From Idea to Plot (or) How I Came to Write Goblin Moon

It began with a firm resolution and two images that appeared in my mind with astonishing clarity. The resolution was NOT to write another High Fantasy trilogy. I was inexpressibly tired of the Medieval setting, tired of swords and armor, of heros who behaved in an appropriately heroic fashion. I was, on the other hand, very interested in the 18th century, an era so fantastical in its own right, I was surprised that no one had chosen it for the basis of a fantasy novel before.The two images were an enormous moon — a moon that became visibly larger as it grew rounder — and two men in a rowboat, rowing on a river at the time of the full moon, men who discovered a body floating down the river in a coffin. Both of these images haunted me and I knew I had to work them into a story.Who the men were, the identity of the body, what they did with it, and what was to come of it all, that was the beginning of my plot.Jed and his uncle are river scavengers, trolling the Lunn for pieces of wreckage, and dead bodies — a profitable trade. One night on the river they snag an unexpected prize: the coffin and body of an ensorcelled magician, and his books of proscribed magic. They take the coffin to Jenk, a failed alchemist. Hungry for the forbidden knowledge, Jenk buys the coffin and its contents, with money originally saved as a dowry for his granddaughter, Sera.The books yield fascinating secrets, and Jenk attempts the creation of a homunculus, a tiny living creature carved from a mandrake root.Having gifted Jenk with a granddaughter, it only made sense to tell her story, too, and to eventually bring the two story lines together.

In the meantime, stubborn, sensible Sera lives on sufferance with wealthy relations, where she keeps a protective eye on her cousin, Elsie. Elsie’s mother, Clothilde, has been subjecting the girl to one fashionable “cure” after another, for an illness that exists solely in Clothilde’s mind. Between the exertions of the phlebotomists and the physic of the doctors, it’s a wonder Elsie survives at all. Sera intervenes where she can, but she can’t discourage a dubious foreign nobleman who courts Elsie under the sponsorship of her “almost godmother,” the Duchess of Zar-Wildungen. 

While the Duchess lays deep plots, she also plays patron to Jenk, hoping to gain possession of the homunculus.

Now it was time to add further complications. I had already decided that the story was to be darker than anything I had written before, and now the ideas that were coming so fast developed along those lines.

Elsewhere, genuine deviltry is afoot: A secret society murders young prostitutes in perverse rituals; slavers use spells to lure innocent girls and boys, in order to ship them to brothels half a world away. Witches plague the countryside; the dead are raised untimely from their graves. 

At this point, I noticed the absence of a hero — or rather, an anti-hero. Jed was too earnest for that role, and Sera, while a suitable heroine, was too principled, besides having enough on her hands already.

Against all this stands one man, pledged to pursue and bring to justice all those who would use magic for nefarious purposes. Like those he hunts, he is as ruthless as he is resourceful, and the different identities he adopts are more than just disguises: they are manifestations of a fragmented personality.

And there I had them: all the elements I needed for my plot. The challenge then was to see what I could make of them. A year later I had Goblin Moon.


(Originally published on Goodreads)


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