Collected works by Elle Shutty

I decided to name the main character because otherwise it would be very confusing and I would have to keep referring to her as “the woman.” It was a lot easier to keep her children genderless and nameless. So I decided on “Calliope,” who is the Greek muse of epic poetry. Epic poetry is as close to my idea of a fairy tale or myth as it can get, and a muse inspires artists and writers so it works perfectly in that way too. But most people wouldn’t know who Calliope was, and even if they googled it they might not understand how well the name fits without a more extensive knowledge of Greek mythology. In the end I decided to leave her name as it was. It would probably have little or no meaning for most readers but for the few who knew or looked it up it could add a layer of significance to the story.

I came across a unique problem when telling this story in that nowhere before Calliope reached the back of the cave could there be an instance of a story being told, as the whole point of the story was that Calliope’s was the first ever told. So I changed her dream sent by the gods from directions to just an image. Also one reviewer thought that the dreams the children had of playing with their friends counted as a story, but I changed the wording and I don’t think that as it is currently written I would count it as a story. Both of the reviewers were annoyed by the repetition in the story. When writing it the first time around I had known that too much repetition would get boring and so I had tried to change it up as much as possible while sticking to the story’s fairy tale tone. Old folktales were often performed verbally for years before they were written down, and so repetition helped the storyteller to remember it and occasionally for the audience to participate by singing or chanting along. I tried to make it not monotonous for a modern reader, but some repetition still remains.

The reviewers wanted to know what story Calliope told in the back of the cave, but there are two reasons why I don’t want to put one in there. If I went off on a long tangential story it would distract from the main plot and the story would end up very disorganized. Also I would want the story to be interesting but then the specificity of the story she told would seem to mean something in the context of the story where I just meant it as a random story. I couldn’t put an interesting, fictional story that would seem totally generic and obviously not have any connection to the main plot at all. And so I kept it vague and nonspecific, as the range of what story she could have told is boundless. I added more of a conclusion to the story, bringing it back to first person. I listened to my reviewers but I didn’t always do exactly as they had suggested. I think the revision process led to a much better finished piece.


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