Some say it began with Leah. Sweet-faced Leah de Pire, who had all our sympathy when she fell ill at the height of her beauty. Only yet the mother of three, surely she was not to die so young? Visitors walked the lane to the humble but picturesque home that her husband, Alphonse, had built when they married. She remained quite charming even during those weeks when she kept to her bed; it was with disbelief that the town suddenly heard that she was gone.
Child as I was, I remember this far less than I remember my mother and my aunt’s re-telling of the affair. The hint of scandal. The uncertain whispers that snuck about Fairheight. The Grover boy seemed unduly distressed by Leah’s passing, and then there was her third daughter. Lilith did not resemble Alphonse in the slightest.
Despite gossiping behind hands, the town recognized that Alphonse had no suspicion of his departed wife or of the little girl whom he treated as his own. By some silent, unanimous decision, his ignorance was respected and preserved most carefully. I never heard anyone speak ill of Alphonse either before or after his death, he with the crooked nose and shy smile. He used to dole out store-bought cookies when I visited Juillet and Lilith after school and so he secured a place in my heart. Belatedly, I have realised that those store-bought cookies were merely one of many indications of how little time Alphonse had, raising his daughters while working as a sous-chef in the market.
Though I could not observe the town as my mother and my aunt did back then, being of a height with our kitchen table and much occupied with things at children’s-eye-level, now that I am grown I disagree with those who say it was Leah. I believe that the quiet days of Fairheight ended when old Gulliver Grover married Kaylynn Langerak.
Just as worldbuilding for an adventure in Dungeons & Dragons has become the beginning of a novel, so has the soap opera that I built through generations of sims in the Sims2 become a story. A story heavily influenced by Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford.
Cranford turns little plot into a virtue by being extremely clever in its choice of events, and diverting in its style of narration. It is realistic, pastoral. I would call it a slice of life if it weren’t far above every other slice of life I can think of at the moment (please comment if you know a good one). So while it may be a very bad idea to write a story based on my sims’ virtual lives, it may be even worse considering the skillful style from which I got the inspiration for my narrative voice.
Because if you are inspired by someone as good as Elizabeth Gaskell your yardstick is a giant.
I have posted the above excerpt about the sims of Fairheight in the hope that someone will tell me if I am standing at a height with the giant’s ankles. Or her big toe.