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’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.