Friday, March 11, 2016

High-Maintenance Horse

Aurelia is a fantasy. When I first began writing it, I thought of it as a story along the lines of Tamora Pierce or Patricia C. Wrede. I had no idea that it would become in any way “a horse book.” Though looking back now, I can see that the horses were already there—in Robert’s first conversation with Aurelia.

It wasn’t until chapter three, however, that I first met Horizon. Robert needed to go to the horse fair, and it was only natural that he ride a horse.

I didn’t realize at the time that I was creating a character.

Not an animal. Animals are easy. You guide them onstage, lead them around, and shoo them off when you’re finished.

Cars are even easier. You park one. You drive it. You wreck it. You have total control.

Not over Horizon. I should have known, from the beginning, that he was going to be a problem. He wouldn’t walk straight to the fair. Oh no, Robert had to ride him clear around the outskirts of the city. (Which allowed me to paint the setting and also to align the timeline within the book—character flaws can be useful!)

When I eventually needed to decide the climax for the novel, it just made since to have a horse race. By that point, I had a mysterious golden colt, a jockey for a villain, and a heroine who could ride. It didn’t matter that Horizon was Robert’s horse. Or that most women in this historical-fantasy era would have ridden sidesaddle. The race became the fastest—and easiest—scene I wrote within the entire book. And that includes all umpteen revisions.

It’s possible this success went to Horizon’s head.

You see, Robert has to ride everywhere. And after book one, he and Aurelia travel a lot. But they are never ALONE.

There is always this extra character getting in the way. I can’t open a scene without explaining the location of the horse. Is Robert riding? Is Horizon trailing behind? And if not, why not? Because you can’t just park Horizon anywhere. Or leave him with anyone. Not easily. Not without his having to protest. He is so real that I can’t refer to Robert as “he” without worrying that the pronoun might be confused with that of his frigging horse. (I have a similar issue with Falcon and Aurelia). Robert can’t even leave the country without having to say goodbye to Horizon.

Or return, in book three, without greeting said horse. Because, of course, Robert still needs Horizon in order to travel.

Truthfully, I can’t recommend turning your animals into living, breathing characters. It can be a royal pain.