Written by Grace Mappes
He lingers in the back of my mind, his features and quirks coming to life on people I see in the streets. He has the disheveled hair and straightforward attitude of my American history TA and the naivety of a bright-eyed freshman girl I saw on the first day of orientation. This mysterious man, Marcavian (but he prefers Marc), is a prince who only exists in the depths of my mind and on various pieces of paper, most of which are long since destroyed. I created him about year and a half ago, inspired by an oncoming deadline and my best friend’s middle name. He is the only main character in nearly sixteen years of attempting to write fiction that has stuck with me day in and day out, begging to be written. Nearly every draft of my own fiction has gone unfinished and forgotten, just one failure among many. Nowadays I am more poet than author, but storytelling has stuck with me through the vehicle of young Prince Marcavian. One thing is certain in my mind: Marc is destined for an epic.
This thought re-emerged when I read Sandra Scofield’s How Important is the First Draft to Your Novel. One assertion that stood out to me was that the first draft of a piece reveals how an author must write a story for it to be most effective, whether it’s a piece of flash fiction or a series, a comedy or drama, limited or omniscient. My first draft telling Marc’s story was a short piece, around 1,500 words, where he played a minor character, but I soon discovered he needed an entire novel where he was the central focus. In my first attempt at the novel itself, around 7,000 words handwritten in the dog days of July, I realized that as passionate as I was about Marc and his world, I could not get away with just writing without a plan as I had been; my characters were too unhinged, the plot advancing too quickly. The trusting, hopeful nature that characterized pre-climax Marc in the first place wasn’t apparent beyond the first chapter; after that, he was too logical, too perfect, already the man he was supposed to be at the end of the book before any of the betrayals came out. I discovered that unbridled passion does not work for me, as that which is not restrained will run off of its own accord, much like that draft did. It will take at least another draft, a whole novel, for me to work out any more kinks in the story.
But before Scoville’s article, I had planned on just letting this character fall to the wayside as college and poetry took priority. Writing fiction is incredibly hard, and Scoville says it best: it takes a certain passion and perseverance to devote one’s life to writing a novel without losing interest or becoming burned out, as I’ve always done. But I found her inspiring. It doesn’t matter how long it takes an author to pump out a draft as long as they get it done. Everyone has different speeds and motivators. Over this winter break I plan on dusting off the creased sheet of paper containing my character profiles and getting to work on planning this novel, even if my only gain is the satisfaction of putting this fantasy world on paper.