“This is the secret to good storytelling: to lie, but to keep the arithmetic straight.” Kurt Vonnegut ~ Psalm Sunday
Years ago on Saturday Night Live, someone asked, “What if girls had beagle faces?” I thought it was an odd question, but I admired the underlying principal of asking a what-if question. I like asking what-if questions and exploring possible answers.
The Book of Rhino started as a what-if question. I wondered what it would be like if the legend of King Arthur was based on a woman, not a man. What if it was a woman, not Arthur, who united the tribes of England? Would that work? If so, what would it look like? If I were to tell such a story, how would I keep the arithmetic straight?
The arithmetic for a woman in the fifth century needed careful consideration. I realized I would have to give her power in order for her to do what Arthur did; but deciding on the source was challenging. Should it be physical prowess, like that of Boudicca or wealth and position, like that of Medb? Should I give her sexual power, like the woman in Lysistrata, or make her unhinged, like the women of The Bacchae? Nope, nope, nope. That’s too darn dramatic and dark for me.
G. K. Chesterton wrote: “The old fairy tale make the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal.”
In answering my what-if question, I wanted the woman to be as normal as possible. I wanted her to be someone that people would recognize. I suppose it’s my own personal fantasy to think a woman can equal a man in influence and authority without having to be an outlier.
So I decided to make her a normal human with a special gift of inner character. And I decided to make it a group of women instead of one woman because I wanted her to have friends. I gave these women–my what-ifs–power in the form of a spiritual gift. Since I did not want them to be superhuman or supernatural, I gave them a gift that human beings already possess; I just strengthened it a smidgen.
There. I think I have the arithmetic straight; I think I have a good story to tell.
The Book of Rhino ~ The Revelation