The second week of NaNo blew by fast, and since I wrote a little something after my first week, I decided to do a sort of a follow up. Especially since the last post was kind of a downer, while this week was much better. Sure, some days were really slow, and life got in the way—day job being really stressful because the pandemic—so my word count was all over the place, my writing speed dragging on like a snail. But I managed to finish one story, and started another, which should be much shorter than the first one, so I’m feeling quite good.
So, I wanted to share some things I liked about my first story, because after all my whining at the beginning of November, I should focus more on the positive stuff.
Isolated village in the middle of nowhere, looming mountains, moody dark forest, and winds blowing with a force to rip out trees from the ground. This is set in the real world village that truly existed, but doesn’t anymore, because that place was never really great for people to live in the first place. Too isolated, roads impassable, no water source. Living there was so hard, the lifespan for women all of 16 years, and not because of high mortality at childbirth, but because of the diseases and harsh conditions. So with time, people moved away, looking for a better, easier life. Perfect place for a folk horror story.
The folk elements
There is a creature in Croatian folklore similar to selkies. The direct translation would be ‘God’s She-Wolf’. She’s a wolf that comes from the skies, and when she takes off her wolf skin, she becomes a beautiful woman. If a young man steals and hides away her skin, she needs to marry him. If she finds her skin, she can wear it again, turn into a wolf and run away. There was a way for them to reunite, if he could recognise her in her wolf form. And then she would return to him.
This story isn’t really from the same region as the village in which the story is set, but ever since I heard about God’s She-Wolf I became obsessed with using her for a story, and this felt like a good fit. I already had an idea of a plot when I learned from which area this folk tale originated so I just decided to ignore that.
Also, there’s no young man stealing her wolf skin, but there is a young lesbian lost in the woods.
Another folk story that I mentioned here was about a snake that drinks milk from the cow. Directly.
Of course, I couldn’t help myself. If there is a: forest, a wolf, a young woman and an old sick grandmother, then there also needs to be a red head covering. But mostly because it reminds me of red caps, which are a traditional folk costume for that region (for men, though).
But I also mentioned a few real life people—one who was responsible for the existence of the village, literally the first man who got to that place and built himself a house, and the other a teacher who’d taught for the longest time at the nearby school (which was also in the middle of nowhere in the forest). Because she sounded cool.
Also, I used something from another legend (about how that mountain came to be) but it’s really vague, not that important for the story, so it doesn’t matter if people understand the reference or not.
I researched period appropriate names for the place, I truly did. I even used one (for a minor character). But my main character ended up being a name after our northern wind because of… a reason I’m not going to get into now, but mostly because I really like how it sounds. Another major character is named Dorja, which apparently means a ‘gift from god’ in old Croatian. Because I love word plays.
There’s one trope that I like and use regularly and that’s a woman with huge/unlimited/destructive powers. She’s unstoppable and she’s a protagonist and she doesn’t need to learn to keep that power in, but how to unleash it on her command.
This isn’t my first folk horror, nor would it be my last. But it is the one for which I did some historical research, so if for nothing else, I hope it will see the light of the day. The story collection where you’ll be able to read this one is titled Mistress of Geese, and it will be available on December 21st, 2020 through Shtriga.com.