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House With Bird Feet 3

Okay, one more short snippet, just because I really had fun with this bit, and because it illustrates a couple of points about writing.

First off, you may note that Sarah’s name has changed. I was not entirely happy with “Sarah.” It wasn’t quite right, and I stumbled over it a little whenever I typed it. It’s still early enough in the story that I can change it if I want, but we were getting to the point where her name would be set in mental stone. (Some characters you can’t rename after five minutes, if they have the right name, but if the name is a generic placeholder, you get some wiggle room. First person narrators can change names like shirts, for me, because their real name is “I.” The most agonizing is if you have to change after the book is nearly written, because it turns out somebody else wrote a book that came out ten minutes ago that has a character with the same damn name.)

“Summer” is better in my head. It may yet shift around, but I think I might have this one nailed down at last.

“The Purple Stained Glass Saint”

She looked down at the weasel. It looked back up at her and shrugged, a tiny shrug that rippled through its entire body.

“What do I do?” she whispered.

“I’ve no idea,” the weasel whispered back, “but you might start by watching where you were going.”

Summer was so startled to hear the weasel talking—although after the skull, she didn’t know why she’d be surprised—that she nearly dropped it. It whipped between her fingers, as quick as a skink, and threw its front paws around her thumb.

“Sorry,” whispered Summer. “You surprised me!”

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"Sarah" was wiser, "Summer" is more innocent. I think I liked Sarah better because she learns things more quickly.

This has a very Chrestomanci feel to it. I am quite taken and would love to read the finished product!

Also, thank you for describing your process as it's happening. It's a beautiful insight into your mind.

Personally, I like "Sarah" much better than "Summer". "Sarah" has a plain, normal-person sound, a name that doesn't stand out and doesn't demand attention, old enough to be included in the Bible but so commonplace most people wouldn't realize that. (Sarah isn't as famous a character as Moses, and such.) It makes her seem, in a vague, back-of-mind way, as ageless as Baba Yaga.

"Summer" has a more modern feel, spunkier, a bit hippie. It doesn't mesh as well with the ever-hovering mother.

And it would not surprise me if her heart's desire was to escape. She doesn't want to lose or hurt her mother, but she doesn't want to be chained to the back garden, either. To have an escape - an avenue out of her mother's grip, but outside of her notice as well. Except that would mean the trip into Baba Yaga's house gave her that already, which wouldn't make for much of a story!

"Except that would mean the trip into Baba Yaga's house gave her that already,"

Not necessarily. What she really wants probably isn't escape as in "I'm never going home," but escape as in "I will always have this sanctuary when I need it." I doubt she'll be allowed into Baba Yaga's house again (even though the house itself would probably like it), except maybe once to wrap things up when the adventure's over, so that's not it. Presumably she's now on the path to finding it (or creating, rescuing, whatever).

And I don't have much feeling one way or the other for "Sarah", but "Summer" doesn't seem right to me. Summer is already Becoming. This girl is being forcibly held back in Spring, and hasn't been allowed to Become. I'm feeling something floral, maybe. I want to say "Lily", but that might be a little too old-fashioned. (...says the not-a-published-author person, so please apply salt as needed.)

I know it's your story but I'm actually really sad about the name change. I'm a Sarah and it was cool to see a Sarah who wasn't a ninny and wasn't in a stupid story (I loathed Sarah, Plain and Tall).

This is really interesting. The weasel is delightful, the hall is unnerving, and the magic windows are fascinating, especially the part at the end where apparently the saint and angel images have been... working together to give her a sense of urgency about reading the book? (This also makes me wonder if these images or their sources are likely to recur and, if so, what they'll be trying to accomplish and whether they'll be at odds.)

On the choice of names and discussions thereof, I am inclined to think that, possibly, the type of dissonance some readers find in the name change may reflect that "Sarah"+overprotective was setting up some specific associations that resonate with a number of readers but that you didn't want. (Maybe that's why you didn't feel it fit?) */random amateur speculation*

I'm a Sarah, and I love the name change -- seeing my name there just wasn't sitting right with me. :) Perhaps it just felt too aggressively normal. Her mother is already so overprotective and her life so painfully normal that having a normal name was trying a bit too hard.

Also, I've never thought of Summer as a particularly flower-child name. By the standards of the hippy children I know, Summer is really quite mainstream. Nice season, generally regarded kindly, unambiguously feminine when applied to humans -- there's nothing particularly strange about Summer. I've known a Summer, and her parents weren't hippies, so far as I know.

Mostly, though, I'm aware that Character Names are very important as an author, and it is not our place as readers to be second guessing them. They click or they don't, and once they click, they aren't going to change.

EDIT: Oh, and for whatever odd reason (too much time on the internet) some of the lines from this are crying out to be used in images, with no explanation. Particularly "Of course it bites. It's a weasel." and "Perhaps they're very religious chickens."

Edited at 2012-09-04 08:24 pm (UTC)

Man, I love you're writing style! Granted, I've only really read your journals so far and now this snippet from an actual story, but I already knew I liked the way your mind works and how you use words. I haven't read much else that you've actually written because I'm perpetually broke and I know that when I find your books I will want to buy them, children's books and all. <3