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Shaping my world one post at a time.

Inspiration for Underneath - A Merfolk Tale

M.N. Arzu

You can find Underneath - A Merfolk Tale on Amazon.

Dying Merman  by Cameron Stalheim

Dying Merman by Cameron Stalheim

The Idea

Underneath - A Merfolk Tale is a rather unusual take on mermaid stories. It deals with humans finding an injured, unconscious merman on a beach in Maine, the media trying to discern hoax from reality, and a family moving heaven and hell to rescue one of their own.

The first time I thought about it was during a documentary on myths, and the image of Dying Merman by Cameron Stalheim flashed on my TV.

What would someone do if they actually found that on the beach? I thought, and left the idea at the back of my mind for the next few months. As time went by and November approached, I started getting ready to participate in NaNoWriMo, rallying the many ideas that surface on my mind, picking apart those that were just characters or scenes from actual stories.

The merman idea kept coming back, but aside from someone finding a merman on a beach, there didn't seem to be much to work with. I started sketching ideas of what could potentially happen from the human side of things, but it wasn't until I asked myself who this merman was and who would be looking for him, that things actually came together.

Dying Merman  by Cameron Stalheim

Dying Merman by Cameron Stalheim

Problems to Solve

Knitting together both sides of the story became my main concern. The reader would be privy to what each side knew, and retelling the same facts from both parties would drag the narrative, not to mention that keeping the stakes high required juggling with a few more balls than is usually advised.

Medical research, location research, and biology research took some time. I knew I could get away with a fair amount of details, but those had to sound at least plausible enough if I wanted to keep the storyline consistent with the real world. I had already run into jurisdiction questions for my other short novel, The Librarian, so I had a better idea of who would deal with merfolk.

From diving watches to the depths of the ocean, to explaining shifting abilities and thermal cameras, Underneath sure sent me to some unexpected places.

Getting It Together

Armed with my research and sketches of characters, I started my Nano thinking this would become a strange idea that would fizzle out come December. All I knew was that by the end of November, I would have gotten the story out of my system. After all, I wasn't into mermaid stories.

The first draft for Underneath was a joy to write. The story kept moving, I get to know the characters better, and discovered a whole lot more about the City's background and the merfolk's origins. I ended up with enough story to write a trilogy.

In the end, Underneath - A Merfolk Tale proved to be a fantastic way to try my hand at bringing the mundane with the fantastic. Now, while I'm writing the sequel, Undercurrent - A Merfolk Myth, I marvel at the thought that this idea randomly found me one afternoon while watching TV. We really never know where our next plot bunny is waitingor where would it lead us.