So week one of April’s A-Z blog challenge is over and boy I really didn’t think I’d fit a blog a day in but I actually have and today we reached G! Hooray! For those of you who don’t know, I am writing a blog post about my current WIP for my children’s novel Prophecy of Innocence, one entry for each letter of the alphabet.
I’ve decided to group the posts into a weekly blog (mainly so I can come back to them with ease I have to say!) So here, all in one post are the entries for A-G. Enjoy.
A is for… Annandale.
So I’m a day late to this alphabet blog type thingy and actually I don’t even know if it is an alphabet-blog thingy but I have seen a few so… Having done NO research on the matter I’m delving in with an alphabet challenge related to my children’s novel. Ah how dull. Yes but when I get to x I have no idea what I’ll write so that’ll be a challenge. Plus this will be good as these will be short. 🙂
Annandale is one of the female elfling characters in Prophecy of Innocence. She’s not a major character but she was the first to be sacrificed in the name of moving some of the other characters into action. I recently read you shouldn’t kill characters off in children’s books. I read this from the great Anthony Horowitz who I admire greatly as a writer as he wrote episodes of my favourite ever TV show in the 80’s, Robin of Sherwood. (He’s also done some Poirot’s as those of you who know me know I love but he’s done loads of other TV stuff and written numerous books.) But anyway, I’m not a great one for following rules so er…yes it’s not a massive spoiler to say she dies. (Besides the fact most reading this will never read my WIP so…)
So where did the name Annandale derive? Well , like so many other of my elflings,she is named after a British motorway service station. (Okay I know it’s weird but why the hell not? I bet no one else has ever done it.) In this case, Annandale Water Services which just s happens is my favourite one.
Situated on the A74(M) in the Dumfries and Galloway region of Scotland, there is nothing that special about the interior of the services but, unlike the majority of UK motorway service stations I’ve visited, there are beautiful views of rolling hills, a duck pond where each year ducklings roam the outdoor eating area and a huge lake at the back to gaze at whilst you eat. And that’s it. But it’s a regular stop on my way up North and I love it.
So before I turn myself into a tour guide for UK motorway service stations, I’ll bid you goodnight and go and think about B & C for tomorrow as I think I’ll have to combine them to catch up.
B is for… babies.
Babies become an integral part of the plot in Book 2 (which is still in first draft form). Orphaned babies to be precise. Orphaned babies from workhouses of the Industrial Revolution. Orphaned babies from industrial workhouses who are subsequently shrunk down to elfling size. (Elflings? Elflings? See here) I told you this would make me seem crazy. Which takes me swiftly on to the letter C…
C is for… Crystonal.
Crystonal is an imaginary compound made by the elflings which gives them a longer life span (they live up to one-thousand years) and ensures they do not age physically. It is a compound made by crushing up gemstones mined from deep in the rocks underground into a shimmering fine dust. Crystonal is kept by the parents of an elfling until an elfling’s eighteenth birthday when they are sprinkled with the dust. This means that all elflings above the age of eighteen still look eighteen. The only way other elflings can determine another elfling’s approximate age is through the way they dress. It is later on in Book One when another use for crystonal is found that the elflings realise its positive potential. In Book 2, however, crystonal becomes even more important to the overall plot development and the elflings come to realise not just its true potential but how, if in the wrong hands, it has the power to damage.
And the name crystonal? Well it didn’t have a name for about 2 years. In my WIP it was simply referred to as magic dust. When I decided to name it (because I hadn’t even originally thought to do that bizarrely!) I thought of how gemstones are sometimes called crystals and that was it. Crystonal was born. The start of the word made me think of kryptonite but I didn’t want ‘nite’ on the end because of this association. I think Crystonal as a word just popped up in my head and I do remember Googling it to make sure it didn’t actually exist. And no. It definitely isn’t a UK Motorway service station. 🙂
D is for…depth
I was struggling with what to write about for D for this A-Z blog challenge related to my WIP of my first children’s novel I really was.
But then…my saviour for this challenge arrived not half an hour ago in an unexpected guise. For this lunchtime I arrived home to find my very first (as I’m sure there will be others) rejection letter from the publisher I had sent the first three chapters of my WIP to. Mixed emotions as you can imagine, nevertheless the editor had clearly read the chapters thoroughly and has gone to the trouble of providing me with some very constructive, and therefore valuable, feedback.
One being to do with depth. Hence D is for…depth.
Now irony would have it that my story is set in the depths of Trelflande, an imaginary world underneath our own. However from the feedback I’ve received it appears the main issue is actually a lack of depth. Both of the world and of the characters. Believe me this is a hard punch to take after you have spent 2 and a half years working on something and have cut out a lot of these details for fear of there being too much world building and not enough story. Ho hum. Seemingly I may have been closer to the mark with my original beginnings. I have battled long and hard with world building. With no desire to risk boring a child reader with reams of lengthy Tolkien-esque description to begin the story, instead I delved straight into the action because everything I’ve read suggests you need to. Especially in our fast moving, visually stimulating day and age. Perhaps I need to find a balance here and I’m sure I can.
The comments about characters being ‘difficult to relate to’ and being ‘over-credulous, too readily accepting of incredulous events’ are also very fair and something I hope I can easily work on once I find the resolve to get back on the metaphorical horse again. As I have often said before I find character writing very difficult.
So, I have been advised to elaborate on the points made to me, all of which I agree with. Imagine. Me – having to elaborate on things?! Shouldn’t be too difficult should it? 😉
The one thing I was pleased with though is that the actual premise of the story was not dismissed. As you will now know from my previous A-Z posts I worry it’s a bit ‘out there’ and a bit old fashioned. In fact the editor said ‘I felt the narrative had potential – the Blakian pursuit of social and environmental “innocence” as suggested by the title resonating rather nicely in our age of ecological degradation.’ (Blakian being a reference to William Blake not a mispelling of Blaikie!) So I take heart in that.
Furthermore the advice to be prepared to extend the text overall if I hope to achieve the “epic-ness” of authors such as Tolkien and Lewis does not daunt me! Ah ha! At last verbosity wins the day!
And so I will try not to sink into the depths of despair.
Instead I will rise up to the challenge ahead. But perhaps in a few weeks when I muster the courage to go back to the start and change it again.
The journey really does continue…
E is for…Edingworth
Today we continue the A-Z walk through my WIP with the letter E. After yesterday’s post about the rejection of my manuscript I did kind of wonder whether to continue with this as I have swung between being determined to take on board and follow the advice offered, and tearing up the entire WIP and throwing it away. However, I finish what I start and so both with the blog challenge and the WIP, I will continue. Even if I don’t touch the WIP again for weeks. Which is a massive possibility.
It would have been easier to do a blog post on the elflings in general for the letter e, but you can find out all about them elsewhere on this site so I’ll focus on one in particular. Besides which, Edingworth Trailstar is one of my favourite characters so far. He doesn’t enter Book 1 until towards the end but he becomes the main antagonist and he, along with his father who makes more of an impact in book 2, has been more fun to write than perhaps the protagonists.
Edingworth is not named after a motorway service station (see A is for… Annandale) but he is named, in part at least, after my favourite city, Edinburgh. Like the city, Edingworth is a mixture of complexities. He appears to be one thing on the surface but as the story develops so does his character and what you see on the surface is not necessarily what lies beneath. Then when you think you have worked out exactly what motivates him, Book 2 throws that out of the window and another layer to his personality is revealed.
Edingworth is an elfling from a different tribe to the main protagonist. He gets called ‘smarmy’, ‘smooth’ and ‘too good to be true’. He is extremely charming but at the same time there is a sinister element to his character. He wears flamboyant, brightly coloured clothes and holds himself with an air of confidence and superiority which only serves to annoy and well..antagonise the other characters. Edingworth is a vet by trade and has the power to communicate with animals. Not verbally, more like a horse whisperer type ability. At the same time he is learning from his father how to become Keeper of the Trelflande Archives, ready to take over the position once his father dies. Both of these points become of more importance in Book 2.
One thing from yesterday’s letter and today’s post which I think will move my WIP forward is to go back to Book 1 and flesh out one particular scene with Edingworth. I feel he is seen from the eyes of the protagonist too much and perhaps there needs to be more getting to the heart of him without the views of the protagonists taking over.
F is for…fungi
Ah! So to day 6 of the A-Z blog challenge and here I am about to write of the most abhorrent, repulsive, disgusting food stuff known to mankind. That’s right: Mushrooms. (Now just hold your horses before you go all pro-mushroom on me.)
“This is an A-Z blog guide to your novel “Prophecy of Innocence isn’t it?”
Yes dear reader, it is. As to how mushrooms and toadstools ever became an integral part of my novel I’ll never know. It certainly wasn’t a conscious decision. Like many aspects of story writing some things just…well…evolve.
However I will attempt to explain, perhaps not why they came to be there but what purpose they serve now they are there.
So to begin. My main protagonist is a design engineer. (More on him when we get to the letter P.) I needed something which he could ‘design engineer’ at and, having worked in an umbrella factory in my student days, I made a strange link. I don’t know what made me think “Oh I know, he can make umbrellas out of fungi.” It perhaps may be to do with the fairy tale visual of a red and white spotted toadstool which did it. Combined with a photograph I had of one taken by an ex-boyfriend who happened to be a design engineer (though obviously not with toadstools or mushrooms) perhaps all the jigsaw pieces slotted together. I don’t know exactly what it was but once it was there, there it lodged.
Mushrooms and toadstools feature quite heavily in the story as a result. Firstly, The main protagonists’s father dies from being poisoned by a mushroom. (Don’t worry this is not a plot spoiler. It’s a back-story piece of information.)The mushrooms are also used as food of course (uuurgh). They are made into umbrellas known as ‘stoolbrellas at the factory the main protagonist owns and finally they are used in burial rituals.
Now as you can tell I am not a fan of fungi. It’s the one food I cannot abide at all. I’ll eat anything put in front of me pretty much but mushrooms? Not a chance of those things passing my lips. So I do find it amusing they’ve ended up being a major feature in the book.
Out in nature they are another story though. I do find them amazingly fascinating to look at. I actually think most are very pretty. When one of my friends bought me a junior field guide of fungi as a joke, I rolled my eyes and sniggered. Oh ha ha! Very funny and off it went to my garage into a box full of books.
But then when I suddenly had this growing idea for the role of fungi related products in my WIP the joke was on her as I hurried down to retrieve the book and made sketches and notes on a whole variety of fungi to suit the purposes for which my characters would use them. Bonus.
I have hit on many problems though. The main one being that obviously mushrooms and toadstools grow up above ground. They have no real robust roots to speak of so how the heck do my little underground elflings get hold of them and bring them down through the ground? I grappled with whether to even explain this in a children’s fantasy book. Does it need explaining considering elflings don’t exist? But there is a certain amount of realistic features to the story and so there is a point where it is mentioned. Because I work with kids and although they can indulge in fantasy, as can we all, there are just some things they will ask about. However there is no where near as much explaining as there was originally. I think in my first draft I may have practically written an actual field guide myself. Thank goodness for re-writes and edits!
G is for…Giving up on Gordano.
As regular visitors to my blog and my followers on Twitter will know I have felt like giving up on this whole writing malarky many times. Particularly on this WIP. This has been particularly true this week. Why? Because I got a rejection from a publisher? Possibly. Partly. Because I have been depressed lately? More likely. Because it’s damn hard work digging into your imagination AGAIN, just when you think there is nothing else you could possibly mine from in there after two and a half years of building this damn world and its characters and its plot and yet someone is demanding more, more, MORE! Oh yes. Definitely. This week I have been on the verge of ripping it up and pretending this whole silly idea for a story never fermented itself in my brain at all.
Although I viewed the feedback from the publisher last week as positive and took it in my stride, when I sat down and actually began to write notes about what needed “fleshing out” I panicked a bit. The overwhelming monster came to sit on my shoulder and hissed at me “Why bother? You’re only going to have to go and start all over again and change numerous things. Do you really want to do that?”
Answer: “Not really” but than I don’t want to do a lot of things but I do them nevertheless. So instead I decided to not think about it. I decided to leave it be. The world will not end if I don’t change my WIP. If I don’t finish it. If I don’t publish it. I’ll just leave it for now.
Then, last night I was cleaning my teeth (bathrooms feature heavily in my creative world) and suddenly I felt my mind start to resurrect a scene. A scene which happens already but through my protagonist re-living a memory later on in the story. But as I cleaned my teeth I found myself narrating a whole new prologue scene in my head. So I grabbed my notepad and scribbled down the first few lines.
It is a royal pain in the arse I have to do this because I now have to go back over so many other things in Book One to make sure I don’t repeat myself with this new fleshing out. I also need to drop the current prologue which I’ve always suspected is a bit rubbish anyway so I’m not too sad to see it go but I know some things will need building in. Oh more work. It is daunting and I really do feel like giving up on it sometimes. Though having spent so long on it now kind of makes me like a dog with a bone.
So Gordano? Where does he come into this post then? (Ah you didn’t even know Gordano was a character did you?) Well Gordano is my main protagonist’s father who actually only appeared in this memory scene because well… he’s dead. However as his death moulds an aspect of my main protagonists personality, I can see the value in resurrecting Gordano and so he now appears in the prologue which is seven years prior to the opening action of the book. (He does make an appearance in Book 2 actually but that is an actual flashback scene. Who even knows if that will stay!)
I wanted to keep Chapter 1 as Chapter 1 because, despite what the publisher said I do think it is a strong opening driven by action but hopefully this prologue (which I drafted this afternoon) will serve to strengthen it as will a few tweaks I have in mind. I will be consulting with a few trusted individuals on this in due course.
I do seriously feel like this is a never ending process. But I guess that’s what you get for deciding to write a novel, an epic fantasy trilogy novel at that, as your first stab at writing. I am still very much in a learning cycle. But surely at some point I can get off?
Oh and just in case you’re wondering – Gordano is named after a UK motorway service station. It was the first one I decided on as it’s near Bristol where some of the action above ground is set and there is a specific link to be made in Book 3. But that’s a long way off yet considering I haven’t even got Book 1 right yet!
And that’s week one! Thanks for reading and I’m looking forward to figuring out what I’ll be writing about for the next few letters of the alphabet because in typical me style I didn’t really plan this!