Monthly Archives: April 2014

Z is for… Zenith & Zeal

Well, I made it. We made it! Well done. We have finally reached Z, the zenith, the pinnacle, the summit, the climax of this a to z blog challenge. Hazaar!

For the whole month of April, bloggers everywhere  have dedicated their time to writing a daily blog and if I’m honest, I wondered if I’d have the staying power to see it through to the end. I wondered if I’d actually find something to write about for each letter of the alphabet pertaining to my WIP ‘Prophecy of Innocence’ but it turns out actually I could. Who’d have thought heh?

I guess though, when you have spent two and a half years submersed in something, it becomes such an integrated part of you, it becomes second nature to talk/write about it.

I thought I’d reached the zenith of my work in January. I really thought I’d done with it – this time. It was as good as it was going to get, wasn’t it? But as you will know if you read my D is for depth post, I discovered a lot more work needed doing if a publisher is going to take it on.

As a result I recently re-worked the prologue and the first five chapters (originally three chapters) which the publisher had seen and then asked some people if they’d mind beta-reading it for me. Six great people volunteered and then of course as soon as I email them I think of things which could be better and find things which need altering and so now those people have one version and I have the slightly altered version, and they’ve only had it a week so they have had no chance to even give me their thoughts before I’m tweaking! I need to leave it alone and wait for feedback because I will only have to change things again based on what they might say.

Anyway, this is where we come to the zeal part of today’s post.

The one thing taking part in this blog challenge has done for me personally is help me to renew some zeal for my WIP. It has forced me to look at the whole thing through fresh eyes which is why I am forever tinkering with it. Also because writing about the different characters and places and other things related to the story reminds me of my love for what I’ve managed to create in my mind. However mad-cap it all seems. I found every time I wrote one of these blog posts I had more enthusiasm for sitting back down and editing and re-writing parts which I knew didn’t cut the mustard. I would suddenly have light-bulb moments over certain things whilst writing blog posts. Yes my zeal was real. I had a renewed passion for my story… that was until last night .

I know exactly what caused my fear and sudden lack of zeal and it goes like this.

I was reading a bedtime story to my little boy. Something I do every night, so why last night should be any different I don’t know. Anyhow, I was reading the book and doing the character voices, as one does, when it suddenly occurred to me that, as my book is for children, albeit older children, then it is possible it will be read aloud to children so I figured I should read it a loud and see how it sounds. (I have done this when drafting earlier versions for proofing but that was a while ago.)

And therein lay the problem. It (okay I’ve only done the prologue so far) sounds…well, crap for want of a better word. I couldn’t hear, out loud, what I’d written in my head.  I couldn’t hear the character’s voices. The ones I can clearly hear in my head when I’m writing. Out loud they sounded like me on a bad day and this is not because I am  a monotonous reader. It’s always been the one thing I enjoy and have always been good at in  my job teaching; reading a story to the kids. But uurggghhh. Mine sounds awful and the worst thing is I don’t know how to fix it. I really don’t. It sounded bland and flat and well to me just uuuurgghhh.

So after having a whole month of feeling fairly positive, upbeat and, yes even zealous, about my work I now, as we have drawn to the end of this blog challenge, loathe it. I don’t feel my writing is good enough for children, or anyone actually. I also now have six people who are in receipt of the first few chapters and I’m cringing. I didn’t give it them expecting rave reviews. Far from it, I  know there’s stuff wrong with it but it’s now a case of not been able to see the wood for the trees. I needed others to see it to help me see where I can improve or more importantly for me how I can improve. I’m not scared of constructive criticism. I just feel embarrassed by what I’ve given to people. Some have shown interest in it purely through this blog challenge and so I feel I have let them down as it won’t live up to their expectations.

They hear my voice on this blog and probably and rightly expect the same in my fiction. But I’ve discovered, my voice is here on my blog but not in my WIP.. This is me talking. Writing a piece of fantasy fiction and writing it well is an altogether different skill and one , it may be time for me to admit, I’m not really cut out for. At least not yet.

So the upshot is, I think I might just go and hide away under a rock, or possibly even down in the depths of Trelflande for a few months/years until, hopefully, the great people who have any version of my WIP (as there are a few versions floating around with different people) forget they have it in their possession and until such a time as I’ve learned how to craft a story properly.

Not quite the tone I was wished to end my challenge on, but there you have it. If you set about something in the unplanned spontaneous fashion I do most things (i.e this challenge, and my WIP) it’s never going to follow a straightforward path is it? (I would like to point out that this fear/self doubt, whatever you wish to term it, is all part of the writing life cycle. I cannot honestly see myself jacking it all in, even if I feel like it right at this moment, I’m just writing what I feel now.)

However, I am pleased to have taken part in the challenge. I am glad to have made it to the finish line. It does feel like an achievement. I’m also happy to have taken part for the following reasons:

1) It’s been fun to delve into my WIP and, when I’ve had a little break from it and hopefully had some feedback and done some more writing practice, I can take all these posts and listen to my own advice!

2) I’ve come across some great new blogs to follow, so that’s great. 🙂

and

3) I have mostly enjoyed a daily read over at Graham Milne’s blog : Find it here. It is awesome. Graham was actually the exact opposite to me and planned his A-Z challenge out! A true pro. It has been a total joy to read his posts, each one a song which he has linked to a story about his life. If you haven’t checked it out I highly recommend you do. His writing is sublime and real. But I’ll warn you now to take a box of tissues with you, because some of them are just beautiful and unless you are made of ice you will shed a tear or two. So go now and read if you’ve missed out. For shame.

Finally I’d like to thank all of you who have taken the time to read my ramblings, which were not at all planned. I’d particularly like to say thanks to those  of you who have commented with sound advice and  words of support and encouragement. It’s weird to think  that people actually read this stuff, so thank you.

And now I’m off to sleep.  Regular service will be resumed in due course.

Closedown.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz .

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Y is for… Youth

This penultimate Y post in the A-Z blog challenge journey through my WIP, ‘Prophecy of Innocence’ links back to two other posts. Firstly to C is for…Crystonal and Saturday’s post: X is for…eliXir.

To put you in the picture, if you happen to have only just stumbled accidentally upon this blog, Crystonal is a special magical compound made from crushed gemstones. Cinnabar (in old Chinese myths thought to be a main ingredient in the elixir of immortality) is it’s main ingredient. Crystonal is what gives the elflings (my little tiny inhabitants of the underground world Trelflande) longevity so that they live to be around 1000 years old. Or should I say a 1000 years young? Because…

A side effect of the crystonal is that it gives them a youthful appearance until  their death. Elflings are given a special dose of the compound at age eighteen and so, whatever an elfling looks like at eighteen, that is how they look at eighty and at eight hundred.

But ‘why’ I hear you cry? What is the point of that? Why have them looking younger? Surely this would cause an awful lot of confusion between generations?

Okay, well firstly to address the why: Aside from the fact  who doesn’t want to look young until the end of their days? (this is a fantasy story after all), there is a very good point to the crystonal having the effect of maintaining a youthful appearance. In fact it was actually one of the first things I invented in my world which links over to late on in Book 2 and more in Book 3. This is because the idea harks back to the very original beginnings for the story when I was twelve. It is actually vitally important to the plot that the crystonal has this effect. However, without giving too much away it is not necessarily important it has this effect of youthful appearance on the elfings. And that’s all I’m saying!

As for how do the elflings differentiate between generations if they all look the same age? Well this is done, firstly through their fashions. What? Yes, elflings have fashions. (Fashions also change dependent on the area of Trelfande they originate from you know.)

Secondly, although elflings all look eighteen, they do mature inwardly and gain wisdom as they age so this helps differentiate them. Finally the way they address each other denotes their differences too. For example the younger elflings will address their elders as Sir or Mr/Mrs followed by their surname

Similarly, the elder elflings may refer to younger elflings as, for example: ‘Master Toddington’, so they use first names instead of surnames.

Finally, elflings only call each other by the shortened version of their name if they are of the same generation. (For more see the W is for..Winklewell post.) It is through these rules of world-building the issue of all characters maintaining a youthful appearance is addressed.

 

 

 

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X is for…eliXir

Okay, okay I know it’s cheating by not having a word which actually begins with X itself but there are only a total of seven words starting with X in my dictionary (I just checked) and as I have written nothing in my WIP about xylophones, xenon, x-rays or xylem (though I could easily have done so as xylem pertains to plants and roots) you’ve ended up with elixir. Also I wonder how many others doing this challenge will cop out and have a word beginning with say ex rather than x itself?

Anyway, EXcuses over with, lets move on. Why elixir?

Well, as I have already blogged in my c post about crystonal, the magic compound used by the elflings to prolong their lives, it made sense to EXplain some of the research I did, particularly for Book 2 which delves into what is actually in the compound to give them a prolonged life.

At first I just imagined a compound made up of crushed gem stones. This idea stemming from the fact that such crystals are believed to contain healing powers if used in the correct way. Now, whether one subscribes to this way of thinking is immaterial. Does rose quartz attract love? Amethyst induce calm? Does citrine bring wealth? And if you place certain crystals on certain chakras can you heal certain ailments? I don’t know. I collect them because they are pretty and I love the colours.

However none of these stones are rumoured to give longevity of life (shockingly!) and so I got to wondering, Okay what is it in crystonal which causes this phenomenon? (Look at me talking about this compound as if there is scientific fact behind it! Ha ha!)

It was really only when I got to the end of Book 1 and into Book 2 I thought seriously about it. This was because the crystonal, after hundreds of thousands of years of never been misused, (because elflings are just not like that, they are innocent!), they begin to explore its powerful properties in a few different ways. I cannot say how or why though because you know by now I’m trying not to do plot spoilers.

So anyway my brain got to thinking: There has to be an ingredient, a natural ingredient, in it which prolongs life. So I simply Googled ‘elixir of life’ (what on earth did writers do before the internet? They actually would have to pre-know stuff!)

And this is what  found:

“The ancient Chinese believed that ingesting long-lasting precious substances such as jadecinnabar or hematite would confer some of that longevity on the person who consumed them”  

I zoned in on cinnabar as I’d never heard of it and it turns out it’s the common ore of mercury. Well who knew? (Probably loads of people actually, like chemists and geologists, but I’m neither of those so I didn’t know.)

So there I had a very tenuous link. An ancient myth linked to some science. Perfect. And so it was cinnabar became the ‘secret’ ingredient for crystonal and I continued researching into it.

Two problems though. First: Mercury is poisonous. Many of these substances, far from contributing to longevity, were actively toxic. Jiajing Emperor in the Ming Dynasty died from ingesting a lethal dosage of mercury in the supposed “Elixir of Life” conjured by alchemists”

Hmmm, well yes but to humans, not elflings! Ha, phew. Easily explained away.

Not so easy to explain is secondly: cinnabar is not found in Britain as we are not a volcanic island. Well not any more, and not when ‘Prophecy of Innocence’ is set. So how did I navigate this problem? Well I didn’t.

I have to be allowed some artistic licence!

Tomorrow’s Y post continues in the same vein as today’s. I do hope you can join me for what will be the penultimate post in this A-Z blog trip through my WIP.

Thanks for reading and sticking with me until near the end. If you have done so from the start then you certainly have longevity 😉

 

 

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W is for…Winklewell

Okay, okay. Yet another crazy name to add to the A-Z blog post journey through my WIP ‘Prophecy of Innocence’. But wait. There is a slight twist on this one because Winklewell is not, I repeat not, named after any British place name or motorway service station.

And in that fact he and his wife, Clarentine, remain unique. He was the first elfling I named and in all likelihood he will need re-naming and this is why I chose him for today’s W blog post.

I have no idea where the name Winklewell came from or how it sprang into my subconscious onto the paper. If my memory serves correctly I think it was as simple as I typed it. His name were the first two words I typed for chapter one; I still remember the line now, though the line has long since been assigned to the recycle bin:  ‘Winklewell Snorsegrave smiled contentedly to himself.’ I believe I almost intended for him to be the main character out of all the elflings however if you’ve read my T post you’ll know how an why that changed as it did.

Anyhow. Winklewell’s name was where the three syllable thing started. I quickly noticed how the motorway service station names I’d chosen had three syllables too and then when creating new names I’d amalgamate place names I liked to keep to the three syllable rule. But Winklewell and Snorsegrave are both entirely made up, though not consciously. I didn’t spend ages thinking about it – more more like seconds.

And herein lies the problem. You’ll perhaps recall me mentioning in my V is for Villains post yesterday about myself and a friend laughing about Winklewell’s name? Well this was not so much the actual Winklewell part but more the abbreviation of it. It was not something I’d even thought about when writing the name a hundred times. Even speaking it out loud to myself when reading I didn’t think anything of it. However, it is often the case it takes another person to point out the bleedin’ obvious.

One convention or world ‘rule’ I have for the elflings is how they abbreviate each other’s names. That is, they shorten it to end in y and thus, a three syllable name becomes a two syllable name. Because let’s face it, if everyone you knew had a three syllable name, you’d shorten it. Besides, it doesn’t sound natural for them to refer to each other by their full names all of the time.

So for example Toddington becomes Toddy, Happendell becomes Happie, (conscious decision to not have y here) and  Edingworth becomes Eddy.

You can probably see far more clearly than I could where this is going with Winklewell.

Yes, I must have written Winky numerous times and never once made the link that winky is quite often used as a slang word for a little boy’s tinkler. (Despite my own little boy using the word frequently!)

So. Here’s the thing. Children will (hopefully) read this. But it is likely many children will make the Winky link straight away and won’t be able to stop sniggering to get to the point of enjoying the story. If Prophecy could be a book read only in the head I could possibly get away with it. But how many parents are going to want to snuggle down at story time with their children to have to read the word Winky over and over? (Not that it’s there every other page or anything, but still.)

Now, I have two options:

1) Change his name. Completely.

2) Don’t have anyone abbreviate it in the book EVER. (Middlewich and Shaftsbury as older and more serious elflings never have their names shortened so there is the possibility this could be a ‘rule’.)

But looking at option two I’m not entirely convinced I can get away with it. He has a wife and she is the principle character who refers to him as Winky (oh it just gets worse doesn’t it?) as does his best friend, Middlewich. But Winklewell is not an altogether serious character. he tells bad jokes and as the story progresses he acts on impulse so it suits him to have a nickname. However, now having just written this I think a name change might  be necessary.

I may well change him to Wetherby (although I had this name reserved for another minor character in book 2). Other than that I can feel another trawl through the AA road map coming on…

Thoughts? 🙂

 

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V is for…Villains

First off, villain is one of those words I can never spell first time correctly. So if a few slip by under the radar with a misplaced a and i, please blame my lack of proofreading.

Okay, so here we are at V on my trip though my WIP ‘Prophecy of Innocence’ and oooh I am rather looking forward to this one because, well it’s about the Villain. And as we all know villains are almost always the best fun to watch and, it turns out, to write.  Mwah ha ha!

For as long as I can remember I have always secretly rooted for the villain. Okay maybe not rooted for exactly, but always liked them more than the hero/heroine. I know I always used to think: “Oh for goodness sake, just for one episode let the villain win. It’s not fair the ‘goody’ always wins!  Some case in points of my favourite villains would be:

Skeletor from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe;

 

 

The Hooded Claw from The Perils of Penelope Pitstop,

 

The Sheriff of Nottingham, (the Alan Rickman version in the film as well as Nikolas Grace in the ITV 1980’s TV series),Vector from Despicable Me, Wile e Coyote (who in my opinion never deserved to have to put up with the smugness of the Roadrunner), Professor Snape from Harry Potter (okay so he’s just a side show rather than an actual villain but you are convincingly led to believe he is for a long time). Whilst we’re on Potter then I’d go also with Lucius Malfoy, then of course there’s Zod (not the new one for crying out loud!) and the creme de la creme of all villains – Darth Vader.

When I used to watch Batman as a child (the 1960’s TV series of course,) it was because I adored the villains. I absolutely LOVED The Riddler and The Penguin in particular.  I watched this series and all these other movies/shows I’ve mentioned or read these books because I was captivated by the villains. These villains just seemed to have more personality than the heroes. They had all the best lines, the best costumes, the best voices, the best everything.  I’m sure I could go on with more examples of villains whom I loved.  I was the kid who didn’t shrink into my seat when the villain came on in the  Christmas Pantomime but instead relished every moment they were on the stage. Perhaps my list of villains here are almost pantomime or it could be the heroes, who are their nemesis,  are just a bit too ‘wet’ for me. Because of course in real life, and in literature & many other films rather than comic books and fairy tales , the villains are sinister and downright scary and not to be laughed at. I’m not going to root for Sauron or Voldemorte or Hannibal Lecter because they are the epitome of true evil and do not have those comic villain elements to their character. But the the Lex Luthors of the world, now they, I really love. And as I’m writing, essentially what could be classed as a fairy story, I guess my villain will come into the vein of those I have mentioned.

I cannot tell you much about my villain as it will spoil too much of the plot. But suffice to say he is to me quite wonderfully wicked. I love it any time he pops up whilst I am writing my WIP because I know I am going to have a lot of fun writing him.

He actually does not appear until the final quarter of Book 1 as you will recall if you read my O post, it is humans (or Oomans as my elfling characters refer to them) who are the main antagonists for a long time. However, unbeknown to the elflings there is a more dangerous threat lurking among their own kind but it is not until Book 2 that they discover the full extent of this and suffer the consequences of the villain’s actions.

Like most good villains, mine has an ego the size of the moon, has delusions of grandeur and of course to go with it a despicable plan to elevate himself to greatness.

He sweeps about in a long coat made entirely of peacock feathers, and carries around a sceptre type walking cane which has an amethyst sphere perched on top. He speaks to everyone as though they are a little dim witted and keeps more secrets than MI5 and the CIA put together.

Like all good villains he cares for no one but himself and the realisation of his goals, but like all good villains he does have a reason behind his treachery and dastardly deeds. His morality may be different to everyone else, but it makes absolute sense to him. He is not being evil for evil’s sake. There is a motivation to his actions but it is only throughout Book 2 we discover exactly what these motivations are.

My villain’s name is one of my favorite things about him. The name actually changed from the original name I gave him after chatting with a friend about my weird obsession of naming my characters after place names. He didn’t suggest a name for the villain as such. We were actually discussing another character Winklewell Snorsegrave at the time. I was laughing because saying it out loud made him and I laugh (yes we’re so mature). Anyway he just said something like: “Shaftsbury, there’s a funny place name. You could use that” and I had a light-bulb moment because my villain’s original name began with W too and I’d already got to thinking two three syllable W names who have to interact in scenes may get a little confusing for  the reader. And so suddenly Shaftsbury Trailstar was born. Well the Trailstar part was already in place but I just loved Shaftsbury* as a name for a villain. After all he does shaft quite a lot of people (to use a colloquialism.)

*Shaftsbury pronounced with the ‘a’ being the longer ‘ar’  phoneme rather than the short ‘a’ phoneme. (I don’t know why this is important but it is.  It’s not how I speak, I would say it with the short a phoneme but the more “Queen’s English” a suits his character better.)

So there you have a short introduction to my villain. I’m sorry I couldn’t give a way more. Even giving a way his name is probably too much. Then again, by the time I ever get around to publishing, things may have changed!

 

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U is for…Underground and Under-developed

One of the biggest challenges of writing my current WIP, Prophecy Of Innocence, is that it is set, largely underground. This was not something I gave due consideration to when embarking on the project, (hence under-developed) simply because it was an idea I had when I was twelve. All I had was  an idea about characters who lived under the ground. That was it. Inspired by Jim Henson’s Fraggles. If Fraggles could live in the rocks under a lighthouse, why couldn’t there be other beings living under the ground? The logic of a twelve-year old’s imagination. I didn’t give an awful lot of thought to the practicalities or reality of writing such a setting.

Of course, I could have completely disregarded every single “hmmm, that could never actually be possible” scenario as it’s a fantasy novel, however as I’ve said many times before, I am something of a realist and so where possible I have tried my utmost to ensure there is a certain element of believability in what I have written. I also couldn’t help but think every time I wrote something which seemed a little incredulous :”Well ‘Journey to the Centre of The Earth’ could never happen without Axel burning up in a second.” Okay, okay bad example as Jules Verne wrote that in 1864 as a sci-fi novel and it hasn’t stood the test of time so well due to what we now know about the interior of the earth. Still, I ploughed on.

So what have been the challenges when writing about a race who live under areas of British woodland? Other than the fact I don’t actually live under the ground so have absolutely no clue what it looks like or know for certain what can be found naturally there or what could, in the world of physical law be possible for living creatures to achieve under the ground? All I know has been gleaned from what I have seen on wildlife documentary programmes or digging in my own back yard. So not a lot.

Well the first  challenge is the issue of light. Or lack of it. How the heck do the elflings see? Well, first their eyesight has evolved to be able to see better than a human in dim light, (though not in pitch blackness). They have eyes which are highly iridescent, like precious jewels and gemstones. So often when describing their eyes I do use words such as amethyst, diamond, emerald, sapphire, amber or even in one case onyx. Not in order to use a better word for blue or green but because their eyes really are like that. (You’ll notice I use amethyst – yes an elfling can have purple eyes.)  But their iridescent, luminous eyes are not enough for them to see in total darkness therefore they need help and the help comes in the form of fireflies (also sometimes referred to as glowworms).

Now, before you say anything about “ah but insects live above the ground,” well, of course, I did my research on this too. Fireflies, at the larval stage, actually hibernate underground over the winter and as all larvae glows it is perfectly feasible (in my head at least) that the elflings take advantage of this fact and use fireflies for lighting. They can be found in temperate climates in wet wooded areas, so Britain is a perfectly plausible location for them. Although this is not all fully explained in the novel otherwise flow would be lost and it would be rather dull to explain, it is important these details for me are at least almost believable and are there in the background.

Problem number two. If you dig through soil there is nowhere for little beings to roam about, building toadstool factories and homes etc…And yes, you’d be right. However, some animals tunnel and burrow their way around underground and in my mind this is what the elflings do. The roof of their world is the soil surface we have under our feet, but they have, over generations, tunneled out openings to live in, a little deeper down. So there you go, open up your imagination. That’s what I did. Would this be possible? Who cares? Is it believable in the realms of fantasy? Hell, yes. If the back of a wardrobe can magically disappear and reveal a snow covered country I don’t see why a made-up race can’t be happily digging out tunnel systems.

My third problem concerned the supply of natural products the elflings would be able to find underground. Mushrooms and toadstools and nuts and flowers are not found under the ground so how is it the elflings get hold of this stuff without ascending above ground? (Which they don’t.) First off, the elfings do in effect what we do when we want things from below ground. They extract them. We extract oil up from the depths, so why can the eflings not do the reverse? Plants are easily extracted down by pulling on their roots. Fungi is not so easy as their are not roots as such but mycelium, the vegetative part of the fungus which consists of masses of branching thread like hyphae. The elflings have had to develop an extraction process to bring the mushroom or toadstool down into Trelflande, or rather I had to develop it on their behalf. It is totally made up, but still had to be on the side of believable and ‘doable’. Other things such as nuts and seeds find their way down naturally from animals overturning the soil. At least this is how I explain those things in the story.

There are many other challenges which setting a story underground has presented, but which I will leave for another time as I really want to get back to my WIP now!

I’d be intrigued to know what challenges you think you’d face if you set a story in a world under the ground? They may be things I’ve not thought of! 🙂

 

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T is for…Toddington

So, we’re back to the A-Z blog challenge today and already we’re up to T in my walk through my WIP “Prophecy Of Innocence”.  I can’t quite believe I’ve gone this far and it’s nearly the end of April already. Phew.

So what or who is Toddington?

Well let’s start with what is Toddington? If you are in the UK and type ‘Toddington’ into Google, the first thing which will spring up is “Toddington Services.” Yes, Toddington is another motorway service station. (You’ll remember my love of motorway service station names in my first post A for Annandale.) This time the service station in question is situated on the M1 in Bedfordshire, the same county as Luton co-incidentally, (see the L post Lutonia for more). This is actually a happy co-incidence for my WIP and not one I planned at all, but I cannot reveal why as it would be a wee bit of a plot spoiler.

Anyhow, unlike the M5 and M6, my regular motorway haunts, I have only driven down the M1 once. It was back in 1999 when I was in my first car, a 1991 Vauxhall Nova 1.1 litre hatchback. I had been driving 3 years by then but was still a relative novice on Britain’s motorways, having avoided them for some time. (You’ll recall my previous anecdote in my M post of getting lost round Bristol for refusing to brave the M5). This drive was an even less pleasant experience as it was on a day where the rain pelted down none stop and the spray off the road was so bad, visibility was reduced massively. I had had trouble starting the car that day but eventually it had decided it was ready to go and so I set off south heading for Woking to visit a friend. I subsequently broke down on the M25, with a burnt out coil and had to call recovery. Anyway I digress. I do not recall Toddington services on this journey. In all likelihood I didn’t see it due to the rain. No, my knowledge of Toddington services comes solely from traffic reports on BBC Radio 2. Toddington services is constantly mentioned. It always seems to be snarled up. It is always busy or there has been an accident around there. I heard the word Toddington so much I did often think “that would be an ace name for a character” and lo and behold…

Who is Toddington?

Well Toddington is my main protagonist. Toddington Rainstone to give him his full name. Toddington is an orphaned, work-obsessed, progressionist elfling, impetuous by nature, yet resourceful. His work obsessed nature is actually a character trait based on two ex-boyfriends of mine. One of them is completely aware of this as I told him, so I don’t feel bad about sharing that. In fact he was quite flattered at the time. (He might not feel that way if he ever reads the book, but as a self-confessed ‘not much of a reader’ I’m hoping he won’t.)

Toddington Rainstone © by R. Blaikie

 

Toddington’s occupation of design engineer (he designs and develops products made from toadstools) came about because one of the aforementioned exes was a design engineer, though obviously not of fungi based products! So that’s where that came from. The idea for Toddington to make ‘stoolbrellas (elfling umbrellas made from toadstools) came, I think subconsciously, from the fact I used to work in a factory which made umbrellas when I was a student. I certainly didn’t plan that. It just happened. (I think regular visitors may be getting a sense that not much of this book was planned at all… and you’d be right!)

Another thing I didn’t plan but which was completely co-incidental, was that although Toddington’s main personality flaw (and strength) is his work-obsessed nature and that this was based on two of my ex-boyfriends, both of these men lost their fathers at relatively young ages. Toddington too is orphaned at 14. This is not a plot spoiler, it forms the basis of the prologue but it explains much of Toddington’s ways. I certainly didn’t plan this, but perhaps these things lurk about in the subconscious more than we know.

Toddington is, I believe, the elfling who provides a mirror for us to hold up to ourselves. On the one hand he is fighting against the threat posed by the Oomans and their desire to progress their world, in spite of the impact it may have on others, yet it is Toddington who is the one elfling above all others who desires progression for the elfings themselves. He is, like many of us humans, a walking, talking contradiction (although he is only a two inch walking, talking contradiction).

I also have a confession to make at this point. Originally I had no main protagonist. (*Gasps of horror!) This is because I had the idea for a plot about a group of elflings. I didn’t consider the need for a main character or a character arc. I didn’t know these things were basic requirements for a novel. Oh you see how naive I was when I began this journey. (Though in The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, where this all began, there are 4 children, rather than one main protagonist and that worked. But I am not C.S Lewis and so this is at least one of the reasons why the first draft was so diabolically bad.) However as I wrote, Toddington  naturally emerged as the central character and so during editing and re-writes I went back to the drawing board and spent a lot more time fleshing him out, giving him goals and developing his strengths and his flaws. As a result,  I now feel Toddington is pushing the plot forward rather than him being pulled along by the plot. Which is how it should be. This is how life should be I guess. We are the characters and we develop our own plot. We shouldn’t leave the plot to develop us. (Sorry, wow. That was rather deep.)

I actually really love Toddington. (Thank goodness as I have to write him a lot!) He’s got his flaws but although he has a lot of rubbish stuff happen to him, he doesn’t let it get in the way of aiming for what he wants to achieve. If this were a book for adults I might allow him get a bit more depressed and despondent about stuff than he actually does, but kids need a hero and I hope in Toddington I have created one. I think now he develops well as a character who you do end up rooting for (no pun intended).

I know two readers, who read early versions of the WIP, said to me: “Nooooooooooo you can’t have that happen” at one point when it’s clear he’s not going to get his own way. The children who have read early versions of the WIP picked him out as their favourite character and this was before I’d even properly developed him as the main protagonist.

I’m looking forward to continuing with developing his story more in Books 2 and 3.

And I hope those of you who ever get to read Prophecy Of Innocence love Toddington Rainstone as much as I do.

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