Friday, September 13, 2013

Guest Post: Writing for the "Sacrificed" Anthology – Meri Benson

Sacrifice. It's a word that invokes a strong imagery, and often barbaric practices. To me, the word has always brought to mind sacrificial tables, men in hooded robes, and the flash of a knife as the metal catches firelight. Sometimes, it's for the greater good, because the gods want to be appeased for a better harvest. Other times, it's for something more diabolical; there's an agenda and a demon needs blood magic. Which reason is contained within the story is all up to the author to share with you. But those two reasons aren't the only purpose for sacrifice, and prospect of digging into the meat of why a society might practice sacrifice pulled me down a rabbit hole I might not otherwise would have been led into.

Creating and shaping a society, growing the culture, and discovering why that society would need or want to participate in sacrifice. The Gods don't walk the world as much in my short "Following the Old Ways", part of Storm Moon Press' Sacrificed anthology, but the beasts do. Men plot and women become bargaining chips to keep the city safe, and the people as a whole never fight it. Tradition demands that the townspeople do this, and no one ever questions it—though if one were to look around, that's still how the world works in a lot of places. But what happens when someone stands up for that little lamb that's being led to slaughter? Well, to answer that, you'll have to read the anthology.

I'm not a writer that has to have a knight in shining armor come bounding in on his pristine, white horse to save the damsel in distress. I like my damsel's able to kick some ass and take a few bruises along the way without complaining or crying about breaking a nail. Strong women that can protect what's theirs. Not only did I get to write strong female characters for this short, but I also got to play around with the dragon mythos.

Yes, I know, I mentioned men with knives for the image that comes across to me when I think of the word Sacrificed. But the second image that comes into play are the virgin sacrifices, left tied to a pole to become a snack for the large beast that's plaguing the countryside. A world where there isn't any tech, men still ride on horseback, and women were expected to marry young, produce children, and tend the house. That was also a big draw for me when it came to this anthology, I got to create a world where magic was alive and dragons were known and feared, but also respected enough to be given a gift instead of hunted down and killed for their scales.

This anthology has given me the ability to tool around more with world building, and it's something that I very much love to do. It's fun to play in the real world, but there's something intoxicating about creating the world you want to play in from scratch. Not just from the characters, but from the planet, the soil, up. It's also a lot of work. "Following the Old Ways" may just be a short, but the work that went into all of the world behind the scenes took time and thought. It's a world I can, and do later down the line, want to explore more of because I know the tales aren't all told. It's one small snippet of one small village from a much larger continent. And the reason I can return is because I put the planning into all of the smaller things that sometimes don't seem important.

I also learned a lot writing for the Sacrificed anthology. Not just from the submitting and getting it published side, though there was a lot of that (this is my first paid submission after all!) but from the writing aspect. With the wonderful editors I worked with, I learned some of my weak spots when it comes to writing. We all have them as authors—no one is perfect after all—but it's good to see where I need to improve and grow as a writer. I also learned just how much detail I need to think about and whether it gets put in a story or not. How something works or why a character is driven to do something may not always show up in story, but as the writer, I learned that I need to know it myself because it keeps me focused on where I'm going, but also it might become important at a later date. I'm grateful for the opportunities that being part of this anthology has given me, and grateful to have my best friend beside me because without her, I think I'd lose my head sometimes.

Sacrificed - A Storm Moon Press Anthology - Now Available for $5.99 (ebook), $9.99 (print)!

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