Reading over yesterday’s study of Perpetua’s possible story within The NIght Girl, I’m not satisfied. Introducing Perpetua’s mother into the proceedings seems too complicated. Making Perpetua younger offers some intriguing possibilities, but I fear it reduces some of what I liked about the character. Maybe the story is just not meant to be a YA novel, and I should try marketing it as an all-ages urban fantasy novel.
I talked to Erin about this last night. I asked her what she liked most about the story as it stood, and what she felt was its greatest flaw. The answer surprised me. For her, the heart of The Night Girl was Perpetua and Fergus’s love story.
Turn away if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Aloysius Fergus is the young man who brings Earthenhouse’s night girl position to Perpetua’s attention. The truth is, he’s a half-human goblin that’s passing as a human. He strikes up a friendship with Perpetua that deepens into love, but then encounters turbulence when Perpetua discovers that he is, in fact, a goblin, and never told her. Then situations within the plot intercedes and, as a result of his goblin nature, Fergus’s memory is essentially wiped clean. Now Perpetua is in love with Fergus — who is still Fergus — but Fergus doesn’t even know her name. This is a story about love and loss and regret, as well as second chances, and it’s a story I risk losing entirely if I reduce Perpetua’s age to fifteen.
The Night Girl’s greatest flaw, in her view, is that the Big Plot is a problem of demographics — the goblins under Earthenhouse (see Earthenhouse’s story) wish to come out of hiding and take their rightful place within the human economy. The solution is one of administration. And the big problem is that Perpetua is the human door into this story, and her plot with Fergus does not run parallel with the big plot with Earthenhouse.
Compare this to Icarus Down. The big plot involves this colony which has been founded on a big lie and is still dealing with the after-effects of a terrible decision made during their founding that the colonists themselves aren’t wholly aware of. The human door into this story is Simon, whose problem is that his family is being persecuted by individuals trying to protect the big lie, and he has to struggle to reveal the truth, which brings him face to face with the terrible decision that set all of the events in motion.
Simon’s story, his problem and his solution, runs in parallel with the wider story, the colony’s problem and their solution. So, while in other situations the reader might find the colony’s big problem to be too large or esoteric to really really appreciate, the fact that Simon is there, solving his own problems in parallel, makes the whole thing accessible and easier to appreciate on the human level.
Perpetua has no such advantage. The problem of the goblins is that they have hidden themselves from the human race, and have accepted destitution for far too long as a result. Rising up, coming out of the closet, and forcing the rest of humanity to accept the goblins as equals, doesn’t relate to Perpetua’s story about falling in love, and losing that opportunity. It’s not to say that it’s impossible to use Perpetua as a human door into the goblin’s wider struggles, but as her personal struggle is at an odd angle to the main storyline, it’s a lot harder for the two plots to resonate.
Now that I understand this problem, I’m less sure what to do with it. It may mean just starting from square one. I have three very good, very strong characters (Perpetua, Fergus and Earthenhouse). I have a decent personal story going on between the two of them. Now how do I build the world plot around them so that it resonates with Perpetua’s personal story?
Back to the drawing board. Time to think about this some more.