I’m very lucky today to be joined by New Zealand author Barbara Else. As well as writing novels for adults and editing several short story collections for children, Barbara is the author of the magical adventure stories set in the land of Fontania, The Traveling Restaurant and The Queen and the Nobody Boy. Barbara has written a wonderful post all about The Queen and the Nobody Boy and her wonderful new character, Hodie.
When you start work on a new story, usually you decide on the main character at once. But sometimes you might find your first choice isn’t the right one. It’s perfectly ok to change your mind.
This happened to me with my latest novel the second tale of Fontania, The Queen and the Nobody Boy. The obvious choice for main character was the Queen. In the first tale, her brother has a series of adventures when he turns twelve. I thought that when she turned twelve, little Sibilla would have adventures of her own. Because I didn’t want to simply repeat the same sort of story, I came up with the ‘nobody boy’ Hodie, who is the odd-job boy at the Grand Palace. I thought that I would use him as the main character for some sections and Sibilla in others. The technical way to put this is, I would use two point of view characters.
Being a queen, Sibilla has some big problems – people gossip about her and keep expecting her to do great things. That can be very hard for a person to cope with. But when I wrote about her in her point of view she sometimes sounded too sugary (argh!). Sometimes she sounded like a spoiled brat (double argh!). I also worried that because she’s already a queen, readers might have thought, What does she have to complain about? Did I think she was sugary or a spoiled brat? Definitely not. But writing from her point of view didn’t show her in the right way.
For me, the passion and grip of story come from the troubled heart of the character. In his sections of the story Hodie was working well as a character in this way. So I rewrote the whole story in his point of view, in his thoughts, in the way he sees everything (even though it is 3rd person). Through his eyes, Sibilla began to shine. She became more interesting and much braver. She became more vulnerable and charming in her own often very funny way. The whole story raced on much more smoothly. That’s part of the fun of writing – gradually figuring the best way to tell your stories.
You can read my review of The Queen and the Nobody Boy here on the blog.