The Story Behind the Story: “Daughter of a Boto”{0}

My short story, “Daughter of a Boto,” was published as part of the Meeting of the Myths contest, and won third place. I sincerely believe that “Daughter of a Boto” is the best thing I have written this year.

Boto

If you haven’t read the story, go read it. Then come back here.

The Story Behind the Story: “Daughter of a Boto”

When I was 16 years old I spent 19 days in the state of Acre, Brazil, in the Amazon Rainforest, doing a service project. We started from the city of Cruzeiro do Sul and traveled on a boat upriver for four days to Thaumaturgo, a small town. While we were on the river we saw many gray and pink botos (river dolphins), and it was while we were watching them that I was told the legend of the boto. Thaumaturgo is where the main character of my story is from, and the legend of the boto provides the main basis for the story.

Fast forward to the present time. I’ve been writing a speculative novel with a Brazil-inspired setting and it does have some botos in it, though I’m using a Greek or Roman legend as the basis for the dolphins. So I’ve had river dolphins in my mind. And then this Easter someone gave my daughter a pink dolphin toy, which reminded me of my trip years ago and the legend of the boto. But I still didn’t have the legend on the front of my mind. For months I had been trying to come up with a story idea for the Meeting of the Myths contest, but I still didn’t have one. Then my mom sent me a news article about one of the people running for president in Brazil, and she was from Acre, and the photos of rubber tapping and the river reminded me of my trip. And suddenly I had my idea: a newish member of the LDS church who has always been told her father is a river dolphin.

The story was also inspired by my current calling in the LDS church as a young women leader–we were working on family history this summer as a stake and at one point during a lesson one of the young women said, “How do I do my family history if I don’t know who my father is, and can’t find out?” And as I looked around the room at the young women I realized that was the case for not just one but several of the young women in the ward. And so this story is really for them.

I wrote some of the key dialogue and imagery during a Sunday School lesson, and then did research on botos and wrote the full first draft the next day. Then I spent many hours revising and word crafting, though the final version is very, very close to the original. This is one of those rare cases where the story was almost perfect as originally conceived.

Links to Learn More About Botos and the Meeting of Waters

 

Original Boto Image Credit: Jose Hilton Pereira da Silva, Creative Commons license