I’ve forgotten a lot of the stories that my mother used to tell me when I was a child, but I remember bits and pieces of them. The Walpertinger was one of those stories. I don’t remember what the animal did, but I remembered the name. The same with stories of folks that disappeared into the forests of Bavaria and came out ‘different’.
This, and an idea from a friend of mine, became “Der Reizen”. I found a photo of a Walpertinger on-line, laughed, and decided that it would be a good thing to put into a story.
So what is a Walpertinger? Or a Wolpertinger or a Wolperdinger, the spelling is as diverse as the creature itself. It depends on where in Bavaria you go. Some say it’s part hare, part duck, part we’re-not-sure-what. Some say it has antlers and others say no. It’s the Bavarian equivalent of a Jackalope, but with a few more pieces. Wikipedia describes it thusly:
It has a body comprising various animal parts — generally wings, antlers, tails and fangs, all attached to the body of a small mammal. The most widespread description portrays the Wolpertinger as having the head of a rabbit, the body of a squirrel, the antlers of a deer, and the wings and occasionally the legs of a pheasant.
So why would I bring in a mythical creature into a romance? Well, it ties back to my blog entry on viewpoint. If something is interesting to you, then it will be to your readers. Picking up a legend and using it to showcase various businesses is a good way to catch your readers’ attention. And, it gave Herta a reason to ask all manner of questions, both those that pertained to the Walpertinger in specific and local legends in general, including information into her family’s past. It also had the effect of making Herta look “harmless” and a bit silly, taking some of the focus off her questions that didn’t pertain to the Walpertinger.
That, I think, is the key to a good story. You need, of course, to suspend disbelief, but you also need to look human. Or rather, your characters have to look human. It allows the character to have some of the focus taken off them and put onto other characters. Why? I’ve been told that the fastest way to describe your character is to look at them through the eyes of another character. It’s a bit tough to do some days but it works. By letting your characters describe one another, you get the chance to describe the character doing the describing, too.
Take, for example, Mikhail. He appears to be Turan’s friend until Mikhail describes Turan’s unwillingness to let someone else do his, Turan’s, work. Then we see a side to Mikhail that we didn’t know before. Mikhail is just as arrogant as Turan appears to be. We find out fairly quickly why Turan wants Herta but Mikhail wants Herta away from Turan. He doesn’t want her to become Turan’s soul-mate. Mikhail knows from Dahila, that having a soul-mate would mean a Choosing, something that Dahila didn’t want to have happen. There is, perhaps, a second impression we get from Mikhail. He thinks Herta will go back to Canada if he pays her enough money. We find out that’s not the case. Mikhail’s greed, if you like, shows up Herta’s lack of it.
What interests you will interest your readers enough that they can suspend disbelief and believe in your characters and your story. How you describe the world of your story depends on the viewpoint of the characters, not you, the author. It’s like driving a car. You’re the car and the characters are the drivers. In the case of Der Reizen, it’s a Walpertinger driving. Stay off the sidewalks.