The Cursed Ones: From Then to Now
This morning, as part of my daily ritual to check QueryTracker on latest updates of literary agents I'm following (translation: stalking), I saw this appear on my Twitter feed from an editing company:
Trying to fit how the idea formed for my book, The Cursed Ones, into a SINGLE TWEET was no easy feat (hey, look at that, I made a rhyme). But it made me reminiscent and I've been asked that question so many times. For newcomers, here's the pitch of my book from its page on the site:
In this dark contemporary loose retelling of Red Riding Hood with a Norse mythology twist, three teens help find a way to break a curse plaguing the monstrous wolf dwelling in the forest surrounding their town. But when their own elite group turns out to be as corrupted as the Council running the town, they must face the difficult decision to either break the curse or destroy the group from within.
For fans of House of Salt and Sorrows, M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, and The Raven Cycle.
So, I thought I'd share the story on how it all began. Grab your snacks and your blankies, it's gonna be a long(ish) story:
Once Upon a Time
No, literally. It actually started with the ABC show, Once Upon a Time... before it went down the drain. Last September, when I moved into my condo (my first homebuyer purchase ever), I decided to christen my new TV so I turned on Netflix and started bingeing the show.
I got to the Red Riding Hood episode, remembering how it became my favorite episode in the entire series when I first started watching it in college. It brought me back to how in awe I was at the twist that revealed Red Riding Hood as the big bad wolf and the red cloak she wore protected her (and others) from turning.
A tiny bit of backstory: After my failed attempt of writing a YA fantasy novel, long since forgotten, I was defeated when I tried to think up of some story ideas, even one for a potential survivor during the Chernobyl accident (I'm revisiting it later...). Every story idea turned sour and I would hit a dead end with all those damned false starts.
So, as I was watching the episode of OUAT, I kind of sat up when it showed Red as the wolf. One thought came to mind. Not, wow what a unique idea, that would make a great story. It was: how old is the curse exactly? Red's grandmother revealed it was passed down the family line. Whoever had the gene was bitten and they would then turn into the wolf... and so on and so forth. I let the question churn for a while before I decided to put it in the back-burner of my mind.
Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood
To be honest, I hated the Twilight movies, especially the first one. I still do. I actually consider them comedies because they're just so unrealistic, it's pretty damn funny. I enjoyed the books from a writer's perspective and I read them when they first came out.
Okay, before I go into a Twilight bash session, I'll continue my point here. I was watching the first Twilight director's film and I thought it was... interesting and enjoyable. Plus Gary Oldman is in it and I love Gary Oldman (a.k.a. Sirius Black).
ANYWAY, for those who've never seen it, THIS IS NOT A FULL SPOILER: the film revealed the wolf was cursed as well. That idea from OUAT came pouncing back with the same question thrumming: how OLD is the curse??? After watching the movie, I was staring up at my ceiling fan until the wee hours of the night, trying to run the idea in my head some more when a thought came to me: what if the curse originated during the rule of gods?
For any new book, I always get it its own Moleskine notebooks--they're sturdy and amazing and I love them. I jotted down the ideas then started the research: wolves and gods. There were quite a few results but one that jumped out at me was Fenrir from Norse Mythology.
More and more research later, I outlined version 1 of the book. After successfully writing it out, I jumped into drafting. Then stopped. Did the same with version 2. Then stopped. It was a nasty and vicious cycle. It left me feeling annoyed and angry that I couldn't get it right. I began wondering if there was something wrong with me so I just stopped writing.
Then one day, I was listening to my friend's playlist on Spotify and one of the tracks was from The Village soundtrack, "Gravel Road." I couldn't stop listening to it, so I rented The Village, having never seen it. Immediately, I was drawn to the protagonist, Ivy and the whole concept of a monster in the woods surrounding the village.
And I give you, my eureka moment: what if Red Riding Hood was blind? The story took off from there.
42 Days Later
The Cursed Ones draft one was written in a total of 42 days after the final outline in late April. It ended up being 75,800 words.
Then draft two came along. 87,500 words.
As of Wednesday, I completed draft three at 94,000 words. The longest book I've ever written and I'm truly exhausted.
Sometimes, coming up with story ideas can take a lot of work. It's like a hunk of clay. You have to massage it until it resembles something discernible. No wonder we writers are so tired all the time. And we end up staring at the blank screen or a wall hoping the answer will just jump out at us. And sometimes it does.
The Cursed Ones Stats:
Hours Spent Writing: wayyyyyyyyy too many to count
Words: see hours one
Sanity Lost?: f*ck yes
Days Spent on Entire Story Idea: 334