New Story! “The Button Witch”

My most recent short story is now available on-line at Urban Fantasy Magazine.  It’s called “The Button Witch,” and is urban fantasy in the original mode – that is a fantasy story that not only takes place in a contemporary urban setting, but in which the fact that the

A Magical Assortment

A Magical Assortment

setting is urban is somehow important to the story.

“The Button Witch” does not feature vampires, werewolves, or somewhat generic “fey folk.”  It is not a thinly disguised romance story.  It’s a story about what happens when a young woman named Penn decides to seek out an urban myth called the Button Witch and ask for a button wish.

But does the Button Witch even exist?  And what the heck is a button wish?

Well, I wrote the story to find out…  Now you can, too.  Hopefully, you’ll enjoy what you discover.

Keep your eyes open.  You never know what you might see.

Wandering off to another point entirely…

Last Sunday, when my gaming group was settling down, Dominique looked at me and said: “Oh!  Jane’s wearing her shirt.”

She then paused, laughed and said, “Wow!  Does that ever show how important emphasis is!”

Here’s some backstory for those of you who are now wondering if I usually run my games topless.

What Dominique actually said was: “Oh! Jane’s wearing her shirt.”

This was a reference to the week before, when Jim had been wearing a really interesting tye-dye tee shirt in which the pattern resembles the lovely marbled paper you sometimes see inside the covers of old books.  Jim’s shirt is predominantly blue, with white and black marbling.

When he was complimented on it, he mentioned that he’d gotten me a similar shirt except that the colors are light purples, marbling into blue and pink.  I decided to show it off the following week, thus Dominque’s comment.

The emphasis indicated that I was wearing my version of the shirt that Jim had worn the week before: Her shirt, rather than his shirt.

Anyhow, Dominique’s comment led to general silliness.  “Jane is wearing her shirt” would seem to indicate that usually I do something else with shirts.  (Wave them around my head, maybe?)

“Jane is wearing her shirt” would indicate that Jane usually doesn’t, in fact, wear a shirt, rather like those toddlers who decide that pants are optional.  I suppose that would be one way to distract my gamers.

Jane is wearing her shirt” would indicate that the wearing of the given shirt is something that is done by a variety of people.   In this case, the “her” would probably refer to another person whose shirt has somehow become common currency.

This raises a question that writers often face… What to do if a sentence leaves unclear where the emphasis should go.  Happily, most of the time context will provide the clarification.  However, there are times that it does not.

Certainly, one thing a writer can do is use italics to indicate which word should be emphasized.  I usually reserve this for those times when rephrasing would be awkward or clunky.  Too many italicized words in a sentence, or even paragraph, create a weird cadence, like Valley Girl speak, where words are stretched and elongated for emphasis.

My usual preference is to rephrase.  If I was putting Dominique’s comment into a story, I’d probably write something like, “Oh!  Jane’s wearing the marbleized shirt Jim gave her.”  Since, presumably the readers of the story would recall the prior discussion and know which shirt this was.  If there could be any doubt, I might have her add something like “I like the purple and blue, but I think Jim’s was better for him.”

There you are…  And just to make perfectly clear, I do wear a shirt when I’m running a game.   I don’t need special effects to put my players off-balance!

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8 Responses to “New Story! “The Button Witch””

  1. Paul Dellinger Says:

    Leave it to you to come up with a unique non-generic fantasy.

  2. Heteromeles Says:

    Hmmm. No love for ambiguity?

  3. Chad Merkley Says:

    It seems that Urban Fantasy Magazine is having problems. I bought a month’s subscription, and got the confirmation emails, but the links to everything that needs a subscription say page not found.

    • Chad Merkley Says:

      Oh. I had to wait for them to email me the .epub file. I was expecting to find a pay-wall and then to be able to read it as an html file.

      Spoiler alert: Cool story. I like the idea of a “button wish” that binds or loosens something, just like using fastening or unfastening a button. The theme of being rewarded for perseverance and cleverness is straight from the classic fairy tales, as is the idea of being rewarded for being willing to make a sacrifice. I liked Penn as a character, and would have liked to have had more development and more time inside her head, and more description of the music she heard and composed, but that’s what short stories are like sometimes. Setting and background details are also very sparse. “Leave the audience wanting more” is very much in effect. I wonder if Jane based Penn off someone she knows? I don’t know of many people who play strings, woodwinds, and keyboards, and manage to do them all well, but they might be out there.

      • Jane Lindskold Says:

        Penn isn’t based off of anyone in particular, but from my on-again, off-again “hobby” of reading rock musician bios, I’ve been surprised to find out how versatile many of them are.

        I was given a limit of 4,000 words for the story, which is why I made choices I did, including keeping everything very tightly focused.

        Short stories really are a different form!

  4. Louis Robinson Says:

    Jane is wearing her _shirt_, oddly, leaves me assuming that Jane generally wears an upper garment that can’t properly be described as a “shirt”. Which, of course, sends me haring off along the path of ‘what other choices are there?’ A hauberk or back-and-breast, of course, would be appropriate for serious gaming, but other than that, what is there… tunic, maybe, or sweater? Maybe a halter or tank top. AFAICT, the only difference between a blouse and a shirt is who’s wearing it.

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