George S. Walker is the author of The Dark Angel and the Witch’s Hat, which won for the Best Story for the July issue in our annual Readers’ Choice poll. Didn’t get a chance to read the story? Make sure to pick up Bardic Tales and Sage Advice, Volume V this summer to get another chance! George took some time to share his thoughts about his award-winning story.
In the meantime, don’t forget to check out the past installments in the series!
The Dark Angel and the Witch’s Hat has a lot of twists. My hope as an author is that they’re all believable, with enough foreshadowing that even though they’re unexpected, the reader can see where they came from. Authors want story twists to take the reader in new and interesting directions. But we don’t want the turns to be random and pointless, or the reader will throw the book against the wall.
Dark Angel starts with a lot of little twists, starting with the facts that a) she’s not an Angel of Darkness and b) the boy thought she had come to save him, but that’s not why she’s there. The reader sees the world through the filter of the boy’s eyes. That limited viewpoint allows me to control the clues the reader gets. So that when we get to the major twist in the story (the Witch isn’t exactly a witch and the Hat isn’t exactly a hat), my hope is that a) the reader didn’t see it coming, but b) the reader could have, at least in retrospect.
In the original draft of the story, there were only minor twists after that. The boy helped the angel complete her mission, and it was a happy, if slightly predictable, ending. But when I read it to my writing group, Francine, one of the writers, had a flash of insight. She said, “No, the boy needs to fail.” So that’s the final twist, and you have to read the story to see how that works. The final version has much more emotional punch than the draft did, yet it’s still a feel-good ending.
To me, stories are like jigsaw puzzles: I’m handing the reader pieces, and all the pieces need to fit. But if I’ve done my job right, some of the pieces stick out and grab the reader’s attention. I hope those are the parts they remember when it’s done.
In addition to Bards and Sages Quarterly, George S. Walker has sold stories to Ideomancer, Stupefying Stories, Perihelion SF, Steampunk Tales, Comets and Criminals, and elsewhere. Paperback anthologies containing his stories include Bibliotheca Fantastica, Mirror Shards, Gears and Levers, and Heir Apparent. More about George can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/georgeswalker/