The Three Feathers – An Approach to Location-Driven Writing

In fiction writing, we usually distinquish between plot-driven and character-driven stories. Ideally, there’s a healthy balance between the two, otherwise the story ends up either in the shallow part of the pool or drowning in the deep end.

In my other job, I’m a licensed real estate broker. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to a third approach: location, location, location. But let me back track a bit. When I was in my twenties, there was a German painter I loved. His name is Hans-Werner Sahm. His forte was surrealism. In most of his images, the natural laws of gravity, scope, and physics were completely suspended.  His paintings had a big imapact on me. You could say they spoke directly to my soul.

prison cell

You can see what I mean in looking at this example. Fast forward to 2011 when I began to write The Three Feathers. Its a fable and, growing up in Germany, I’ve read tons of them at school, together with all the Grimm’s fairy tales and such. In one sense, my subconscious was primed for something I didn’t even know yet. When I was about fourty pages into The Three Feathers, I began to draw a map. That lead me to searching for and finding Hans-Werner Sahm’s paintings online. I printed a bunch of them out. At that time, I wrote mostly at the kitchen table which had a glass surface. I stuck the print-outs under the glass so I could look at them while I wrote.

Refugiumwindows

I began to like my characters but realized that what really pushed the story forward were those images. Their scope and beauty and utter abandon of physical laws created this field in my mind (sorry, I couldn’t find another way of describing this) that pulled – or pushed – the characters along. The locations became plot points. The hero’s journey now moved from one to the next. The character development happened within those locations. The plotpoints came out of them.

If you have read The Three Feathers, you might remember The Refuge, a high tower completely enclosed in glass. Its inspiration came from the above image. You can see the tiny people in this painting. That’s how I envisioned Joshua, Grey, Krieg, and Wind as they had to solve the riddle of the Porte Des Lioness – the entrance to the mountain. It was an amazing and kid-in-a-candy-story-like experience to discover and embedd those images into the story.

LeuchtFeuter

This image shows what I envisioned the Lake of Tears and Refuge would look like. You cannot but be captivated by the sheer scope of it. The other thing that happened, at least in my own mind, was that the characters became an integral part of the landscape and took on a depth and soul that mirrored the landscape. I’m not sure if I am describing this correctly. It’s kind of hard to put into words. I cried sometimes while writing, overwhelmed by the beauty of it.

There was one character in particular that came right out of one of the paintings. The lioness, a presence in the world of Hollow’s Gate, was inspired by two paintings. This is one of them:

Lions

The Porte Des Lioness in the story – the entrance to the mountain – lies right below the lion’s head. It was easy to imagine the characters travelling this world. Danger and beauty were built into them already.

Entdeckung

In the third part of The Three Feathers, Grey, Joshua, and Krieg make it into the mountain where they discover the ancient mining town, abandoned for thousands of years. You can see how one can get inspired by this image to write just one out of so many possible story that happened there. The light source in this image has become a major plot point in The Fourth Sage as well.

Aufbruch

The above image is a great example. The spheres in this painting became a huge part in not only The Three Feathers but have fueled the rest of the five-book series. I imagined that the spheres were devices through which one could travel through a wormhole. Imagine a movie with those images as inspiration. It would be breathtaking.

Check out Hans-Werner Sahm’s paintings. He doesn’t have a website there’s plenty of material online by simply looking for his name.

Cheers,

Stefan

 
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The Three Feathers on YouTube – Chapter 9 through 12

 
Joshua and Grey meet Ayres, the guardian of the Gate of Time. They have to pass the grueling test of the Mirror Labyrinth and make their way through the City of Light Ruins to the Refuge.
 

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Live Reading of The Three Feathers – Chapter 1 through 4

 
Joshua’s journey begins with a dream. He leaves his coop to go on his quest to search for the three feathers deep inside a mountain. He meets Grey, the Great Wolf from the Ice Forest, for the first time.
 

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Life imitates art. The Fourth Sage.

I’m posting this just for fun. Stumbled upon it on Facebook. A hawk attacks a drone in a park. How cool is that!

 

Here is the section in the book that goes with it.

She hears the humming behind her and runs alongside the transformer to an intersection. Right or left? She goes to the right because it seems logical. After about twenty feet she’s in a dead end. She turns around and begins to run in the other direction. The drone hovers into the narrow passageway in front of her. It’s now about fifteen feet away, approximately eight feet above the walkway. Aries has nowhere to go.

This can’t be it, she thinks, as she watches the drone move closer. For a second, she sees the bright image of a corridor in her mind—a space between two transformers. She raises her hands over her head, kneels down. Another image flashes in front of her. It shows herself kneeling about twenty feet below and the drone hovering above.

When Aries looks up she sees something behind the drone, moving closer fast. The hawk’s cry echoes through the space. The drone registers it and turns, pointing its sensors toward it. At that moment, the hawk lands on top of it, claws outstretched, beak ready to strike.

Go! is all Aries hears. From her kneeling position she rolls forward, jumps up, and disappears into the passageway she came from. From there, she turns toward the stairwell and slides down. Three seconds. She races through the labyrinth of hallways. Where are you? she asks in her thoughts, while sliding down the next staircase…

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