But why did it take so long?
Several things hampered this novel's progress:
- It's the second in the series. The first in the series was exciting, not only for the protagonist, but for me as a writer. It was all about discovery. My heroine was discovering the thrill of hidden magic. I was discovering the delight of writing a novel that was lightweight, funny and magical. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to recreate the tone of this novel and was proven right. It's going to take some hard work to recapture the magic (during edits).
- It has a different narrator. It's a feature of this series that each book will have a different narrator. And they won't all be teenagers or girls, either, which removes the YA tag at once. This means I have to find a new voice for each novel. The teenage girl in Book 1 came to life at once. I got inside her head and no problem with her. She was alive from the first page. The narrator in Book 2 is this heroine's mother. The reader has already met her and knows she's funny and interesting. So how did I lose her voice?
- It has a new point of view (POV). While Alice, the mother, was easy to create in Book 1, by changing the POV to her POV meant that something was lost. She worked less well when I was looking through her eyes. This has proven to be excruciating for me as a writer. I can't recreate her humour, her cleverness, her quirky opinions. It all seems to have died in the switch. I wonder: if I hadn't created her so well in Book 1, would I have had less problems in Book 2?
- The MC knows nothing. In Book 1, our intrepid heroine is on adventure of discovery. The reader goes with her and the discovery is mutual. Alice, however, knows nothing. The reader is thus left in the frustrating position of knowing everything while the MC is blind to the facts. This is intensely frustrating to write. It's also hard to create any excitement when the MC is being so thick-skulled.
There has been no secret formula in finding Alice's voice. I couldn't tell you how I did it. I had planned to just chug away to the end of the first draft, knowing that my work was going to be cut out for me in the second. The resurrection process was going to be huge.
Then two things happened:
- My MC Alice had an extraordinary experience which basically freed her as a human being. I'd had no idea that this sequence was going to affect her in this way. In fact, in my notes, it appears that she was to have remained untouched and that the change was to have happened later. But later was too late. And her experience, once I began to write it, took on a life of its own. Thus Alice was freed from the shackles of her character.
- My MC left the location of the book's setting. By leaving it, she becomes exterior to the village and her experience there. She is (briefly) thrown back into her old life (she attends a funeral) and the changes in her character become apparent. Because she is free and unaffected by her horrible family, the real Alice emerges: funny, clever and brilliant.
At the same time as these revelations, subtle changes to the plot have occurred to me as well. It seems that by understanding my MC, I am now able to write her story properly.
I still don't understand, though, how some characters arrive fully formed and blaze through a novel, while others are dead on the page. On the other hand, some of the characters that I've struggled with the most turn out to be the strongest, most complex, and fully formed characters I've ever invented (V. Gomenzi, in his eponymous novel, is one.)
So if a character doesn't work, take heart. Battle on. His or her secrets will eventually be revealed as long as you're prepared to work for it.