Originally posted on Dark Faerie Tales for the Poisoned Blade Blog Tour:
From the beginning I envisioned Court of Fives as a trilogy or maybe even as a quartet. When I first started thinking about the series I had an idea in which I would write the first book in Jes’s point of view and then add one sister’s pov to each subsequent book until the reader met all four “in person.”
So when I started writing the first draft of book two, Poisoned Blade, I tried writing in the point of view of Amaya, the youngest sister. She’s the pretty one who loves fashion and theater, who writes poetry, who pretends to dream of marriage even though she is really dreaming of a different kind of independence in a world that gives her few options. She’s over-dramatic and self-absorbed.
Here is the opening scene I wrote for her:
EXCERPT FROM FIRST DRAFT in Amaya’s Point of View:
Once upon a time, in a better world, a beautiful girl named Amaya Tonor, daughter of the honorable and exceptionally brilliant army officer Captain Esladas, attended the theater with her best and most beloved friend, the equally lovely Denya Tonor. Denya was the daughter of Captain Osfiyos who was also honorable but quite honestly not nearly as brilliant as Captain Esladas. However that fact is something a well bred young Patron woman would never mention in company and certainly not to her most doting and affectionate friend.
With what pleasure did Amaya and Denya watch their favorite play, the Hide of the Ox, for perhaps the hundredth time! They had every line memorized.
It so happened on that occasion that a pair of handsome cavalry officers looking quite dashing in the uniform of the king’s royal horse soldiers sat in the audience. Smote by the charming girls’ beauty and lively speech, the officers at once begged leave to address the solemn fathers, and begged leave to contract each a marriage with the girl who most caught his eye. Because the officers were well connected and rich, the fathers naturally agreed but with the proviso that the girls prove willing.
Thus it was that, holding hands, Amaya and Denya sat later that evening upon a garden bench while the two officers proclaimed themselves unworthy of the elegant delicacy and alluring virtue laid before them. Being officers, they would often be away fighting in the wars. But being brothers, as is the custom of Patron households, they shared a compound and thus the two girls would have each other to keep company with in the months and years their husbands were absent. Would these frequent and lengthy absences be an impediment too great an obstacle for the girls to leap?
No! No! the girls assured them. It would be entirely suitable and just what they most desired.
Once upon a time, in a better world, this is the story that would have unfolded upon the stage of my life.
Meanwhile my insensitive older sister Maraya faces me in the empty common room of the dump of an inn we now live in. As if kindly scolding a slow-witted child, she tells me I have to cut my glorious hair and smear mud on my face so I won’t be possibly be recognized by customers while I serve drinks and clean the floors at this ghastly ramshackle tavern.
“I won’t cut my hair just because you have brewed up a hundred horrible happenstances that will never come true!” I protest as Maraya crosses her arms, callously unimpressed by my reasonable retort. “Even if our father is a famous general now, ten days ago he was nothing more than a humble lowborn captain. He kept us four girls under such a tight rein it’s astounding he ever let me attend the theater with Denya and her family at all! No one will recognize me, especially now that most of the army has left the city.”
Maraya blocks the door that opens onto the street. “If Lord Gargaron’s stewards catch sight of you on the street, they will run to tell his lordship immediately.”
“Lord Gargaron and his stewards only saw me once, Merry. I know I have the sort of pleasingly beauteous face that attracts notice, but it strikes me as implausible that important Patron men would remember me.” If I catch her by surprise and shove her to the left, I might be able to bolt out the door before she can grab me. I can’t breathe in here! So I chatter on, hoping to distract her before I make my move. “It’s unfair I’m not even allowed to go to the market and buy food!”
“Amaya, can you think about something other than yourself for a single blink of an eye? Don’t you recall that Lord Gargaron had Father investigated to make sure he was the brilliant military commander who kept winning victories that gave honor and glory to Lord Ottonor? Don’t you recall that Lord Gargaron had Lord Ottonor murdered? He knows everything about us. He knew Jes secretly ran the Fives. Not even Father knew that!”
“Jes is the selfish one, not me! She ruined everything for the rest of us by sneaking out to run the Fives when she knew Father would never allow any of his daughters to do such a thing.”
“Don’t change the subject.” Maraya pierces my five souls with a deadly flat stare that makes me feel like a bug she is too bored to squash. “You ought to be grateful to Jes, since she is the one who rescued us from a living death in an oracle’s tomb.”
“Of course I am grateful but this wretched compound might as well be my tomb if I can’t ever leave its walls.” I sob a little, as actresses do to show the depth and intensity of their scorned feelings.
“Do you have any idea how tedious you are, Amaya?”
“You have the heart of a fish! Cold and sluggish!”
She snorts indelicately. “Is that a quote from a bad play?”
“No!” I say quickly, even though it is a line from a play I wrote, which no one knows about except Denya.
“Thank the gods,” she replies.
“No one appreciates me!” I mutter in an undertone, but Maraya hears me and in reply sighs so heavily her disparagement might as well be a huge wreath of withering flowers shedding dying petals all around her.
“Amaya? Maraya? Are you in here? It’s so dim without the shutters open.”
Mother appears at the curtain that hides the kitchen from the front room where drinks and food are served. She has to lean against the wall to hold herself up.
I rush over to her. “You shouldn’t be walking yet, Mother! Did the healer give you permission to get up? You are supposed to stay in bed until the bleeding stops.”
“What a scold you have become, Amaya,” says Mother in her gentle voice as she takes my hands and squeezes them. As if she needs to reassure me! Her grip is so frail.
I burst into tears, fear choking my voice until it comes out as a leaky squeak. “You must go back to bed, Mother. You were so sick. Here, let me help you.”
Maraya hurriedly limps over to us and takes Mother’s other arm.
But instead of going back to her bed Mother sinks onto a bench, so we sit beside her. Although I no longer fear she will simply cease breathing and die while she sleeps, her normally radiant complexion looks gray with weariness. “I would like to see other walls just for a little bit. Let me rest here a while.”
After I wrote this I was surprised at how self-conscious Amaya’s voice was. As a writer I wasn’t sure whether that coyness was truly her voice, or whether *I* hadn’t gotten into the heart of her yet.
Regardless, it quickly became apparent for other reasons that the Court of Fives trilogy is Jes’s story to tell. I decided against using any other point of view except Jes to keep the story streamlined and focused, just as Jes herself is very focused, and I’ve been really happy with that decision as it plays out in Poisoned Blade and in book three, which I’m revising now (for a 2017 publication).
However, there were a couple of lines from my attempt to write in Amaya’s point of view that I wanted to keep, so when I wrote a scene toward the beginning of Poisoned Blade in which Jes visits her family, I managed to work those in.
EXCERPT FROM POISONED BLADE:
A drab curtain separates the front room [of the inn] where drink and food are served from the back where they are prepared. I smell bread grilling, but it is the familiar voices of my older and younger sister rising behind the curtain that captures my attention.
“It’s unfair I’m not even allowed to go to the night market!”
“To do what, Amaya? We don’t have money to buy anything. If Lord Gargaron’s stewards catch sight of you on the street, we’ll be discovered.”
“Lord Gargaron and his stewards only saw me once, Maraya. I know I have the sort of pleasingly beauteous face that attracts notice, but it strikes even me as implausible that important Patron men would remember.” By the strength of Amaya’s wheedling I can hear she has recovered from her near death by poisoned candied almonds in the tomb. “I can’t breathe in here! It doesn’t even have to be the night market. I’ll hide my face beneath a shawl and walk down by the water and breathe fresh air and listen to the mellifluous cries of the wind-kissed birds who are allowed to y free. Unlike me.”
“Do you have any idea how tedious you are, Amaya?”
“You have the heart of a sh! Cold and sluggish!” Amaya sobs as third-rate actresses do to show the depth and intensity of their scorned feelings. “This wretched compound might as well be my tomb if I can’t ever leave its walls.”
“Help me,” whispers Polodos with a look of such desperation that I giggle.
An abrupt silence follows my betraying laugh.
The curtain twitches as a person on the other side hooks it open just enough to peek through. I would know those lovely eyes anywhere.
I say, “Amaya, if you cut off all your hair, smear mud on your face, and wear a dirty canvas sack with a hole cut for your head, then you can safely go to the market without being recognized.”
With a shout of excitement, Amaya plunges into the room, flings herself upon me, and bursts into sobs while clutching me so tightly I have trouble breathing.
Maraya limps in, smiling. “Oh, Jes, I am so glad to see you! I was afraid it would be unsafe for you to visit us.”
They look just as they did back when we all lived well protected at home, only without the fashionable clothing, perfectly beribboned hair in the most up-to-date style, and fragrant oils and perfumes to hide the smell of sweat. Had we grown up without a successful Patron father who acknowledged us, girls like us might have lived in a place like this, scrambling to make a living and able to afford only cast-off dresses and mended muslin shawls for wrappings.
“How is Mother?” I ask into Amaya’s hair. When she hesitates I shove her to arm’s length, gripping her shoulders so hard she winces. “What’s wrong?”
“Jessamy? Is that you?” Mother appears at the curtain. She has to lean against the wall to hold herself up. She is as tall as I am, and the most beautiful person I know. But right now her dark brown complexion is sheeny with perspiration; her magnificent cloud of hair has been bound under a scarf; no earrings or jewelry ornament her, all the little gifts Father used to shower upon her. She coughs weakly. I rush over but Amaya bolts past me to reach her first.
“You shouldn’t be walking yet, Mother! You are supposed to stay in bed until every trace of bleeding stops.”
“What a scold you have become, Amaya,” says Mother in her gentle voice as she takes my hands as if she needs to reassure me. Her grip is so frail that I fear I might squeeze hard enough to shatter her without meaning to. “I am so glad you have come back, Jessamy. Is Bettany with you?”
Anguish chokes my voice until it comes out as a leaky squeak. “You must go back to bed, Mother. You were so sick. Here, let us help you.”
Amaya takes Mother’s other arm.
She sinks down onto the nearest bench. “I would like to see other walls just for a little while. I have not been out of that tiny room since we came here.”
Amaya and I sit on either side, snuggling close against her as we used to do when we were little.
For me, a large part of writing and revising is knowing when to discard an idea or approach, however painful it may be to throw out work I’ve already done, and when to repurpose it, as in the rewritten Jes-narrated scene. Experimenting with Amaya’s point of view gave me some insight into how the sisters interacted that I might not have noticed otherwise. That’s the great thing about experimentation during the first draft: It might turn out brilliantly, or you might have to throw it away, but regardless it’s a great way to look at your story from a different angle.
(Thank you again to Dark Faerie Tales for hosting this guest post!)