I finished the rough draft of Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling last night and will think of a less on the nose title soon. In the meantime, I’ll send the draft off to alpha readers. They’ll look for things like pacing, tension, seek plot holes, and analyze the character arc. I ended the story with a twist that was at once sweet and kinda terrible, in the best sense of the word.
It’s hard writing a character that you don’t like very much, but sometimes necessary. I love the original Ballad of Tam Lin, but I don’t like Tam Lin the character much. He’s some dude who had to have made some sort of deal with the queen of the fairies to get immortality and supernatural powers. What does he do with his longevity? Cure the plague? Figure out world hunger? No. He hangs around the forest of Carterhaugh, charging women their possessions or their virginity for passing through.
When I started the story, I thought Janet loved him and was a totally badass. Did he really deserve that love? What about the queen of the fae? He was supposed to be her lover, but he was chasing the shiny new all the time. Maybe she wasn’t paying a tithe to the devil but really was just sick of his sleaziness?
With the Tam Lin retelling, I had a larger theme I was working with and wanted to tell it from the perspective of the antihero. A guy who has all this potential and intention for doing something great, but really doesn’t. Tom is that seemingly nice guy who is actually self-centered and goes about fulfilling his needs with little regards to the feelings or thoughts of others, especially women. To men like Tom, women are objects of desire, something for his pleasure, but not someone to be loved or cherished, let alone respected. They’re worth their maidenhead, so to speak, but not much more. Whereas men are worthy of his love and respect. Figuring out how to convey that without making him an outright asshole was difficult.
So, instead of making him a jerk, I put a mediocre dude with some low-key misogynistic attitudes on a Hero’s Journey. I gave Tom plenty of chances to shine, to be better than average, letting it up to the readers to decide whether he actually went through the transformation and change of heart, or if he was exactly the same mediocre dude in the end.
Written material ©Tammy Deschamps