Published by Random House My Reviews in this series: Bones of Faerie, Faerie Winter, Faerie After
Janni Lee Simner, author of the Bones of Faerie Trilogy from Random House [read my reviews: Bones of Faerie, Faerie Winter, &Faerie After] tells us today about Matthew and how she often talks to her characters!
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I’m the sort of writer who talks to my characters. I even write them letters as I’m getting to know them and their stories.
My characters have never written back, not exactly, but they do have their own ways of making themselves heard as those stories evolve and I get to know them better.
Sometimes, they do things that surprise me, and I realize I don’t yet know them as well as I thought.
This happened in a very early drafts of Bones of Faerie. Bones of Faerie is set after a magical war between human and faeries has destroyed the world, and the human protagonist, Liza, runs away when she discovers she carries signs of that deadly magic. She’s followed by an also-human boy named Matthew. In this early draft (those of you who’ve already ready the book can laugh now) Matthew was very patiently explaining to Liza that he’d never even seen magic, and suspected there was really no such thing, when wild dogs attacked them.
A large gray wolf appeared on the scene, scaring the dogs away. As I kept writing, I realized the wolf was Matthew.
A shapeshifting wolf was definitely not part of my plan for this book. “Wait a minute!” I told Matthew’s voice in my head. “You can’t be a werewolf. This isn’t the sort of book that has werewolves.”
Matthew just sort of shrugged. “But I am,” he said.
We glared at each other for a while, metaphorically speaking. Finally I said, “Okay, we’ll try it. Just to see what happens.” If I didn’t like how the book turned out with Matthew as a wolf, after all, I could always undo his lycanthropic transformation in the next draft.
Matthew said nothing to that. He knew he’d already won.
As I kept writing, I figured out what Matthew already knew: of course he was a wolf, and this wasn’t just important to his character. Thinking about a lupine Matthew forced me to rethink everything about how magic worked in my world, and everything about who was touched by magic, too. In the end, not only Bones of Faerie, but its sequels, Faerie Winter and Faerie After, were better for it.
When my characters or my subconscious or whatever place it is story really comes from veers off in an unexpected direction, I find the best thing I can do is follow to see where it leads. More often than not that thing I didn’t even plan on turns out to be one of the most powerful parts of the story. And if it doesn’t, well, that’s what revision is for.
These days, I’m actively on the lookout for the unexpected in my stories. When it appears–startling me for all that I expected it–it’s a sign that the story is coming alive.
Janni Lee Simner was born aboard a pirate ship, but as soon as she came of age booked passage with a caravan bound for the Sahara, and spent the next decade as a seeker of lost cities, hidden tombs, and ancient artifacts. While hiding from assassins in the lost Library of Alexandria, however, she discovered she really preferred telling stories, and so she settled down in the Sonoran desert to write, interrupted only by the occasional map-bearing stranger or man-eating Gila monster. WEBSITE | TWITTER