I wrote a few diaries from Esmerelda’s perspective when I was early in first draft, to try to get a better sense of her voice. The diary helped me to see things from her perspective, and to immerse myself in her life—not just in the big life-changing stuff, but in the small details and her everyday hopes and dreams as well.
It also helped me to get to know her. Because of how I write, most of the story and characters are a mystery to me until first draft is finished. Esmerelda ended up writing things in her diary that revealed parts of her backstory—her relationship with her father, for instance—that I would never have guessed existed.
Please note: this diary is essentially first draft story notes and ideas. It’s not definitive by any means—Esmerelda changed a lot between writing these diaries and publishing the story, and parts of her diary contradict things that happened in the story. A lot changed, both of her and of her adventures, between writing these and typing The End.
With that said, some stuff didn’t change—so spoiler alert.
I hope you like it.
Entry 1: The Night After Esmerelda Meets Parius
Someone tried to kill me today. Or maybe just kidnap me, I’m not sure. One’s not exactly worse than the other, not if I know who would order the kidnapping.
Someone saved me, though. Parius, he said his name was. Very dashing, charming in the face of danger. I like him. I’m not sure if I trust him, though; he’s a little too similar to Hansel for my taste. But I don’t think he’s working for Strossom. Gods above, I hope not. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life running from charming men who might be trying to turn me into a magic-sacrifice.
I couldn’t save myself, that’s what bothers me. Oh, I smacked my attacker on the head with a chamber-pot—a chamber-pot, of all things!—but I couldn’t summon up the magic. Truly, I don’t want it. I never want to do anything like hurt that poor innocent boy again. But for better or worse, I have it. It saved me from Bason. If I’m going to use it and stop it from using me, I need to learn to summon it on command. I won’t use it, though; not when there’s an innocent in the room. The innocent could be anywhere. But I have to draw the line somewhere. A butterfly flaps its wings, and a storm halfway across the world destroys an old man’s house and leaves him eeking out his life on the streets. I suppose my actions are similar. Everything I do could—conceivably—lead to death, somewhere. But I can’t let that paralyze me. All I can do is put my faith in what I know and what I can perceive, and do my best to not hurt people. I need to defend myself, and for that I might—as horrible as the prospect is—need magic. But I need to get control of it! I need to be able to summon it, and make it do what I want and only what I want.
That’s my goal from now on. Find a way to reconcile who I am with this power inside me, and use it to right the wrongs I’ve already committed by using it.
This entry helped me get a handle on one of Esmerelda’s central conflicts: her struggle to control her magic. The magic started out fairly weak, and fairly benign, but got stronger and nastier in revision. This entry also highlighted Esmerelda’s passion for protecting innocent life, and dislike of hurting anyone.
Entry 2: About a Year Before The Dragon’s Curse Begins
Father gave me a beautiful dress today. It really was very pretty—dark red and slim, something to make the boys look at me. If only I knew why he gave it to me! He’s rarely kind, to me or anyone else. I suppose, like everything he does, politics is at the heart of his gift. The man sees gears and wheels instead of people. Abominable man. When I’m queen, I’ll see the lives and dreams and hopes of every one of my people, not just how I can use them.
He is using me. Trying to attract the attentions of a gallant young noble to me. As if I need help with that. I’ve had to warn men off in the past. Haron; he got drunk and tried to screw me. I kneed him in the balls hard enough to rupture one. I quite enjoyed it, too. Not that Father would have cared that he’d tried to rape me. He’d only have said it was a shame poor Haron wasn’t from a noble enough family to marry me off to. He’ll send me to the son of the most noble house he can, never mind if said son is a complete pig!
I will find love, I swear it. It sounds like the doodling of a girl waiting for unicorns to save her, but I will not marry a bastard like Haron. I will find a sweet, charming, roguish man; a man who shares my sense of adventure, and loves discussing what matters; a man with a big heart, to help me rule. I will find him, and Gods willing I will marry him.
The human part of a story is always the most fascinating to me. Dragons and castles in the sky and talking tigers are cool, but what really pushes me to write is the hopes and dreams and passions of the characters. I’m a hopeless romantic, something I share with Esmerelda.
This diary also revealed a part of Esmerelda’s complicated relationship with her father. That was a sub-plot I didn’t know existed until I saw it here.
Entry 3: Five Years Before The Dragon’s Curse Begins
I loathe my father. He tried to force me to marry Haron today. The man who tried to drag me off during a festival and screw me in one of the empty tents.
I told my father I’d sooner be damned than marry Haron. I want a life of adventure, a life of joy and happiness with the man I love! Not a political marriage.
Not that politics isn’t important to me. I’d do anything to help Larus and save my beloved city from Farnust. Even now, Farnust is preparing to wage economic war on Larus. They can’t reach us in the clouds, but they’re determined to cut off grain to our city. And anything else they can lay their hands on.
Foolish, of course. The embargo will hurt their people just as much as it will ours. I have never understood how some rulers can be so callous. How could you pursue a policy that would starve thousands of your own people? I also wonder how you could pursue a policy that could starve thousands of your enemy’s people—not every grain farmer in Farnust wants to hurt us, after all; why should they be punished because their rulers prod us—but I’ve always been a lone voice in the Council when I make that argument. When I make the other argument, I’m on more popular ground.
Although I wonder how much of the Council’s posturing agreement with me is simply because they think I’m demonizing Farnust? Would they be so quick to agree if I were criticizing Larus’ rulers, myself included?
Strange to think of myself as one of the city’s rulers, now. But I’m a grown woman, and I’m as present at the councils as my father. I even like some of the other councilors. Hansel, for a start. He seems…compassionate. I’ll have to be careful. I’ve thought I had found a kindred spirit before, only to be burned when they slipped off the mask. Perhaps I’ll investigate the possibility of an alliance with him, though….
I wanted to spend some time delving into Esmerelda’s political world, since it plays heavily into her character and the story. As a fundamentally gentle soul, she’s rather unique among rulers—and that’s as true of her time/world as it would be if she were somehow transported to Congress today. This actually works to her advantage sometimes, by honing her political instincts—you have to work a lot harder to enact change if you’re in the minority.
My libertarian readers will also notice that Esmerelda’s pro-free-trade.