A few days ago I put up a couple of tweets that said:
- Daunting: writing 2nd book in series while knowing that 1st set up certain reader expectations.
- Needed imperfect heroine. The challenge? Finding the perfect imperfection! But I have it now!
Several people have told me that the thing they liked about Talia in THE SEVENFOLD SPELL is that she was imperfect. She is downright ugly, and no, she doesn’t get prettified by the end. She does have some good features, and she does capitalize on them, but the only significant change in her appearance by the end is she is cured of her warts. (Yes, I gave her warts. I’m mean that way.)
My heroine in my Cinderella retelling has been giving me a lot of trouble because she didn’t have much in common with Talia. I thought, would anyone who read THE SEVENFOLD SPELL even be interested in reading a heroine like Yvette? She is kind of pretty without being beautiful, which is very typical of my heroines. To their own men, they are beautiful. But to the rest of the world? Meh–not bad.
I’ve had several challenges that I’ve tried to solve by asking myself two questions:
Why should my readers care?
I’ve tried to solve this by giving the reader an injustice to care about right from the start. Therefore I have this young woman who, because her father left his business to her, now has two dependent aunts, one of whom is also her stepmother. They all work together to earn their living as seamstresses. They don’t always work together harmoniously. The injustice? They are hounded by a cheating moneylender, who by the way also wants to marry Yvette. And he is willing to coerce her. He thinks Yvette is an easy target because she has a disability from a childhood injury, and she walks with an uneven gait.
In short, the guy is a bully. And in his mind, a bullied wife is an ideal wife.
Why should my character care?
In my story, my character saves the Cinderella character (who I’ve renamed) from jealous fellow ball-goers. But why should she do such a thing? Why doesn’t she just stand by, like everyone else, and watch while Cinderella is humiliated?
To solve this problem, I did a couple of things. One is I made my character older than Cinderella by at least five years. Cinderella is very young, and rather ganged-up-upon.
Two, I gave them a shared misfortune. It seems that Cinderella’s father married her stepmother for her money, and not only did he run through her personal fortune with his wastrel ways, but he left them in debt when he died. And who is their debtholder?
That’s right–the same moneylender who is hounding Yvette.
Therefore, rather than being an ogre, the stepmother has a valid reason to be resentful of Cinderella. She makes an agreement with the moneylender in exchange for two sets of gowns and finery for her own daughters. There simply isn’t money for Cinderella to have a gown, which she uses as an excuse because Cinderella would only outshine her own daughters if she went as well. Petty? Yes–but she believes she is justified.
So what kind of agreement did she make with the moneylender? I think I know.