The Story Behind the Story: Jack Be Nimble

Covering the first of the four stories in Philosophy and Fairy Tales, Jack Be Nimble.
“‘Stupid, worthless, miserable boy!’ The belt lashed Jack’s back, emphasizing every word. ‘How could you trade our precious magic beans for a useless cow?'”
That was the opening line that came to me, I don’t remember from where. I immediately set about writing a story to go with it. Though immediately is perhaps too strong a word. I wrote and rewrote, and then rewrote some more, but nothing seemed to work.
My concept was that Jack was a boy born without a destiny—the guy who isn’t going to get the princess or the golden egg or the magic McGuffin no matter how hard he tries. Despite which he sets out on the road to adventure, but it doesn’t go well. Then he meets a princess who does have a Destiny, but of course it’s of the “sit in a magic tower until someone rescues you” so she’s rebelling against it.
The trouble was, I couldn’t see where to go from there. Or how Jack was going to win without a destiny. So I wrote, and rewrote, and rewrote some more …
And then by chance I was browsing an old volume of the Datlow/Windling Year’s Best Fantasy and came across a story setting the Snow Queen fantasy in the present day (I don’t remember who wrote it). I figured that as nothing was working, I’d try that with Jack; even if it didn’t work, perhaps the shift in perspective would lead to a break-through.
It worked.
Suddenly Jack was no longer a boy wishing for a destiny. He’s a young man who more than anything doesn’t want adventures, he wants to set up a safe, sensible, mundane business. It’s his mother who’s determined he become a fairy-tale hero, which is why she’s so upset he traded the magic beans for a mere cow.
Enter a mysterious venture capitalist who offers Jack the financing he needs. Only of course, there’s some fine print Jack wasn’t aware of ….
I think this one sold fairly quickly, with fewer rejections than most, and came out in Challenging Destiny in 2004. Rereading it nine years later, I still feel pleased with it. If you choose to download a copy from Smashwords (not that I’m hinting or anything) I hope you will too.

1 Comment

Filed under Story behind the story, Writing

One response to “The Story Behind the Story: Jack Be Nimble

  1. Pingback: Atlas Shagged is a go! | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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