Last weekend, I attended my second convention of the summer. Oh my heart, Fourth Street Fantasy replenishes me. The programming is writing-angled, but very meta. There’s tips and best practices in some of the discussion, but for the most part it’s “let’s unpack a subject and teach ourselves to ask enough of the right questions.”
Take the panel about Fiber Arts and this quote “Why is magic never used to ease the unending labor of women?” Like, fucking right, right? Why is magic above “women’s work?” and why is most representation of magic used for mundane basically saying “That’s extra wrong. Don’t do it!” Think the sorcerer’s apprentice.
I LOVE taking those kinds of bumps to my thinking. It’s not about right or wrong—who doesn’t love a good rise from low social status to personal power story? But, by hearing that question asked, it’s now “rise from low social status” is a good story, but how about “helping others rise from social status” or “we all rise together” or “fuck exchanging one king for another, let’s make a whole new fucking governing joint.”
Or, most transgressive of all, let’s tell a story about the tavern wench and her quiet magic and the way ze makes little gifts of magic to help or nurture the people around her. Ordinary people with ordinary lives doing extraordinary work that history will never note because it’s too busy cataloguing war and the rich.
Granted, I probably just described any number of romance novels, and maybe a few cozy mysteries and an historical fiction work or two. Read outside your genre, kids!
Anyway, asking questions and interrogating tropes are a great way to both generate stories and examine the values you share in your writing.