Meet Calder #2

Calder 2In my massive rewrite of The Narrator, I’ve just passed the midpoint. I was pretty worried about the scene, and kept putting it off and putting it off. But when I finally dove in, it was actually pretty fun.

And I owe it all to Calder #2.

There are two Calders in Narrator: the original, and the one the Narrator tried to make by changing his backstory. At the midpoint, the second Calder manifests (because of an enchanted forest) and the two Calders have a bit of a chat.

And that second Calder was a treat to “work with.” He was very talkative and came up with some great stuff, all without really trying.

(I know that to non-writers this kind of talk sounds crazy, but characters usually take on a life of their own. They can be complete chatterboxes, like Calder #2, or they can refuse to give up any information on themselves and frustrate the crap out of you.)

So this scene was going better than I expected, but still with a lot of false starts and backtracking. And suddenly Calder #2 was dragging his feet, and refusing to cooperate, and giving me a really crappy performance — until I put back some paragraphs I had removed. Once they were back in place, he was more than happy to talk again.

Things slowed down again as we neared the end of the scene, because Calder #2 knew this was going to be his only scene, and he was reluctant to “leave.” I could tell he was trying to stretch out his time. I felt bad for him, too, since he was (for the most part) so great to work with. But alas, I don’t think I’ll be able to justify bringing him back.

Even if it would be fun.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

The Two Calders

Prince Calder, ready to go on an interesting adventure.I’ve been re-watching the first few seasons of Murdoch Mysteries lately. It’s set in Victorian Toronto, with a detective who uses cutting-edge science to solve crimes. Of course, a lot of that science is commonplace today, including x-rays, ballistics, and recreating the likeness of a person from their skull. Murdoch’s interest also extends to the social sciences like psychology. I just passed one of my favorite episodes, where the suspect has Dissociative Identity Disorder — and it reminded me of Calder.

No, he doesn’t have DID. A person with DID has two or more distinct identities (or personalities). In the show, Murdoch and the doctor he consults observe that the suspect’s identities are vying for control, and she switches back and forth. One minute she’s a meek young lady, the next a confident, angry woman.

Calder, on the other hand, has two identities that are hardly distinct. They’re more like two lives that he lived simultaneously. One life is that of a Crown Prince, the life as it was supposed to be. The other life is that of a younger son. These two identities also vie for control, but it’s much more subtle. (I love my subtleties.)

In fact, it sounds pretty similar to what WebMD lists as an effect of having DID:

Identity confusion or identity alteration. Both of these involve a sense of confusion about who a person is. An example of identity confusion is when a person has trouble defining the things that interest them in life, or their political or religious or social viewpoints, or their sexual orientation, or their professional ambitions.(emphasis added)

Each Calder has his strengths and weaknesses, in addition to his own memories. But as the novel progresses, the lines begin to blur until Calder has trouble knowing which is which.

Disclaimer: I have not studied psychology. I did not throw much research into this. I just made a cool connection while watching a tv show and wanted to share. 🙂


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

From The Narrator, Chapter 9

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As soon as they entered the woods, the bright summer afternoon went out like a snuffed candle. The pleasant heat was replaced with a cool, damp breeze that surrounded them like a whisper. The trees pressed in on them, their trunks forcing the riders to shrink into their saddles. Low-hanging branches blocked the path, while tangled roots threatened to trip the horses.

But worse than all of that was the oppressive sense of someone watching them. Or rather, something, as if the trees watched their progress with disapproving stares. Calder wanted to confess everything he’d ever done in a vain attempt to make the judgement stop, or to curl up into a ball and close his eyes and wish all of it away.

Instead, he lifted the next branch out of his way and continued on.

After an hour of fighting the forest, Saydie grumbled, “I’m starting to think we’re not welcome.”


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

From The Narrator, Chapter 6

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The guards marched them down tapestried halls and stone passageways. Nobles and servants alike calmly stepped aside as the column passed. None of them looked twice at the prisoners.

The passage’s right-hand wall opened up into intricate archways. The elegant walkway looked out on a wide, lazulite river that rushed past two hundred feet below them. A few more sights like this, and Saydie might appreciate why Endar chose to live in an otherwise dreary castle.

A small fleet of ships flickered on the water. They hadn’t been there before, had they?

Then she heard a faint pop.

“Get down!” she bellowed. She rammed the soldiers in front of her. They stumbled into Calder. He hit the stone with a slap as a boulder smashed through the archway. Stone rained down on them. A sharp pain cut through her arm, but at least she had her head.

She scrambled to her feet and danced through the spattering of debris and groaning guards. One had taken a stone wedge to the thigh.

And another boulder was coming.

Based on the siege she’d worked for Pennington two novels ago, they only had thirty seconds until the reload. Less if other ships were aimed at them, too.

She found Calder, pulled him to his feet, and dragged him along. They had to get out of the open air. Fast.

“Let’s go!” she cried, hauling on his arm.

“Those were Delmaran flags,” he said, as if that mattered.

“That’s nice. We’re still going.”

A second boulder plowed into the cliffside. They staggered as the ground jumped beneath their feet.

Okay. Other ships were aiming at them.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

Meet The Narrator’s Prince Calder

CalderI’ve been tagged for the Meet My Character Blog Hop by Juneta Key, who’s working on Guardians of the Seals – Apocalypse, Signed, Sealed, and Delivered. It’s a novella about the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and looks pretty interesting. I “met” Juneta through Holly Lisle’s writing classes — if you’re a writer, I can’t recommend them enough!

For this blog hop, I’m introducing you to the protagonist of The Narrator: Prince Calder.

What is the name of your character? Is he fictional or a historical person?
Prince Calder is definitely a fictional person. He’s the main character of both The Narrator and the Narrator’s book.

When and where is the story set?
The story is set in a book, but that book is set in the kingdom of Anwingda. It’s your classic medieval fantasy setting.

What should we know about him?
Calder starts off as your typical knight in shining armor. He wants to be the hero, to save the damsel in distress from certain destruction. Not for fame or riches, just for the sake of doing good. He also strongly believes in fate, and doesn’t like people interfering with it. At the beginning of the story, an old woman tells him that it is his destiny to save the princess of Faraday Castle.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?
When Calder sets out to rescue the princess, the narrator of the book intercepts him. He tells Calder to turn back, that he won’t narrate such a cliche story as a prince rescuing a princess. When Calder refuses, the narrator literally rewrites his life. Calder’s no longer the Crown Prince of Anwingda, but the youngest of three sons.

What is the personal goal of the character?
After his run-in with the narrator, Calder has to find a way to both return to his previous life and rescue the princess despite the narrator’s interference.

Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
You can read more about The Narrator on my dedicated page.

When can we expect the book to be published?
I’m still revising, and then I want to send it out to agents to see if I can get it traditionally published. But let’s dream big. Let’s say next year.

Blurb:
Crown Prince Calder departs the kingdom to rescue a princess from her classically evil captors. He expects dangers, but there is one thing he does not expect: his story’s narrator.

Refusing to narrate even one more boring quest plot, Pennington materializes and orders Calder to ignore the kidnapped princess. He will create a more engaging story, one that a truly great narrator deserves. Calder doesn’t believe his claim to be the narrator and, determined to be a hero, refuses.

Then Pennington completely rewrites Calder’s backstory. Suddenly Crown Prince Calder…isn’t. He is now a younger son, and has lost his inheritance and the confidence that he is a real person in one sentence. Calder’s story is no longer as straightforward as he thinks. Does the princess still need to be rescued? Can he get his life back as the crown prince? If he continues to defy Pennington, will he even recognize himself?

Losing his sense of identity and reality, he clings to his quest, determined – at all costs – to beat the narrator and end his story, his way.

Now, hop on over to my friend Jennifer Loizeaux’s site. You can meet one of the characters of her upcoming mystery, Flight Risk, when she posts next week.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

The “Saving People Thing”

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When planning my Beauty and the Beast story, I was thinking about fatal flaws for my characters. For inspiration, I checked out what TVtropes had to say on the subject. And I realized that most of my main characters share a fatal flaw: personal loyalty.

Or, as Hermione calls it, a “saving people thing.” Harry would go to any lengths to save his friends, even if it meant not saving the world. He gets in massive trouble in Order of the Phoenix, when Voldemort takes advantage of his “saving people thing” to lure him to the Ministry of Magic. And, spoiler alert, Sirius dies for it.

The flaw of personal loyalty must really speak to me, because I never realized that this was a trait my characters shared. My Beauty and the Beast character would do anything for her friends. My suspense protagonist would do anything for her sister.

But this trait is closest to an actual flaw in the main character of my upcoming novel, The Narrator. Prince Calder has a “saving people thing,” same as Harry. He’ll move the world to save his friends. But he also fights to save anyone in trouble, from princesses to minstrels.

And, of course, the narrator is able to manipulate him as easily as Voldemort manipulated Harry.

Yeah. You should be nervous.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.