I’m on a break from my ongoing work on my ongoing Phantom trilogy, and have turned back to the Beauty and the Beast novella I co-wrote with several writer friends. It happened that I wrote my two (early in the book) chapters before the rest wrote theirs. Which was fine for all plot purposes, because we had a good outline, but it means none of their characters had been created yet. (It probably also gave an opportunity for prominence to Archambault, my footman-turned-coat rack who’s running around the castle with a feathered hat and a pink fur coat, but that’s a different point entirely…)
Now that I’m revising and we’re working on tying our respective chapters more closely together, I’m trying to get more characters into these early chapters. Mostly just a glimpse, partially because my chapter one POV character really doesn’t care about any of them (she’s like that)–but it’s been fun working in those glimpses.
Here’s an excerpt, including no less than seven characters (plus music being played by three others), who will all have their moments of importance as the story goes on.
“Now then,” I said once I was inside. I shook snow off my cloak and looked over the two footmen standing in the hallway—both quite common fellows, one with long stringy hair and the other young, with freckles and very big eyes. I do like how impressed common folk get. As they should. I pointed a long bony finger at the impressed footman. “Where can I find your prince?”
He stammered for a moment, then blurted, “…in the ballroom?”
“Oh, is there a party? I do love parties!” I exclaimed, clasping my hands together. I didn’t need directions to the ballroom. I had been to this castle before, if a few generations previous. I set off, ignoring the futile protests of the butler behind me.
I could hear music playing somewhere away through the halls, a piano, possibly some string instruments, but it didn’t seem to be from the direction of the ballroom.
I turned a corner, and found a weeping woman standing in the hallway with a big armful of books. What a perfectly ridiculous place to stand weeping. I paid her no attention, continuing my cronish shuffle past.
She blinked, staring at me. “Who…?” she began.
“Business with the prince, dearie!” I said with a cackle and kept moving.
“He’s not in a good mood,” she murmured.
Well, perhaps he wasn’t in a good mood for weeping women. I never indulge in such nonsense. I kept on, letting no other servants I passed deter me from my mission. Most ignored me as I ignored them. I turned another corner and went past the library, glancing through the door just long enough to see a man balanced at the top of a sliding ladder, straightening a portrait, while a dark-haired young woman steadied the ladder below. How nice to see servants performing a useful function. A good sign.
Not so good a sign when I encountered another footman, this one deep in the castle and more bold than the first two. He dared to step forward, and reach for my arm. “Aren’t you lost?”
“Business with the prince,” I said again, more firmly, and waved him off, putting magic behind the gesture. He stumbled backwards and clumsily crashed into a suit of armor, sending it falling to pieces in a very unpleasant clatter. I sniffed my disapproval, skirted around him and kept walking.