I’m paying a lot of attention to folk tales lately. I wrote a thirteen page scene not too long ago for the Robo-Writers that was a riff on the life of Johnny Appleseed and I had an absolute blast doing it.
I was sitting in the Golden Apple, which is a greasy spoon down the street from where I work, doing a free writing exercise. Golden apples feature prominently in a couple of Ancient Greek myths, which I loved as a kid and used to read all the time. They’re great little stories. Grimm's Fairy Tales were compiled as the Germanic cultural version of Greek Myths. I began to think about how tall tales and folk tales are kind of like America’s version of the same thing. Obviously, there’s less religious significance, but from the standpoint of literature they’re great examples of simple, solid story-telling. From that free writing session came the idea to write a cracked out version of Johnny Appleseed (Golden Apple, Appleseed, etc.)
So I’ve casually started reading up on tall tales and folk lore and the like, just to get a better taste of the storytelling that is our cultural heritage. I would recommend rereading a couple of them. They’re fun little reads and they’re generally pretty short. You can find them all over the internet. I’m partial to Rip Van Winkle. I went out and bought a collection of Washington Irving’s shorter pieces so that I could get the full version. But then, I’m a nerd and like reading kid’s stories (Harry Potter) and old, boring crap.
I think it would be fun to write several longer story-scenes like Johnny Appleseed and then combine them into an evening of American storytelling.
Here’s a great one I found that’s about my home town. It’s about the Nain Rouge, or Red Dwarf, who’s responsible for all sorts of terrible things that have happened throughout the history of Detroit. I can't believe I've never heard of this one before. I lived in Detroit for a good 23 years or so and never came across the Nain Rouge. http://www.americanfolklore.net/folktales/mi4.html
I love the idea of an impish little red faced bastard being responsible for all of these nasty events. Who knows? He might be behind the recent slump in car sales, or the rising unemployment rate; hell, he may even have a little seat at city hall. I’d like to use this little mischievous character in something. I just have to figure out a full story to go along with him.
Anyway, I’ll stop blathering at you.