Candidate #3: The Red Girl

Okay, FINE random number generator. FINE. You really want to hear the story of the red-skinned orphan beauty, don’t you? Fine.

Oh, hi, human visitor. Thank you for stopping by, um… hold on..

Okay. If you have no idea what’s going on here, start with this post first.

If you’d like, you can read the first two candidates here: Slave Chip, Relief: A Place to Back Up

This next one is the same one that random number generator told me to post last time. I said “no.” Then it chose it again today. Stop being so random, random number generator!

Anyway. It’s pure adult fantasy (ugh, WHY does the word “adult” have that connotation? It’s not ADULT just “adult,” as in FOR adults. And it’s not THAT kind of fantasy. It’s high fantasy. Think Dungeons and Dragons, Tolkien, elves and trolls and demons). It’s about a beautiful and charming orphan girl adopted into a noble family, but whose identity harbors a dark and bloody secret that could spell the end of all that is good in the world.

Working Title: Tiefling

Lady Jayne was not the first to hear it through the whistling of the night wind. The two maidservants at the front of the line were.

“What is it, girls? What do you fear? None shall harm us here.”

“No, m’ lady,” said Beatrice. “I thought I heard a weeping babe, is all.”

Jayne took a torch from one of the girls, and pressed past them, around the curve of the rock. The wailing ceased the moment torchlight fell upon the tiny infant, dirty and bald and, for all that, the most beautiful child Jayne had ever seen. Its dark skin seemed to glow with rosy light. Two amber eyes gazed at Jayne with astounding intelligence, shards of color in them dancing like flame in the torchlight.

It had been many years since abandoning infants in these hills had been common. When he had come into the seat, her lord husband had forbidden the barbaric practice on penalty of death. And tonight of all nights, the most holy night of the year, these hills were sacred, open only to women of noble blood and pure heart.

In the moment that her eyes met those of the infant, however, Jayne thought none of that. She saw only the exquisite beauty of this girl child, and knew without a doubt that her presence here was a gift from the goddess. When Jayne lifted the infant into her arms, the milk sprang to her breasts.

“Beatrice, lend me your shawl.”

Jayne wrapped the child and held it to her own bare breast. She smiled at the ferocity with which the girl began to suckle. Turning to her party, she announced: “The child’s name is Evalyn, for she is greatly desired.”

The girl did not disappoint her fostering mother. By the age of one, she was speaking in complete sentences. By the age of two, thick waves of amber hair had grown to her waist. At the age of three, she spread flour to convert the front room to a winter wonderland, carried in stable mud to turn her bedroom into a swamp, and smiled with such perfect white teeth and dimpled cheeks that nobody minded.

At age four, she began pestering the library master for books on philosophy and mathematics, “and please, something I haven’t read already!” At age five, she challenged her twin brother—the same brother she had shared her mother’s breasts with—to a wooden sword duel, and won.

And when Evalyn was six, her mother made a discovery that threatened to shatter their world. She was brushing Evie’s hair for bed, running her hands through the luscious curls to smooth them down, when her hands stopped.

What was it? Had Evie hit her head and forgotten to mention it? No. There was another on the other side. Both bumps exactly the same, hard and sharp and terrifying. No, no. It was nothing. Her imagination was running away from her.

“Oh, Mummy,” said Evie, taking a break from the story she had been weaving about a fire princess and her pet dragon.

“Yes, my darling,” said Jayne, barely trusting herself to speak.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you. Why am I growing horns upon my head?”

5 thoughts on “Candidate #3: The Red Girl

  1. We come up with similar ideas, sometimes. Or we like similar things, because the idea I had for a character growing horns is very different setting-wise but would probably explore the same theme. You know there’s a movie coming out called “Horns” which is apparently doing something with this too.

    And now to kind of contradict myself, this one didn’t really grab me. It’s a little too perfect-child for me. I’d be more interested if you cut out the part where she was speaking full sentences at 1, etc. Or if you do have that, no one should be taking that in stride. I would think at least half of the population would be really, really freaked out and threatened by that, and then 30% would at least be unsettled, and then 20% wouldn’t care, but then they’re the types to sit around and watch reality TV all day so their judgment is questionable. (Okay, I’m being clever; maybe it’s more subjective than that.)

    Basically, the horns are just icing on the cake in this scenario.

    • Gotcha. This makes sense. Yes, she is a bit too perfect–I had the feeling she wasn’t compelling as a character. It was intended to contrast her dark origins and the consequences thereof, but I think you’re right that it’s not working as it is.

      I seem to like to start with characters who don’t have much in the way of character… I get better as I go. This is the problem I ended up with the MC in my WIP–I had to go back and completely rewrite him. The rest of the characters are interestingly flawed and complex, and he was just too goodie.

      I guess if I went with this one, I’d completely rewrite her… and I’m leaning toward not going with this one…

      Thanks so much for your feedback!

  2. I giggled at the “adult fantasy” thing. I remember years ago I had “fantasy” in one of my online profiles because I said I wrote fantasy, and some jerk instant messaged me and insisted that he wanted to “talk fantasys” (yes, that’s how he spelled it) and kept repeating that I had made myself available for such things through the very act of using that word. ::eyeroll:

    For the story, I might actually start with the dialogue instead of prefacing it with who heard it first (or tightening how you reveal who hears and who doesn’t) because for an opening, the sentences you’ve chosen aren’t particularly accessible.

    I thought the switch into “It had been many years since” blah blah blah was pretty rocky–the narrative voice for this piece seems like it hasn’t quite been found yet, I think. It feels detached throughout, though you may have intended that–especially since shortly after the infant is found, we’re treated to a montage of her earliest years. The lack of commentary on the child’s precocious development made me think either this is normal in this world OR you’re leaving out a lot. Considering she charms everyone, has an apparently accelerated hair growth rate, is super-intelligent, and is masterful with coordination, I was thinking there might be supernatural influence, but couldn’t tell whether this was considered odd or not. I would say this is somewhere in between where it needs to be, narratively; if this child’s effect on others and precocious development is highly unexpected, I’d want to see you take your time with showing the reactions and ramifications, OR I’d want you to back off even more and tell this story from a clear distance until we get to a POV character whose experiences aren’t going to be glossed over. I’ve seen a lot of fairy tales that read like “Once there was a child, X happened, here are her significant milestones, and then one day she did XYZ.” In other words, if you’re not going to let us watch you dig in at the beginning of the story, I think you need to dig faster.

    (And you seem to know, considering your commentary, that “inexplicably perfect child beloved by all, beautiful, precocious, incredibly intelligent, and mysterious” tends to be a trope that irritates the reader–the opposite effect that she has on her surrounding characters. So you’ve got to have a strategy to either make your audience like her or capitalize on their irritation, and I don’t know where you’re going with it, so I don’t know if you’re going to do that.)

    • Thanks, Julie! This provides useful insight. I started this piece quite a long time ago (YEARS) before I had developed much of a voice. I patched it up before posting, and it’s interesting to hear the ways in which my patch job isn’t working. :)

      If I pursue it (and I’m leaning against doing that right now), I’ll know exactly where to start.

      New one’s coming up tomorrow morning!

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