Happy April, everybody!
Just before we get started: I was flicking through the stats with which Wordpress so kindly provides me, and found the feature that lets me see what people typed into Google to find the Shadows. These are some of the highlights over the past year. I’m a little concerned about the state of the world, frankly.
- ‘obi-wan coughing up blood’. Interesting that someone’s looking for specifically that. Is there an H/C niche readership I don’t know about?
- ‘operation knightfall fanfic’. Heads up, people, there isn’t any of that here.
- ‘theron shan fanfiction’. He is so far out of era for me it’s not even funny that Google took some poor person here for him. (We are talking three millennia out of era.)
- ‘ruth baulding’. I’m flattered by the conflation, but unsure how it happened.
- ‘fanfiction the silent song star wars’. Erin, is this one of yours that got lost?
- ‘star wars fanfiction obi-wan and siri tachi kissing’. Um. This was the mild one.
- Four more search terms along similar lines, all within the same week. Who is this crazy person who keeps looking for Siriwan fanfic using progressively more OOC search terms, and what do they expect to find? Dear crazy person: try Valairy Scot over on ff.n; she does a lot of that sort of thing. I don’t.
- ‘halwaroh’. I know who you’re looking for, but the least you could do is spell it right.
- ‘313th battalion’. This is apparently someone who had been on the Shadows before, forgot the address, and had to ask Google for directions.
All this leads quite nicely into the actual point of this post, namely, The importance of tea in the fusion and diffusion of general angst. All the posts people found via Google were, to some degree, angsty or difficult. Bedtime Story was hard to write, and over a year later is still hard to read. Valentine, while mostly sweet, still dealt with falling in love and having to deny it, and the effects on people around you when you follow your heart instead of your honor. (It was also bally tricky to write because I didn’t have any personal experience on which to fall back.) On Loan included my youngest-ever kill: Corioli Rhindon, aged nine. The thing is, I do actually write nice stories as well. But nobody Googles those.
Fact of fiction: readers like angst. I don’t know what natural human instinct H/C and angst fic play on, just that they do. For some weird reason, people respond well to characters they love being put into really chizzky situations and having to find a way out. Or not. There is terrifyingly beautiful stuff out there where do or do not just ends in did not and your heart literally hurts from reading it.
This is why Karen Miller and John Jackson Miller and Karen Traviss and Jude Watson do so well. Because they knew how to inflict, believably, on beloved characters, and have the characters react equally believably, and it hurts, it hurts, it hurts.
But we were talking about tea, weren’t we? Making tea is diffusion: molecules of tea move randomly through water, driven by the concentration gradient between the tea leaves and the water, until at length the solution is as strong as you want it and you fish the leaves out. That’s tea.
Me, I have two uses for tea in-story, and one use for it out-of story.
In-story, I quite enjoy adding scenes (strictly speaking, gratuitous scenes, because they rarely further the plot) where we have had a long, hard day – or week – or month – and we go home, and find the dusty teacups and a sealed tin of dried tea-leaves on the shelf, and we wipe them clean, and we make tea. While it is brewing in a porcelain pot – because never aluminum, never – maybe we talk about what’s happened. Or maybe we deal cards for sabaac. Or maybe we set out the pieces for a game of dejarik. And when the tea is made, we sit on the sofa – or on the floor – or on the balcony – and drink tea, and jokingly scold each other because what sort of philistine has both honey and milk in his tea? And maybe we talk about what’s happened, and maybe we just play dejarik. The point is, we’re home, we’re safe, and it’s at absolute worst a lull in the storm, and at absolute best the resolution to the whole mess. (Qui-Gon’s saving a little of an interesting tea blend he found out at Malastare, for the end of War Stories.) And thus general angst is diffused.
Tea at the end of a story is closing, and calming, and peaceful.
Sometimes in-story tea will go the other way. Sometimes we’ll be sitting at the table, drinking tea, and someone will come with terrible news. And we will get up, quickly, and the tea will be left undrunk on the table, and the pot will keep brewing until at some point we get home again and find it tarry and bitter and horrible. But by then we’ll be so far into the thick of things we don’t really care about the damn’ tea. Sometimes terrible things will be discussed over a pot of tea. Sometimes terrible secrets will be revealed. The point of that is, what we thought was calming and peaceful has opened up a whole new can of worms. A can of writhing, squirming, acid-slimy, carnivorous muscle-maggots. And if that’s not fusion of angst I don’t know what is.
Tea at the beginning of a story – or at the beginning of a new section of a story – is a harbinger of doom.
I’d like to use some of Master baulding’s work as illustration here: Homecoming, end of chapter 18 (and beginning of 19 if you care to). Master baulding is the only person I have yet seen to use the same in-story tea for both purposes at once. It was awpic. I can do this link because that story was technically speaking my fault. #notsorry.
Out-of-story, I rarely drink tea. Caf is quite adequate for fluid, and caffeine, and something to pick up and swirl around when I’m lost for a word. But very occasionally, if I have something serious to think about, I’ll track down ‘my’ tea things: a shiny green tin of beautifully curled green-tea leaves – whole leaves rolled into spirals and dried, rather than usual leaf tea which is shredded leaves. And a willow-pattern milk-jug – which belongs to my mother. And my own sweet little rose-patterned teapot holding three cups exactly, which slots neatly into the top of the cup and is just thin enough that the tea in the pot warms the spoonful of manuka honey in the bottom of the cup. And one blue-and-white striped chopstick to stir it with because I don’t like noisy spoons.
Tea on my desk when I’m writing a story could mean anything.
But as often as not, particularly if my other teacup (the plain white square one) is on my desk as well, it means I’ve been discussing a scene of high difficulty with one of the characters concerned. Murders murders murders. There seem to have been a great deal of those around here of late. I shall have to get more tea-leaves…
Next month’s topic, for which I shall be publishing a spiel on May 13 and with which you may do as you will, is Tell us about your best places to write.
This can be in-story, places in your stories where you would like to go to write; out-of-story, places you actually write; or mind-palace… which is neither strictly story nor strictly not-story. Or some of each. Whatever works for you.
I’ll look forward to seeing your posts!
Thanks for reading.