The Evolution of a Novel

As seen through the lens of Google searches:

searched: “the symmetry of snow”

I read this phrase in an article, and it struck me as beautiful and mysterious, and with the phrase came an image of a girl walking in the woods. It was snowing and she was mesmerized by the snow. I watched her walk through the snow and the woods and it suddenly struck me that she was afraid, and she was looking for someone…her sister. So who was this girl, I wondered, and who was her sister? Why was she afraid? Why was she so mesmerized by snow? And thus, a story was born…

With a title like The Symmetry of Snow (because that obviously had to be the title), the story was (again, obviously) a fairy tale. But which one? One with sisters in it, of course!

searched: “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” (one of my favorites) and “Snow White, Rose Red” which led to “bears in fairy tales”

That’s when it occurred to me that this wasn’t a fairy tale set in a once upon a time, far far away place. It was a modern fairy tale, set in the United States. And, in my opinion, for a fairy tale to be American, it needs to include some Native American folklore elements. I also needed a place to set the story.

searched: “bears in Native American folklore” and “coyote’s mother in Native American folklore” and “Seneca myths and folklore” and “Springville, NY” and “Native Americans in western New York” and “New York history” and “Seneca Indians in Western New York”

My great grandparents lived in Springville and it’s surrounding areas their entire lives. It seemed like the perfect setting for me…it’s a small town, and I wanted a small town for my story, and it snows there.

searched: “Propp’s Functions”

Propp’s Functions of Folktales are one of the few things I remember from my communications classes in college. I don’t remember why we looked at Propp’s Functions, but they did stay with me. And whenever I think about writing a fairy tale-ish story, I have to review Propp’s Functions. and a review of the functions means a review of fairy tale elements.

searched: “seventh son of a seventh son” and “common themes in fairy tales” and “common elements of fairy tales” and “fairy tale enchantments” and “how to break enchantments”

It was time to look for names:

searched: “names that mean…fox, cunning, deceiver, fearless, brave”

There was one more idea that I’d seen in one or two other stories that I thought would work in this one.

searched: “fire of roses” and “stores about fires of roses” and “what does a fire of roses mean”

The writing began. Once I start writing, my searches turn kind of random as I often search for things as a way of procrastinating. They’re usually related to the story in some way so I don’t feel like a total slacker.

searched: “origin of cat got your tongue” and “Longfellow’s Hiawatha” and “Longfellow’s Evangeline” and “what does pine bark look like”

Then a new character appeared and started talking.

searched: “Iroquois names” and “Seneca word for hello” and “Seneca word for girl” and”picture of a Seneca woman”

This character had a bear with her, and I had to wonder…

searched: “bears in New York”

Thus assured that there are bears in New York, and that there had even been recent sightings of bears in the same part of the state my story took place in, I continued writing.

But then I reached a point at which I didn’t know how a certain situation would be handled.

searched: “missing persons in New York” and “missing persons report”

And then, about 32,000 words into my story, I realized something. The setting was all wrong! It wasn’t a modern fairy tale set in a real place. It was set in a fictional, fantasy world—a world that I’d already created for another story (which meant I didn’t have to do a whole lot of world building). But this story would introduce a new culture to that world. So….

various searches: Russian words for sun, forest, bear, fox, art, craft, dreamer, dream, magic, power, witch, country, land, writer, story, sea, queen, fairy tale, storyteller; German word for land, grassland, heaven, new; Greek word for weaver, wild, wilderness, east, forest

Writing recommenced. Another random procrastinating search.

searched: “how many days between February 1 and September 22” (really)

Oh, look at that! My main character has some interesting hobbies!

searched: “dulcimer” and “Russian word for dulcimer” and “parts of a guitar” and “guide to herbs and plants for writers” and “autumn herbs that grow wild” and “wild flowers that grow in autumn” and “herbal cures for croup” and “herbal cures for migraines”

More writing, and with that, I needed some images so that i could better picture the setting.

searched: “peasant clothing of the 1700s” and “gypsy wagons” and “transportation of the 1700s” and “cooking in the 1700s” and “forests in the Cascades” and “animals and wildlife of the Willamette Forest” and “Columbia River Gorge” and “weather in the Redwood Forest”

And then my computer died, I went a week and a half without a computer, and by the time I had a new computer I had found out I was pregnant which completely derailed the writing for a while. Of course, preparing for a move and moving and recovering from the move kept me away from the story for a while.

I’ve recently returned to writing, but since my return I’ve only had one story related search: “fir trees”.

This blog is part of a writing adventure. The current theme is “things we search on Google”. Check out the rest of the blogs at Via Scribendi.


  1. 12 Dancing Princesses??? Does that mean you’ve read Entwined? I just read it this week, and it was mesmerizing. I am now googling “Twelve Dancing Princesses” to find more retelling and the original fairy tale. (If you have rec’s, let me know!)

  2. I have not read Entwined, but I’m going to have to put it on my list now. I love fairy tale retellings!
    I enjoyed Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing as a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. I also read Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball, but I’m not remembering it right now. I gave it 4 stars, though, so I know I liked it!

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