You should probably know from this post that this NaNo I was working on a story called Secret of the Hazel Tree, which, when boiled down, pretty much is just a Cinderella retelling mixed with a murder mystery. I had so much much fun writing it, and it was an adventure. Boy, was it an adventure! I had the main plot written out beforehand, as well as the names of the principal characters, but this story has grown well beyond what I originally had planned. I wanted to write the entire novel in the month of November, perhaps finishing it the first week of December, and wrapping everything up at about 75,000 words. I hit 72K during NaNo, and I'm only about halfway done with the story. Yeah....
But I wanted to give you a few stats from the month, and then introduce you to some of the main and my favorite characters. So, hold on!
Daily Goal: 1,667
My Goal: 75,000
My Daily Goal: 2,500
Final Word Count: 72,250
My Average Per Day: 2,408
Finished: November 16th
First Word: Many
50K Word: Right
Final Word (so far): Road
Okay, so I didn't quite hit the 75K that I was hoping for, but I did manage to write 2500 words a day steadfastly for the first 20 days of the challenge. After that, I got sick, I had a concert to practice for, and my family went out-of-state to visit my grandparents for Thanksgiving, so writing got pushed aside for the final days of November. But it was a good month.
Are you ready to meet some characters? Some of these you may recognize from snippets of my earlier post, and some you may not. For a few of these characters, I've already cast them as certain actors/actresses, so I'll be including that information where I can.
The main character of SotHT is Celesta Le'Blancard. With light blonde hair and gray eyes, she is the only daughter of a low duke, and during the story, she is eighteen years old. Celesta has never considered herself very pretty and is a rather timid girl, people and conversations being her biggest fears, the perfect definition of an introvert, if you will. Obedience and meekness are two of the most important things to her, for even though she is a duke's daughter, her mother's death only widened the distance between Celesta and her father, and she would do anything to break the cold that surrounds him, even lowering herself to serve as a maid in her own house. Like most of my main characters, she doesn't care for tea (now I wonder how my own tastes could have established a pattern such as that? *cough*), and something that most people don't know about her is that she climbs trees. And thoroughly enjoys it.
Meet Julien Edmé Kristophe Rey, crown prince of Troisem. It took me a while to pin down his physical features, as Julien is a rather stubborn character and doesn't like to help me out with anything. But I think this is him, portrayed by actor Douglas Booth and in possession of Flynn Rider's smolder. Rich and famous, Julien is just what you'd expect out of an ideal prince, and though he doesn't think it beneath himself to help others, his flaws come in his royal behavior. At almost twenty-one, he is quite the ladies' man, known for giving compliments and attention in a playful manner, and often leads girls of noble birth to believe that he intends to marry them with reckless and thoughtless words. His careless attitude towards his throne causes his mother to believe that an actual marriage will be the only thing to steady him, so she proposes that they hold a grand event for his twenty-first birthday, during which he must choose a betrothed, a choice that Julien has no intention of making.
Denstan Kronward was one character I hadn't planned on at all. It wasn't until writing the first scene with the prince that I realized that Julien needed some kind of attendant, and that's when Denstan walked into the picture. Or rather, out of the carriage. At first, I thought him a somber, boring older man who didn't have the facial muscles to bother with a smile. Yet, I soon found out, just as Celesta did, that Denstan was nothing like that. Growing up in a farming community gave him big dreams of serving in the famed Musketeers of the Guard, a special contingent of soldiers given the privilege to protect the royal family, and Denstan's assigned position is bodyguard to the Crown Prince. He's considered Julien's best friend, for the two are often together, despite Denstan's being almost a dozen years older. Denstan works hard to prove himself a worthy musketeer and remains solemn on purpose, thinking that's how musketeers are supposed to be, yet if you can catch him off-duty, he's witty, funny, and one of the nicest guys you'll ever know.
Another unplanned surprise! When writing about the manor Celesta lived in when she was eight years old, I automatically stuck maids in to tend to the chores and be the stiff, uncaring beings that most servants usually are, but Kadsa protested that status. Sure, at first, she can come off as just a maid, but after her mother's death, Celesta finds a true friend in Kadsa. Indeed, it was Kadsa, the daughter of a timber farmer, who taught Celesta to climb trees. Kadsa loves laughing and talking and spending time with the ones she loves, yet she has a hard time letting go of things in the past. She and Denstan knew each other when they were younger, but before he left for the musketeers, they quarreled terribly, and Kadsa has never been able to forget it. Meeting up with Denstan a few years later proves a challenge for Kadsa as she thinks the memory of the quarrel too bitter to try to mend the friendship.
Duke Gerarn Le'Blancard is Celesta's father, and his has been an interesting role to write because I've never before written a father like him. The original inspiration for the duke was Gerard Butler (hence the similar names), but since then I've found his appearance looks more like the above picture of Jason Isaacs, who I've only ever seen in the 2003 adaption of Peter Pan. Only take away the collar. I can't stand that thing. Duke Le'Blancard has always been of a business mind, so his marriage to a baron's daughter was more strategy on his side than real love, although Celesta's mother loved him well enough to marry below her high noble station. After his wife's death, he drew even further away from his daughter and eventually remarried as he deemed Celesta needed a mother to guide her. Although he means well, people say that his is a heart turned cold, and the love that Celesta desperately seeks is nonexistent.
And.... for a lack of picture inspiration, I'm going to save other characters for a later post, those characters being my absolute favorite housekeeper ever, Ahna, and Cinderella's legendary stepmother and her two pampered daughters. Stay tuned!
But before I go... snippets, of course. You're welcome.
“Ya want a father an' a real family who will love ya fer all time.”
With a hiccup, the girl nodded. “And I don't have that! He left me, Ahna! He left. And now I think he'll never come back at all!” She threw herself against Ahna and let her grief flow unchecked onto the housekeeper's shoulder. Ahna stroked her back, trying to calm her, whispering soothing words all the while.
It was not often that Celesta gave way to her emotions so freely in front of people, and that was something Ahna knew well. She counted herself lucky to be one of the only ones to whom Celesta would sometimes open freely and say what she was truly feeling and thinking, although she worried that the little girl kept too much hidden away.
The housekeeper pursed her lip distastefully. For one dreadful moment, she imagined the stolid face of the duke and thought the image a rather excellent target. The thought was fleeting, as the heaviness of the nine year old girl in her arms reminded her that while the duke may be deserving of any and all bad things that could possibly happen, he was still Celesta's father, and Ahna wouldn't hurt her for the world. All the diamonds in Troisem couldn't press her to do that.
Ahna entered the kitchen with a basket of laundry on her hip just as Veroniscen left. The two, both paying attention to what was in their grasp, collided briefly. Veroniscen let out a startled cry as Ahna's heavy work shoes trod on her toes and then hissed in the housekeeper's face, “You clumsy ox! If the duke didn't keep you here out of kindness, you'd be out in the street in a minute if I could have my way!”
Ahna's lips pursed, but she didn't spit, although Celesta could tell she dearly wanted to. “Well, the magpie should watch where she's goin' iffen she doesn't want 'er feathers ruffled. Ya would think a little slip 'o a girl like ya would be able ta walk without runnin' inta people.”
Veroniscen growled and flounced out of the room, elegantly-shaped nose turned high in the air. Ahna rolled her eyes and then walked immediately to the fireplace. Without warning, she leaned over the hearth, laundry still perfectly balanced on her hip, and spat into the back corner.
“One 'o these days, that girl is gonna find I can't 'old it back, and sufferin' cats, is she gonna get it. The duke keeps me out of kindness.”
“Look at the state of her face and attire, Mother. She's been obviously sleeping in the fireplace again, no doubt.” Veroniscen stated softly.
Her deliberate gaze caught Celesta's blush far too easily, and although the younger girl tried to hide it, she knew she would never live down the mistake of three years ago when she had fallen asleep while cleaning the ashes out of hearth in the kitchen. Veroniscen had woken early that morning and had entered the kitchen with the purpose of sneaking something to eat and later blaming it on her stepsister if the food was discovered missing, yet her great plans faded immediately when she caught sight of Celesta sleeping among the cinders.
“We should change your name to Cinderesta if you insist on appearing such as that.” Veroniscen continued with a disdainful sniff towards Celesta's smudged face and stained apron.
“Cinderella!” Georgettica laughed from the corner where she had The Count finally resting on a soft cushion. Her shout, however, ruined whatever advances she had made, for as soon as it left her mouth, the puppy leaped up, ready for another rousing bout of playtime.
Veroniscen rolled her eyes in annoyance. “I said Cinderesta, Jetta. Not Cinderella.”
“That's what I said.” Georgettica replied hastily as The Count made a dash at her face, doing his best to smother his mistress in as many kisses as he could before she pulled him away.
“I myself prefer Cinderella,” the duchess stood up and tapped her fan agitatedly against her palm. “It has a dirtier ring to it than the other, and that is just what is proper at this moment."
Veroniscen grabbed her elbow and tugged her away from the door. Her vise-like grip clutched Celesta's arm uncomfortably, but the elder girl did not release it. She pulled Celesta down the hall and around the corner where she pushed her stepsister back against the wall.
“What was that?” She demanded in a harsh whisper. “Georgettica said a letter came. Who was it from? Was it from the prince?”
“No, of course not.” Celesta tried to move away, but Veroniscen latched onto her elbow again.
“Then who? Who sent the duke a letter?”
Celesta struggled in vain, but she at length gave in. “My uncle.”
“Uncle?” Veroniscen's mouth twisted. “You don't have an uncle. The duke was an only child.”
“He is my mother's brother.”
“Your mother's? Well, that's unfortunate. Why would he be writing to the duke?”
Celesta blinked back sudden tears. Even though her stepsister's comment was trite and quick, the words carved deeply into her tender heart. “He said my grandfather died.”
“Died?” Veroniscen fell back in astonishment. “Your family, Cinderella, had a stubborn hobby of dying. First your mother, now your grandfather. Were you close?”
Celetsa shook her head. “I never met him. I didn't even know I had a grandfather until today.”
Her stepsister's brow furrowed. “Then why is he writing to the duke now? If you didn't know about your grandfather, then why would anyone care to inform you of his death? There's more to this that just a simple hello and that's that, isn't there?”