Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just a stinking softpaw

Chapter 14, chapter 14. Hmmm.

Chapter 14 is the crux of one of my worries.

The Winter Child has a life of its own now. It takes me places I didn't know of, dipping into ravines and climbing hillocks that looked like flat country when we started the journey. I'm writing it, yes, but the story is leading the way.

But who am I writing for? At first, this was definitely a children's story, measured by mood, scope and pace as well as the buiding of plot and characters. But with more depth, more sinister villains, more chilling scenes, more hillocks and ravines, I suspect it grew up a little, becoming a story for young adults.

And yet, there are my teddyfolk, teddy bears who have finished their time in our world, either by being destroyed or by being packed into a box in the loft and just forgotten. Almost half of the people in my world are teddyfolk. They don't need to eat or sleep (though they can), and therefore make the best caravan knaves. They often have problems doing fiddly work with their soft paws (and that's how they get their nickname, softpaws), but they are incredibly strong and enduring, not to mention brave and loyal.

In The Winter Child, we meet Theodor, the stern and secretive historian, Doctor Kott, whose three fingers on both hands give him more dexterity, and Big Ted and Small Ted, twin grizzly bears who have yet to find a suitable occupation, since porcelain painting and lace knitting is sort of hard with no digits.

And then there is chapter 14, where we meet Søplehue, who has not yet got a perfect name in English (and it would be great if you could suggest one). In Norwegian, Søplehue literally means garbage head or garbage brains, but it's also a name you might call someone who makes a mess of things, who is dirty or slow, who is unsavoury or unreliable.

Søplehue has a rusty beer bottle top in lieu of a left eye, one of his ears bears the marks of badger teeth, he smells of old puke and mould and there are flies in his stuffing. His arms and legs have been sewn on with fat, black stitches, and he swears like a stranded pirate.

I love him.

But is he too childish for my story? Will young adult readers take one look at him and think that this is a story they're too old for? After all, he is no ice elf, no vampire, no evil knight or lost prince. Just a stinking teddy. It worries me.

I know you're supposed to kill your darlings, but I can't bring myself to off Søplehue, not unless evil future publishers make me.

See, I'm loyal, too. And a little clumsy, come to think of it. If it weren't for the endless munching of food and treats and the guilty, drowsy mornings, I'd make a perfect softpaw.

(Drawing by Kris)


Li:ne said...

Trash head?
Trash means both søppel and making a mess.

tone almhjell said...

Yes, you're on to something. How about Trasher?

Anonymous said...

soplehue with the rusty beer bottle left eye! already i want to know more....

tone almhjell said...

Michel, you give me hope! You're not seven, I presume...

Li:ne said...

Trasher is good. I want to know him!

Anonymous said...

seven. i had to really think that one over, and check your writing to see if i'd missed something. seven..ha! seven years! well, a long time ago i was seven. but i always thought 'kill your darlings' refered to those cliches and gerunds we love so, not teddyfolk. i very much like your story line, the teddy folk who have finished their time in our world. michel

Anonymous said...

It depends how you write the story. Really, it does. I have never heard of a YA book with sentient teddybears in it. But there's this other book. Watership Down. The one that I thought I would never finish. Because it's about rabbits. RABBITS. But Watership Down is wonderful. Priceless. Delicous. YA. And it's about rabbits. Wonderful rabbits.

So. I may be 17 for only a few more months, but while I still count as a young adult I'll say that if The Winter Child is good then I would read it. And if Soplehue and the rest of the teddyfolk are as fascinating as you say they are then I would love them too.


Kjeld said...

And I will buy a copy to everybody I know and give them as a pre Christmas gift :)
Love Kjeld