This past week, I read the first five chapters of Onyx Eyes that I wrote on my blog back in 2012. You can go read them too, if you'd like, but keep in mind, I will be making some changes. (Click here to see the chapter list.)
Overall, I liked what I had of the story so far. I really like Drake, the side characters, and the feel of the story. I also read through the reader comments to familiarize myself with what had been working and what hadn't. Three problems arose from my read through.
1. Worldbuilding. I need more world building on the three races of fae people. They aren't feeling real and distinct enough for me. The physicality of wings/no wings/webbed fingers and toes set them apart, but I need it to go deeper. I want three distinct cultures with history and values and rituals and ways of life that are different for logical reasons that makes sense. This I will work on and discuss in next week's post.
2. Princess AyanaRynn and Drake's romance. It was a little odd for readers to read about Drake desperately searching for a kidnapped princess they had never met in the story. Because they liked Drake, the readers believed in his love and were rooting for him. But I didn't like the way the story was flowing without the princess "on screen," so to speak. My plan back then had been to rewrite Drake's first chapter so that the readers could meet Princess AyanaRynn and see how much she and Drake loved each other--before she was abducted.
Now, however, with my daughter's involvement in the story (ahem) my plans will have to change again. In the old story, the human Kaitlyn was NOT going to have a romantic subplot with Drake. Drake loved Princess AyanaRynn. But my daughter is opposed to this. She ships Drake and Kaitlyn. And since she is my child and since I stole her name for the story, I am prepared to let her have her way.
My first idea was the simplest. I would make AyannaRynn ten to twelve years old. She could still be in love with Drake, her handsome guardsman, but those feelings would be one-sided. I could even leave the chapters the way I had them and surprise both the human character Kaitlyn and the reader when Drake finally does find the princess and we see that she is still a child. My daughter approved of this plan. But when I read through the five chapters, it didn't fit. Those five chapters are designed around Drake's romantic love for the princess. Rewriting them would take more work than I want to do at the moment. (If I truly believed it was the right thing to do--the only way to fix things, then I would rewrite those chapters. But I didn't feel that way.)
So I thought about it for a while and came up with a secondary plan. One that was cruel to Drake, but one that I think will work, perhaps even better. In this story, the fae people can cast mask spells, which enable them to look like someone else. Drake does this when he goes into the Aerial kingdom to spy. And when his investigation leads him to Kaitlyn's home in the human realm, Drake instantly discovers that Kaitlyn's brother Quinn is a changeling wearing the mask of the human Quinn. Since I have set up this magic, why not make it (spoilers!) that Princess AyanaRynn is an impostor. She has been wearing the mask of the real AyanaRynn for several years, living in the Grounder kingdom, spying. And she started a romance with Drake because, hey. Who would know more about how things work in the kingdom than the captain of the guard?
This means I can leave most of the story as is, but I know that AyanaRynn is not AyanaRynn. Drake doesn't. He will discover the truth during the course of his investigation in the series and will become tragically heartbroken. And I'm thinking that when he does finally find AyanaRynn, she will not really know him, since she will have been imprisoned for so long.
But Kaitlyn will have been there for all of this. She will have become good friends with Drake, and once he learns the truth about AyanaRynn, his heart will be free.
So that is how I plan to deal with that problem, which brings me to the third problem I discovered while reading through my old chapters.
3. Ideas that are now in another published book. There were two things in my story that jumped out at me as similar to things in Sara Ella's Unblemished, which I read a few months ago. It's a funny thing about books. There are SO MANY out there. At some point, all writers come to realize that their ideas have been done already, in one way or another. It would be impossible to try and take out every idea that in any way mirrored another. Still, stumbling upon these two similarities was hard. I started writing this story back in 2010. By 2012 I'd published my five chapters on my blog. Sara's book was published in 2016.
None of that matters.
Sara's book was published. Mine is still unpublished. So now I must choose. Do I leave these two elements as they were and risk having people accuse me of copying her? Or do I change them?
That's a choice every author has to make for him or herself. Me, I'm going to change them. Kicking and screaming, a bit perhaps, but knowing that I'll feel better about it in the end.
What are the two elements that are so bothering me? I shall tell you.
First, when Drake casts his forbidden spell to bond with Tagboth the dragon and grow wings, he brings death upon himself. A slow death. From the inside. And since the theme of the story is black/sin, I had planned to show this with his blood turning darker until it was black. And that would show through his skin. Dark black veins. I thought this was cool.
So did Sara. She has a character whose veins turn black for a vaguely similar reason. So this felt too close.
Second, my fairies traveled through thin places. The Celts said that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in thin places that distance is even shorter. I liked this idea of doorways the fae people could travel through. So in my story, I decided that magical doorways could be formed anytime there was a combination of magic and water. I loved this idea. I especially loved that Drake could look into a glass of water and talk to his Grounder soldiers back home. Alas, in Unblemished, one travels between the realms through bodies of water. They swim through it and come up on the other side. Still, it felt too similar. To leave that as is in my story felt like I was copying that element as well.
Now, if I was writing for the adult fantasy market, I might just leave it as is. But since Sara wrote for YA fantasy readers and I'm writing for YA fantasy readers, it's pretty much the same market. And so these two things need to change.
I imagine you all have experienced this somewhere in your own writing/brainstorming. And, to be honest, it stinks! It's hard when you have things just so and are forced to start over and brainstorm something new. I get it. This sometimes happens during the editing stage of the story as well. Your editor might point out that something isn't working. And you might agree. But you also know that to fix it will take SO MUCH WORK. And you just want to weep.
Thankfully, my problems are not that much work to fix, though I really, really liked both of those things. And so I emailed Stephanie and Shannon and whined a little and asked what I should do. Because we all need to commiserate sometimes. Stephanie suggested I ask myself what other things show death in a body? What if this dying showed itself more like leprosy or nerve damage?
And as to the thin places, she asked what about something like hot springs or geysers? Sinkholes or Yellowstone where the ground is so unsteady, they've had people fall through crumbling ground?
I'm not sure yet what to do. I need to brainstorm, that's for sure. And I might not find a satisfying answer for a very long time. In fact, I might have to write the story and leave holes where such things would be described. Once I figure out how to fix those things, then I can go back in and edit. But that's where I'm at today.
Have you ever found your ideas in another book? Did you leave them or change them? If you changed them, how did you come up with something new? Share in the comments.
And if anyone has ideas how to fix my problems, feel free to share that too! ;-)