Ugly Addie

UglyAddieWritingPrompt.png

They call me Adrianna the Beautiful. But I was peasant born and Addie had been my name.

I grew up in a village that bordered the west side of the Ancient Grove, the woods where the Sorcerer of the Caverns had made his domain.

For generations, the people steered clear of the dark forest of the Ancient Grove because everybody knew the Sorcerer preyed on the hearts of young girls and virgin women so he would never die.

Yet every so often a pretty maiden from the village succumbed to the Sorcerer’s temptation, only to show up one day with a breast empty of the heart she had sold and the look of smut about her.

They were fools, those women. What excuse could they have had, after hearing cautionary tales about the Sorcerer since they were children? I found that the girls who fell often had dreams and desires bigger than their comfortable lives could satisfy.

Most of the Sorcerer’s conquests were middle class girls, daughters of merchants and officials. Most highborn maidens were out of reach, and of course, the Sorcerer never bothered with the peasant girls.

The ones who had any beauty at all were usually defiled through force or deceit by the patron sons and merchant men of the village before the Sorcerer got to them.

Yet even for those peasant beauties who exercised the prudence to protect their maidenheads, the relentless hard labor of their lives destroyed their allure along with any fairy tale dreams they may have had.

I was not one of those personable peasant girls.

From time to time, I received a compliment about my eyes on those scarce occasions when anybody bothered to really notice me. But I had been born to be a human mule, that’s how most people saw me, and I certainly looked the part.

Made for arduous work, my body was stocky and sturdy, with muscular hands and meaty fingers. My skin was thick and sallow, my wide face cursed with pockmarks. The mane of horses was softer than my hair, which was frizzy and the color of mud.

No possibility of a fairy tale twist of fate for me. It was impossible that I would even get work as a house servant, where at least I might have married a steward. Our patron and patroness preferred pretty girls as housemaids, and I was hideous.

I was meant for the fields, the hardest labor, and the longest hours. Every year, in the peak of harvest, my fingers never stopped bleeding, that’s how long and hard I worked.

The lay of the land where I worked added insult to injury.

The Big House, where our patrons resided, stood at the crest of a small mound overlooking the vast fields where we peasants labored. So our ruling family could look down on us, while we couldn’t look up without being assaulted with opulence of the Big House.

It was ugly too, the color of rotten food retched from starving bellies with so many curlicues and carved shapes of satyrs and nymphs pointlessly frolicking around its façade. We often got headaches if we stared at it for too long.

Of course, the hideous manor boasted every luxury. The sight of that monstrosity made it impossible for any of us to forget where we were or for whom we worked.

My people worked for one of the most tyrannical patron families in the country. They were cruel, greedy, and despotic. Once a family was in debt to them, their lineage would be enslaved for eternity.

Everybody around us had been indentured by an impossible debt to pay off. No matter how hard we worked, the money owed grew every year from the ridiculous tariffs and penalties added. There was no end to the drudgery and misery of our lives, especially fifty years ago.

My people had been indentured to them for too many generations to count. The burden of paying off the never-ending debt was especially painful for me because I was an only child. Even though I had been fully productive since I was fourteen, my parents were worked into the ground until my sixteenth birthday.

As ugly as I was, it was improbable I would marry and birth progeny to this misery. Since I was most likely the last of my family line, I was treated even more brutally than everybody around me. At least once a week, I had welts on my back and bruises on my belly from being whipped and beaten for the most inane offenses.

Of course, I despised my patron and patroness. Grateful for minor mercies, they only had two children, a daughter and a son; and they were exactly the kind of people one would expect from such a family.

They were always above their company even though they had no superior qualities beyond inherited status and wealth. The son was so foolish, lazy, and frivolous, it was a stretch of the imagination to picture such an imbecile as the next patron in the village.

But the enmity I felt for the parents paled in comparison for the loathing I had for their daughter.

PS This 1st person narrative is an excerpt is out of my WIP, “The Shepherd and the Courtesan.” If you’d like to read the previous excerpt, “I Used to be Ugly,” click here.

For the Love of BackStory!

Writing.Advice.

Fiction has changed a lot, and really, not necessarily for the better.

My fiancée used to teach high school English, so she stayed current on YA fiction. She has a particular love for YA dystopian fiction, but she even read YA fiction she didn’t like to stay on top of what her students were reading.

Like me, she has loved to read her all her life. But I have given up on most contemporary fiction because I think most of it has gone down the toilet. She agrees, and insists that most of the great writing right now is happening in YA.

If I had to guess, I bet one of the reasons why is YA doesn’t cut out backstory.

I read voraciously when I was a kid. Growing up, I read mostly commercial junk and did not become actively interested in the classics until I was in college.

But one thing most of my favorites novels had in common was that the backstory was a crucial part of developing the core plot. Novels were often hundreds of pages long, and far longer than the 100,000-120,000 word limit of what is now considered an epic.

What made up all those pages and words? Backstory. The backstory of each of the characters before they came to be a part of the main plot line was anything but shortchanged, usually described in great detail.

these were incredible stories and I loved falling into those worlds.

The biggest mistake I made with my first novel of the Ella Bandita stories (Ella Bandita and the Wanderer) was cutting out so much backstory. The reason why? Because I was trying to get traditionally published, and all the agents and editors insisted on a word count between 70,000 and 110,000 words.

Sometime after the 80’s, novels became shorter; backstory was only a succinct mention, and in many cases all but disappeared. If the story is one that takes place in a short frame of time, that would work fine most of the time. But how can anybody have the space to disappear into another world when that universe is so constricted?

It didn’t work for me.

The criticism pointed out the most often in my reviews is due to the lack of backstory. The critical readers expressed an inability to connect or understand the main character.

For a long time, I’ve known I need go back and rewrite it, add that backstory. But I simply couldn’t do it. I wrote and rewrote and cut out large chunks of that first novel so many times, the thought of working on it anymore made me weary.

There comes a time when you have to move on to the next book, so I did. Lesson learned, but ouch, that hurt.

Then it occurred to me that I could add to it.

Since Ella Bandita and the Wanderer was written as novella segments, I could take those 75 pages that had been cut, mainly written from the The Horse Trainer’s point-of-view, and put them before Birthing Ella Bandita.

I could also write a novella in the 1st person from her mother’s point-of-view, in the final days of her pregnancy, knowing that childbirth was going to kill her. That could be at the beginning. The main character would still be at the start of the story, even if she’s in utero.

Of course, this changes the entire tone of the novel, and the name needs to change. I think the name of the final novella of the novel as it is right now would work beautifully - The Heart of the Lone Wolf.

It makes sense, really. All the important characters in this novel are alone.

Right now I’m working on the 2nd draft of the 2nd novel in the Ella Bandita stories. When I finish, I’ll take a break from it and go back to the 1st novel and make those additions. It shouldn’t take too long and it will make a nice break from this draft.

As far as the 2nd novel work-in-progress is concerned, my working titles are: The Shepherd and the Courtesan, or The Art of Taking Chances.

Oh and the Courtesan has a juicy backstory. Even if the transformation of an ugly peasant girl named Addie into the legendary Adrianna the Beautiful has nothing to little to do with the main plot, I’m writing it and it’s staying.

Why? Because it’s good. Even if it makes the novel more expensive to print, it’s going in. Besides that’s the beauty of ebooks.

Maybe the glorious backstory can find its way back in to the pages of novels, now that printing may not be such an expense.