Here we are in the Underworld (again)


My heroine has just descended into the Underworld. I shouldn’t be surprised. All my stories, in one way or another, end up in the Underworld.

It took me a while to figure this out. My first novel was going really well until I reached the point where my protagonist crossed over into the Other World. Once she had done so, everything went blank and I found myself unable to write a single word. I was convinced my second novel had a completely different plot. But I should have been alerted to the similarities when my protagonist crossed over into the Other World and, once again, the writing process ground to a halt. Cut to NaNoWriMo 2012, when I attempted to write the first draft of a novel in a month. When I reached the usual “crossover malaise”, I resolved to stay at my desk until I either turned to fairy dust or something happened.

Fortunately, the intensity and focus of the time constraint helped me cross over to the other side and I was spared the fate of turning into fairy dust. It seemed the rules of fairy tales and the rules of novel-writing were not so different: I was third time lucky.

10.02In this third novel, the Other World had become the Underworld. And the Underworld was – in my humble opinion – the best part of the book, full of magic and amazement beyond my wildest imaginings. It was only once I had finished that I realised, different as the plotlines seemed on the surface, these three novels were essentially telling the same story: the descent to the Underworld. I was compelled to tell it and retell it until I got over that hurdle of crossing the threshold. I simply had to get down there! There was something rich and fertile waiting for me.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when my heroine, Mythology girl, ended up in the Underworld this week. Not only that – her own mother is the Queen of the Underworld! This episode took longer than usual to get together. I met the same resistance, the same initial blank when I sat down to work on it. Fortunately, I knew from experience that, if I waited, things would start to come together. And they did. Not only that; I was having a blast. In my own personal storytelling universe, the Underworld is where the wild things are. A place of riches and wonders.

It seems, however, that I am not alone. According to Margaret Atwood, writers have been “subterranean adventurers” since The Epic of Gilgamesh.

All writers must go from now to once upon a time; all must go from here to there; all must descend to where the stories are kept; all must take care not to be captured and held immobile by the past. And all must commit acts of larceny, or else of reclamation, depending on how you look at it. The dead may guard the treasure, but it’s useless treasure unless it can be brought back into the land of the living and allowed to enter time once more – which means to enter the realm of the audience, the realm of readers, the realm of change.

– Margaret Atwood, Negotiating With the Dead

10.06In Mythology Girl’s case, she has been avoiding the Underworld. When her adventures begin, we find her newly-arrived in London. She has recently fled the Mythological Realm in an attempt to escape the destiny that awaits her there. The whole storyline to date has been about the pursuit of a new life, away from such a destiny. However, in doing so, she has turned her back on something vital: The Theatre of Dreams is in the Underworld and, without her to run it, the whole world is unable to function properly. The Underworld is the place where imagination flourishes. A deep well into which we lower our buckets.

Where is the story? The story is in the dark. That is why inspiration is thought of as coming in flashes. Going into a narrative – into the narrative process – is a dark road. You can’t see your way ahead. Poets know this too; they too travel the dark roads. The well of inspiration is a hole that leads downwards.

– Margaret Atwood, Negotiating With the Dead

It would seem that the Underworld is the place to go. And the place to come back from. I guess I’ll keep popping down there ’til I find what I’m looking for.

You can catch the latest episode of The Everyday Adventures of Mythology Girl here.

3 Replies to “Here we are in the Underworld (again)”

  1. is it really this easy that i can just hit reply and this is your email address? so slow on the uptake, me…  i just posted on the write track to your rise n shine …  and THEN it occurred to me to see what would happen if i hit reply… and i wonder what takes me so long to get anything done LOL… (and now the distraction of Wimbledon!!!  such a tennis buff…  also easily distracted otherwise…) 


  2. Hi Kimba! Good to hear from you! Thanks so much for reading and enjoying the blog post! It makes me happy to know that you popped in to visit. 😊

    P.s. When you hit reply, it sends your reply as a comment on the blog post! Hope that’s okay. (If not, you can always delete or edit your comment.)


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