I started writing Bedtime Stories because I was trapped in a cycle of morbid laziness. While I was at the Patent Office I was working on a few things, the only one that saw the light of day was probably Lanterns/Resistance, and the other stuff got buried. The reason for that is that everyone died. Everyone. I finally had one of those moments where I looked at myself and said, “Matt. Matt. Calm down, buddy.”
I wasn’t killing off all of these characters out of plot necessity or some idea that art is tragic. I was doing it out of laziness. Can’t think of a good ending for Bob? Knife in the back. Now we don’t need to resolve Bob’s character arc. Alice coming to a complex political quagmire? Strangulation. The political quagmire? Everyone dies. Problem solved.
For a while I struggled with fixing the issue. I had a few moderately murderless stories, but they started slipping as I backslid into massacre. So I put pen to paper about something I call Bedtime Stories, but then was just the Mara stories. No one dies. No one. No good guys get eaten, no bad guys get their comeuppance fatally. No one dies.
That super simple limiting bound made a world of problems for me and oddly set me free. Because no one died I could make a bunch of death jokes, and they weren’t morbid because everything was going to turn out okay. I was also limited by my refusal to delve into problems I had a habit of solving violently, which brought me to children. That was wonderful.
I write first person POV because I want to explore voice. Everything narrated should be narrated by a character. The author, me, physical Matt, either shouldn’t be in the story or is in the story, and if I don’t want Matt in the story, he needs to get out. The children provided a perfect bulwark for that. Mara and much later Elegy became speakers with their own voices, and Mara, small girl child, was a voice I could see and hear. Some Matt slips into everything, but she was almost immune.
No one dies. No one comes to a bad end. They’ll all probably wind up grounded, but that’s it. It’s fantastically liberating.
It’s also a huge problem, because now I have to come up with real endings for all of these people. Plot threads that don’t get cut need to be tied off.
PS: The other thing that got finished during this time period was the Kangaroo Graveyard. Ugh. That’s a topic for another time.