• Jabe Stafford

Write Good: Ren Faires & Storytelling

Write Good: An Absurd Storytelling And Adventure Blog

Ren Faires And Writing

(Huge, huge thanks to all the amazing friends from the World Festival of Faeries. Hip, hip, THE FAE!)

Think of your favorite outdoor place to go. Right now.

Stop reading this. Close your eyes. Let every sense fill up with those memories of that place.

What stands out to you most about those memories?

If the answer is, “Oh, there’s so much, where do I start?” then that memory and what it makes you feel has strong story potential. It’s the absolute friggin’ best thing when good memories are attached to what you’re writing.

Renaissance faires have ALL those things and more. If you haven’t been to a renaissance faire, here is where I’ll encapsulate all the badayss things you’ll find there that’ll assault your senses and fuel your writing! (Badayss is spelled with a “y” for extra emphasis. And since the “y” is in there, does it still count as a swear word?)

Writer’s block, fear, and that bullshiz feeling of “needing” to do anything but what’s good for your writing vanish when you’re at renaissance faires. Sure, shopping malls and outdoor concerts and other such stuff are strong sensory experiences, but FAIRES? They’re a melting pot of positive that stokes that feeling of being BOTH in another time, AND in the current time. Tasty cognitive dissonance. Savor the faire the first time knowing that coming back a second time with an eye for informing your writing will be a huge help.

Why do people go to concerts, movies, and faires? Because everyone’s there to HAVE A FRIGGIN’ GOOD TIME, whether that’s fun or genuine immersion in historical accuracy. The status quo is non-existent in those spaces, and if there IS one, it’s for the FEELING that era or atmosphere provides when that kind of status quo is present. Respectful freedom abounds at faires. Freedom to get into random banter with people dressed as faeries or pirates. Freedom to drink beer or mead, eat a dozen dadgum deep fried fantasticals, or watch genuine jousts and sword fights you only ever get to see on movie screens.

That feeling? It belongs in your writing. Your writing needs it. Faires provide it real-time.

That’s why genre exists too. People can’t hop in the pickup and go to terraformed Venus or friggin’ Fangorn Forest. So they pick up a book. If you get that feeling of genuine immersion down by going to faires or the closest things to faires that exist for your genre, then readers will pick up your book. Because it made them feel like all life’s frickdiculous drama ain’t there anymore.

Now freeze. Like in the Cha-Cha Slide, but without the clapping—wait, you’re already clapping aren’t you?

Freeze and look around wherever you are right now. Smell around. Feel the air or the wind on your skin. Slow down, let those senses envelop you, and seek out the little things within them. Those senses? They’re pretty strong now that you’ve focused on them right? They’re pretty strong at the usual weekend-hang-out places too, like department stores, smelly mall stores, and gas stations. The only reason they aren’t that strong during our boring-ass work days is because we’re tuning them out to get Greedboss McGee’s goals met.

Do that same freeze thing again at a faire and you’ll pick out TONS of sensory input you can channel into any story you’re writing. People laugh differently there. You get the smell of dirt and leather, but also of sugars from candies and scented oils mixed with every natural smell AND sound AND sensation from a national park picnic on a holiday weekend. Wind. Sunlight. Leaves. Water. Pollen. Birdsong. Chatter. Flowers. Mud.

All those little pieces of sensory input can inform the hell out of your writing not only because you’re making good memories there, but also because people have shared experience of the outdoors you can harness. Almost everyone’s smelled hose water. That smell can bring waves of positivity to a reader’s mind. So can feeling a cold drink go down after a long hike. Or feeling a dadgum huge tree branch slap you in the face because you weren’t watching where you’re walking. Almost everyone’s done all those things and more at least once, and that UNITES everyone behind your story when a character experiences them and reacts. Pepper in enough sensory experiences and every reader will find some ultimate favorites to cling to and relate with as they read.

How else can renaissance faires inform your writing? That feeling of being in two times at once is yet another way you can bring out the strongest of the reader’s feelings. Readers are of ALL FRICKIN’ AGES. Some readers will have a frame of reference already, some won’t. And that’s great. Faire directors and actors and vendors know that, and they make sure the experience they provide works well BOTH WAYS, whether the crowd has a frame of reference or not. It’s the same thing as when you slip a reference into a story that also has to stand on its own. If readers get the reference, awesome. If not, the scene still works, and it was your story that made them feel a certain way.

Going to a faire in a t-shirt or a toga will give you two different experiences of the place. Different people will queue in on different things about you, and you’ll feel different and behave differently in different clothes. Write from that genuine sensory experience and you’ll hook readers who’ve never experienced that before, PLUS readers who’ve been looking back fondly on good times thinking, I wanna go back even though I know you can’t go back again. But you CAN, dadgummit!

Jay Gatsby was right. You CAN repeat the past. In storytelling. Make it a hundred times more fantastical. Seize your readers’ hearts.

They say, “Write what you know.”

So get out there and get to know some immersive atmospheres like renaissance faires, concerts, and festivals. You’re allowed to not write for a day or two to get those fun times in. Enhance your stories with those experiences and savor them. It’ll come through in your writing.