We’ll venture forth to the abyss

To join her in the waking world

Let our immortal lives unfurl

 

I know we must see her again

But I will miss immortal ken

Love of this journey I have feigned

My feelings for her are bloodstained.

_ _ _ _

Poem #5 – The Prequel

What happened before the events in the original poem?

But yesterday our moon was full

Back when both world followed the rules

Though we’d no knowledge of your pains

This knowledge was still preordained.

 

Our days were once a merry thing

For joyous light our moon did bring

Our tools knew not the ways of war

It wasn’t a concern before

 

Poem #6 – The Sequel

What happened after the events of your first poem?

Have you managed to stay away

From moonless nights without delay?

Have you heeded my warnings dire

And spared yourself from their dark ire?

 

A piece of me still hopes you did

If here we are to be candid

Despite what our two worlds have done

I hope you’ve listened to reason.

 

I cannot help but smile at you

You clumsy, stumbling, stupid crew

Watching, I can’t help but be charmed

I cannot say I’m not alarmed.

 

This has been Connor M. Perry’s go-to techniques for dealing with a lack of ideas. I hope that this has been helpful and feel free to use them in the future.

 

 

Author: Connor M. Perry

From an early age, I learned how to divide by four. See, two minutes after I was born, I discovered three other newborns hot on my heels. I was a quadruplet. And I needed to learn to how to share. Everything. At an early age, I took to writing so that I could have something unsharable. I began writing small stories online for my own enjoyment, and gradually moved to more ambitious ideas. I've been running my blog The Mythlings for two years now, publishing a new installment every Friday. I've enjoyed creating different worlds, characters and relationships in my stories. I currently live in Worcester, MA with my girlfriend, two cats, and a collection of swords.

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