What Do They Want?


An important question when writing a story is what do the characters want?

I know what the main character, Hannah Robinson, wants. But the others? I’m still thinking about that.

And who is the antagonist? An individual? The Asylum itself?

I can’t move forward until these answers are resolved in my own mind.

Not Quite Rapunzel


Odelia Rose stayed in a corner room on the second floor. Her parents left her at the Asylum steps when she was four in spite of how hard they’d wished for her existence.

Her parents tried everything to have a child, even paying a witch to help their fertility along. Odelia’s mother believed in everything from in vitro to witchcraft. Anything was worth trying.

But they’d imagined perfection, and Odelia Rose was far from there.

Odelia’s hair grew like weeds her father said. Indeed, it grew inches every time the child fell asleep. And it didn’t grow in spun gold or brilliant ebony or any shade worth the time and care it demanded. Her grew in thick and green. Perhaps the green was beautiful, emerald and bright, but what did that matter. A girl’s hair couldn’t be green. What hope was there for such a girl?

Her parents grew tired of the wild vines falling from the pillow every morning. They hated the sight of beetles and butterflies they found in the nursery. They gave up clipping back tendrils before bedtime and they looked the other way when Odelia ran out into the rain, overjoyed as her green hair flew out behind her.

Odelia’s parents left her on the Asylum steps after an unusually dry summer month when the sound of Odelia’s tears finally drove them mad.

The nurses accepted Odelia without complaint. The child behaved and did as she was told. She wanted nothing more than to sit in the garden no matter the weather, and no one commented on her hair. Most of the nurses loved Odelia Rose, and those who didn’t appreciated the beetles she left behind in her bed. They were surprisingly sweet and good with iced tea.

Another Room in the Asylum

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In the last room in the uppermost hall of the Asylum stays a small boy. In the novel, he climbs onto the roof and is carried away by crows. His fate remains unknown for the time being.

But he wasn’t born in the Asylum. Few are. He arrived the way most patients arrived on the Night Ambulance.

For every couple who wish for a child and who make deals with all manner of people to make their wish come true, there are an equal number of husbands and wives who wish not to be so blessed. Just as one family welcomed a daughter with raven black hair and pale skin, another family cursed the coming of a son who appeared to their horror to be blue.

At first the midwife thought something had gone wrong and that the baby couldn’t breathe. But a few moments later, she determined he breathed as anyone baby should. And he wasn’t really blue. Not in the bright light. He was as healthy as any boy could be.

But his mother believed otherwise. She looked at him sideways and through squinted eyes and by looking at his reflection in the hospital mirror, but anyway she looked at him, his skin glowed blue. She spit on his arm and rubbed the spot hard only to glimpse purple. She pushed his crib away. If he cried, she didn’t notice.

News of the beautiful girl born the same day as the boy reached the mother. Even her midwife talked about the girl with the black hair and alabaster skin. “We can’t all be so lucky,” the new mother of the pale blue boy said. “It’s not my fault if I have no luck at all.” Her son had ebony hair too, but no one was knocking at her door to see his beauty.

The midwife clucked her tongue. “More the fool you if you don’t mind my saying. You’ve got plenty of luck.”

The mother crossed her arms and frowned. “I’ve wasted my looks on the wrong man and no one will ever be jealous of my child. What kind of luck is that?”

Both the new mother and the midwife jumped as a crow flew into the window. It fluttered to the windowsill and stared into the room.

“You fool woman,” the midwife said, closing the curtain. Birds worried her. “That baby girl may be beautiful,” she continued, “but the mother died not even an hour after she was born. You’ve got your life in front of you while that mother won’t never see her little girl grow up.”

The new mother sat up. “Really? She’s dead?”

The midwife put her hands on her hip. “You’ve got a beautiful child and a whole life ahead of you to make of it what you will. Be grateful.”

The new mother nodded but she wasn’t listening. She was thinking. The dead woman had left behind a husband…a good-looking man with a high-powered job. A man like that would need a new wife.

And so it was the boy found himself abandoned. The midwife clucked her tongue and muttered about tragedy and gratitude, but she called the Night Ambulance anyway.

“Why not call child services?” they asked her.

“You said you wanted to children like this,” she said. She flung back the curtain and a flock of blackbirds flew up from the ground around the window and settled back to the ground. The midwife was quite sure the birds were watching her.

“Like what?” the ambulance driver asked.

“Come and ask the crows,” she said. “They’ll explain everything.”


Thanks for reading. It’s a rough draft and we’ll see were it goes.

Staff Notes


Yesterday, I spent some time thinking about the Asylum staff. How many people work for the Asylum? I haven’t sort that all out and if you think of a position I forgot, please suggest it. So far I’ve got management (although I haven’t figured out how large management ought to be), maintenance (one person, I think, who might hire outside help from time to time for big jobs), security (again, number uncertain), two ambulance drivers, one physician, twelve nurses, kitchen staff (I should call my dad for help with this number. He was a cook in a hospital for about 50 years), and cleaning crew.

The trick is coming up with specific numbers. I mean, it is difficult to write a scene between the two teen boys sneaking around on the grounds and security if I’m not sure how many security guards are realistic. A security guard stands at the front and the back entrances and a few have to be able to chase down our protagonist and other characters.I suppose they could call in the town police if need be, but the Asylum likes to keep things quiet, which is harder to do the more people involved.

I’ve learned that the Asylum doctor is Giltine Diggs. As with most individuals the Asylum hires, she has no known family. She studied psychology before switching over to medicine. At the start of her career, Giltine believed she wanted to be head of surgery at a prestigious hospital. She soon learned that such positions confined her to hospital protocols and worries over lawsuits and profits. Asylum offered her freedoms mainstream institutions did not.

The patients say they hear the rustle of wings whenever she walks into a room and her hands are always cold. The patients do not wish for attention. The staff members do not question her decisions or invites her out for coffee or drinks. She hums this song as she works.


Thank you for reading.

Where is the Fairy Tale Asylum?


I’m taking a lesson from JK Rowling. She wrote a massive amount about her fictional universe before (and while) writing the Harry Potter series. She said in an interview how she liked reading books where she felt the author knew everything about the world they were creating whether or not all that information made it into the books. I’ve tried keeping most backstory in my head, but, hey, my head isn’t what it used to be (thank you, chemo!) and I have got to write more down. Also, to be fair, my fictional universe keeps expanding, and even the healthiest brain would have a hard time keeping track.

So, all that said, I want to use this space for backstory and information I need to finish The Fairy Tale Asylum. One reason I’ve been stuck is that certain details are muddled in my mind. Maybe this will help.

Also, I remember an interview with Rowling in which she talked about a day she was at a coffee shop writing one of the later HP books, and she forgot a certain detail. She had to go to a bookshop, find one of her own HP books and look up that particular detail (something small, like eye color or some such) and how on other occasions she would go to an HP fan site (Muggle.net, I think) and remind herself of other details. Seven books is a remarkable amount of information to keep track of. You may not love Harry Potter as I do, but you have to admit that plotting a seven book story is a feat. It is amazing the seemingly minor things she drops in book one that come into play later.

Now for a few brief notes.

The Asylum stands on the edge of a small strange town off a length of desolate highway. A high stone wall surrounds the grounds, and shards of broken glass have been set into the top of this wall to help keep out prowlers. No one in town remembers the story of how the Asylum came to be.

The Asylum is six stories high, plus a basement and an attic. THere’s a shed, a storeroom, and a garage on the grounds. Guardhouses sit at the front and the back entrance. Each entrance has a wrought iron gate, the front gate being the more beautiful design.

The first floor has the admitting room, the head office, a visitor’s room, a staff room, doctor’s office and mortuary, a kitchen and a wide dining room (that has on rare occasions been used as a ballroom).

I think I need to draw a map. But I love books with maps.

The other five floors are rooms for patients. In the basement are lockers containing confiscated items and in the attic are trunks and suitcases and forgotten things.

This weekend I’m going to write about the staff. It takes a certain kind of personality to work at the Asylum. Individuals lacking family obligations are preferred.

Limping to the end of Story-a-Day May

I’m too tired to even find a picture.

I’ve been writing all day, and I don’t want to share much of anything. I felt this way yesterday too. But in the spirit of things, I’m sharing one paragraph.

She wanted to get away from him, and she was about to turn and walk, no, run the other way when a voice came to her. The voice sounded like her grandmother whispering in her ear, and it told her what to say. “The more you believe in a curse, the more it works,” she said to him.

Now, I’m going to go recover from a word overdose.

Thanks for reading.