Stories getting away from us

I recently finished a reread of Pamela Dean’s Secret Country trilogy. For those who haven’t read them, these are about a group of kids who find the world they’ve been playing games about for years real — only they’re much better than that description makes them sound, and have a lot to say about the nature of story, being by their nature able to be a lot more self-conscious about same than most.

A quote:

“He was delighted and afraid at once … this was no scene he had ever played in the nine summers of the Secret. He had never thought of Lord Randolph, brilliant counselor, apprentice wizard, King’s man, and murdered, as the sort of person who would lend his counselor’s robe to anyone to play dolls with. Ted felt that things were getting away from him.”

I’m not sure it would have occurred to me either. And yet this sort of thing–the co-existence of traits that one wouldn’t put together if one were constructing a human being oneself–happens all the time in real life.

And I know the “getting away from me” part well enough. Because sometimes, if we’re lucky, even when we don’t think to lump the right traits together, the character will get up and say, “Oh, by the way …” and whatever our vision for them was will be cast aside, the character’s (our subconscious’) will suddenly stronger than our own.

A couple other quotes from the books, most of which have something to say about story, but which I don’t really have anything insightful to say about in turn beyond posting them:

“Ted wanted to do something for him; but if someone’s excellent good friend and first apprentice was a traitor to both his King and to his friend’s own teaching, what could you say to him? Especially when you had once thought that his pain made a wonderful story.”

“So he decided he would never listen to anybody he knew? That’s just like somebody in a fairy tale.”
“Knowing he had given his trust amiss, how could he bestow it again.”
“That’s foolish. Did he expect never to make any mistakes?”

“Ted found a sense of humor to be a disconcerting quality in the Lord of the Dead.”
“‘A tragedy,’ said Patrick, in a most peculiar voice. He fixed his untender blue gaze on Ted … ‘That’s what you get for reading Shakespeare so young.’

“The bright day is done, and we are for the dark.”
“See to thy torches, then.”

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