So I’m rewriting Bad Fairy as a trilogy. The book does not naturally divide into three parts, unfortunately. Its original version was in five parts of unequal length. The new version, Book 1, is protagonist Delia’s childhood and education.
Bad Fairy is a Sleeping Beauty retelling from the bad fairy’s point of view, but the princess isn’t even born yet in the first book. Book 1 is entirely about her fairy school years. Is Delia’s magickal education interesting enough to carry a story? I don’t think it was originally, though I did receive the following ego boost from my friend Jeremy while he was reading the bit about her elemental studies:
I’m captivated. As I was reading tonight, an odd feeling swept over me. [ . . . ] Maybe the best way to put was that I felt like I was in the presence of greatness. I had in my hands something I truly, truly feel will change the world someday. If you can figure out how to get it to the publisher, how to solicit it, it will get published. There is no doubt in my mind. I just kept thinking “I have never, never read anything like this!” [ . . . ]
This creativity you’re displaying here, these original ideas, I just…I don’t…I cannot scoop out the right complimentary words from my vocabulary to do it justice. I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. I couldn’t believe that this thing in my hands was something that I printed, not something I bought at Waldenbooks.
So, maybe I’m underestimating the power of this stuff because I’m used to the concept. But the structure of the magickal school was mostly nonexistent, and the reader got little understanding of the progression, the grading, the competition. I decided to reorganize the fairies’ schooling a little to introduce competition, because I needed to manufacture conflict and resolution in order to have a satisfying first book. I kind of feel like an ass about doing this, because originally my fairies weren’t very competitive; they didn’t really notice much beyond their own mastery of the skills, and didn’t even have an official graduation from their program. (They just kinda stop coming to circle when they get a job or something.) I’ve taken it and defined it more sharply. Now I’m dealing with tons of fallout from that.
Another important thing is that an early critic told me my character was difficult to relate to partly because she essentially had no friends. I argued that her feeling alienated from the fairy population was important, and of course that should start early. It’s what made her who she is, and it explains what she did later in her life. If she had the kind of support system normal people have, I don’t think she’d end up as maladjusted as she did, you know? This person told me that they found it hard to be sympathetic to this character when everyone was shunning her for being so special. Which made me think some people were getting the Mary-Sue vibe from her. Okay, that’s justified, somewhat. But I’m limited in what I can do about it since she is indeed the pioneer of an unheard-of form of magickal study while easily mastering her regular curriculum, and there are a lot of things about her that would naturally isolate a person.
Delia starts her magick-learning program at age six. The norm is ten for fairies. She starts early because actually she demonstrated readiness at age three, but they have a policy against taking children until they’re at least six. And then their lack of maturity usually ends up making them get left behind, while Delia surprises everyone by rising to the challenge. She’s also half human, the only one in her class with that kind of lineage (so she looks different), and her magick does things it’s not supposed to do. Add to this the fact that Delia is unusually sensitive in more ways than one, and here we have someone who DOES NOT FIT IN, thanks.
That said, I found that her internal monologues and repeated clashes with the triplets (er, that’s what she calls her main enemies—they’re not actually triplets) are not enough to carry the story. She did need some sympathetic interaction besides her mommy. I found that the way I restructured the classes really made a difference in how the teachers treat her—a lot of them actually seem to appreciate her—and on top of that I revamped a character who was a throwaway face in the crowd in the old version, and now Delia’s got a confidante. Who remembers Fiona?
Yeah. Her name was mentioned three times in the original book. One of those times was Delia referring to her as “a girl I came close to considering my friend.” She’s decidedly a friend in the new version, and along with an open-minded boy named Drake (new character!), they’ve got a study group.
. . .
Bet that’s hard for you guys who have read the book to imagine. Hehe. Me too.
It’s also amusing to conjure up an image of how those study sessions would go. Can you imagine being thirteen and getting tutored by an eight-year-old? Oh look, a little tiny freak of nature! LET’S BE FRIENDS!
But anyway, having friends also opens Delia up to weaknesses, which can be exploited. Delia is a naturally private person. She doesn’t really know what to do with herself when she depends on others to support her or keep her secrets. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m wondering how much trouble this will get her into.
I’m also interested in trying to make sure the triplets are not one-dimensional antagonists. They can’t just be stupid, nasty girls who hate my main character just because she’s so speshulll. I believe they were more than that in the original, but sometimes they seem a bit flat and reactionary without any layers to them. Beatrice shouldn’t be Delia’s main rival just because they hate each other. I want a worthy adversary in her.
I’m trying to bring out her layers and her redeeming qualities. I like that Beatrice is also very serious about her studies. It’s something they have in common, and now that I’ve written a bunch of this story already I’ve actually already seen Beatrice displaying some curiosity she didn’t have before and some actual open-mindedness regarding the source of Delia’s competence. She can acknowledge that she can learn from her. (Especially in this one scene I just wrote yesterday involving the beginning of their spellcasting unit.) It’s neat to get some time to delve into who they are.
All I can say is THIS part of the story better not bloat to 255,000 words.