Diary of a Storyteller: How it Begins


Weathercock is the offspring of a ménage a toi between a two-person role-playing event (what, as children, we called “playing pretend”), a 1980’s era liquor billboard advertisement, and a song by Jethro Tull.

Being a writer from a very young age, rather than put away the art of playing pretend when I entered high school, I submerged it.  (I was already viewed as a total geek, so I’m not certain what I was afraid of.  More ridicule?  How could there be more?)   Fortunately, I made a few friends in those dire halls of academia who also looked back with fondness on their childhood days of pretend.  We wrote stories together and play-acted scenes from Star Trek, Here Come the Brides, Starsky & Hutch, the Pern books of Anne McCaffrey, and our own first endeavors at original story-telling.

One afternoon, a friend and I acted out a story about Kinara, a young woman on a quest (played by my friend) who ends up joining forces with mercenary soldiers Reynard (yours truly) and Banain (also yours truly).  We did the entire story start-to-finish (a fairly unusual occurrence) and something about it stayed with me, percolating in the back of my mind.

Fast-forward about 10 years.  I’m driving through Albany when two things occur simultaneously:  the song on the radio (Jethro Tull’s “Weathercock”) reaches the martial-air bridge, and I spy an enormous billboard advert for Rumple Minze in which a big-boobed warrior broad carrying a sword sits astride a raging polar bear.  (Seriously.  I’m not making this up.)

Picture courtesy of Google

Honest to God, I heard the tumblers fall into place — click, click, click, Ka-CHING!  I went home that night and started Weathercock, incorporating the tale of Kinara, Reynard, and Banain, the name Weathercock, and the idea of a female warrior savior.

It was awful.  Total dreck.  The worst possible rip-off of every bad fantasy you’ve ever read.  I got about twenty-five pages into it and the manuscript plowed face first into the ground.  It laid there, snout buried in the soil, rolling its eyes at me and whimpering until I kicked it to death.  And that was that.  I figured it was a done deal.  No story.

But Weathercock wasn’t through with me yet.  It started to whisper.  And I listened.

I changed gender on every character.  Kinara became a young boy named Kinner, Reynard became a ragamuffin soldier named Rai, and Banain morphed into Banya.  And the story — God bless it — took off like a rocket.

There were six drafts of Weathercock before I was done — everything from epic-length all the way to its present pared-down (and much improved) incarnation.  This story, the story within the story, and its determination to live taught me to listen to my inner voice.  It taught me to believe my characters when they tell me something is wrong, to trust my instincts when I stray from my personal truth, and to hold my feet to the fire if I’m tempted to do anything less than my very best.

And for that, I am forever grateful.

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About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
This entry was posted in Books, Connecticut, Darling Wendy, Dragonriders of Pern, editing, Essays, fandom, fantasy, Fiction, Independent Writers, Melissa Crandall, novels, self-publishing, Star Trek, Weathercock, Writer, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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