A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
My name is Alice. For now. Her choice, not mine. I don’t get choices.
I was Stella originally, which I loved – it means star, and though I’m one of three main characters, I do think of myself as the star of the novel. (I can’t tell you the title because she doesn’t have one yet.) She changed my name because she thought it was too pretty. God knows what I might end up as by the final draft. It’ll be something frumpy though, given the path she seems to be steering me in. I hope it’s not Dulcie: that means sweet, and I’m not.
At least, I’m not in this draft. I dread to think what twists and personality changes she has in mind for me. Though if they involve giving me more fun and action, then bring it on, say I. (Oh no, I don’t: it’s 1919; I wouldn’t say that. That’ll be edited out. She’ll scribble ANACH in the margin.)
This is meant to be a day in my life. Ha! You wouldn’t want to know, trust me. At the moment that life is hard and unhappy, and even though I’m middle class, I do a lot of chores because it’s hard to get domestic help since the war. The woman I love has died horribly and I can’t be seen to grieve for her as it was a love that dared not speak its name. I have to look after my sixteen-year-old sister-in-law Jessie, and she gets all the best lines. She’s all passion and misunderstanding and she has a rich, if to my mind ridiculous inner life. Then there’s my brother. He has just come home from the war, so of course he’s the romantic lead, and being a man he gets to do and think things that are barred to me. Jessie gets the laughs; Eddie gets all the war-scarred romantic stuff, and I get to burn the breakfast because I am unaccustomed to cooking. I’ve a good mind to turn to drink, but she says no, that’s not what she has in mind for my arc, whatever that may be.
We all have secret sorrows – after all, we’re point-of-view characters – but I’m so busy thinking dull, sad thoughts and answering the door that I have no time to indulge mine properly. Sometimes she sends me on a rather aimless walk through the streets of post-war Belfast and I know perfectly well she’s just using me for a bit of scene setting. Oh look, here I am on a tram! Hey readers, I’m walking past the City Hall in the rain!
Then there’s the whole physical appearance thing. I’m 34 and stocky and ordinary-looking. Thanks, Sheena! Why didn’t she make me younger and prettier? (Jessie, the cow (ANACH!), has night-black hair and big blue eyes.) I know I come across as an embittered spinster, but that’s Sheena’s fault – she needs to be careful about that. She keeps assuring me I’m going to have this amazing journey and that by the end I will be Fulfilled in a way I can’t yet imagine. (What she means is, she doesn’t know what it is yet because she can’t think of it.)
It’s no fun, being a character in a first draft.