How My Bad Grammar Gave Me My Plot

by Dominique Valente

The world of Starfell had existed for a number of years for me before the character of Willow Moss appeared around eight years ago. She emerged while I was driving home from work and thinking about the idea that so many fantasy stories feature ‘the chosen one’ – the lost princess who must save the kingdom, the only one with magic in a thousand years who must save the world, etc.

In some ways it annoyed me, because even in my own mind I couldn’t relate: I am no one special or likely to be a long-lost princess . . . It’s like the idea of ‘who you were in a past life’. When asked, everyone is always a king or a queen in their own minds, but chances are, most likely, you were not. There’s a high probability that you were some kind of serving maid or similar. And, while I was thinking this, the character of Willow Moss, aged twelve, with the worst magical ability in her family . . . appeared.

I started writing it the next day. I don’t know what it is about less-perfect characters, perhaps it’s that I relate more to them, but they have enormous appeal. It’s probably why I have always liked the witches and hags in fairy tales more than the princesses . . .

In a flurry of excitement, I shared my first chapter with my best friend, who was incredibly kind and supportive and had a field day fixing all my appalling grammar. What can I say? I aim to please.

One of these corrections was a query about a misplaced comma, which made it appear that, amongst misplaced wallets and wooden teeth, Willow had also found last Tuesday. Was this what I intended, my friend asked? Of course not, I answered. A missing day? How absurd . . . Only to sit up (three years later) while on holiday in France, realising that actually THAT could be the ENTIRE plot for book one! It was kind of a Eureka moment while I was trying to have a nap and my brain had other ideas.

It took a long time and many, many, many redrafts and many rejections (over twenty agents rejected it in various forms over the years) to really get a handle on what a missing day would involve, how it would impact everything, great and small, and what this might mean for an entire world.

This is why I think it took so long to write (seven years) and to finally get an agent once I’d got it to where it was before it was accepted for publication. One of the big advantages, aside from finally having it published, is that I now have an excellent excuse for bad grammar as you never know where it might lead . . .

This is a guest post by Dominique Valente and the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG. Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day is published by HarperCollins and is available now. 

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