From Bird Talk to Hell has its Demons: the evolution of short story to novel

I am currently working on a novel called Hell has its Demons. This is based on story called Bird Talk, which was recently published in Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction. I have been aiming to write a few posts to talk about Bird Talk and promote the story, and this lead me to consider how much the story has changed going into the longer novel format. The plot of course is much expanded, but I have also developed the characters and setting considerably too.

Firstly the character names change: Roger stayed as Roger, but his surname changed from Draper to Sotil. My thoughts being that as Jake emerged as his partner in crime, I wanted to use their surnames to allude to their very different characters, so Jake is Jake Savage, and Roger is Roger Sotil. My hope is that they will be a demon fighting duo, whose characteristics complement each other, thus I would like to have a subtitle for each book of A Savage and Sotil Aventure (sic). “Aventure” is a Chaucerian style spelling of Adventure to add to the fourteenth century of the books.

Another name that changed was the name of the town, from St. Dunstan’s to St. Brett’s. St. Dunstan was an actual saint and I was concerned that using that name might bring with it too much baggage. Also by creating a fictional saint, I could then weave elements of that saint’s fictional history into the story. St. Brett felt like a good English name to me, and also there’s a link with the Angl0-Saxon term Brett Walden (meaning King of Britain), which would also add further to the saint’s mythology.

But more than that the actual character’s have developed quite a bit.  The weak, foolish, lovestruck Roger Draper, a chantry priest in “Bird Talk” becomes a more esoteric character. Still obsessed about magic and still not very realistic about the world. but on another level entirely. I decided that he needed to be more of an outsider and also to have more knowledge and authority. In effect he is called in to solve a problem by the Abbot of St. Brett’s, so he must have some experience or knowledge that helps. So instead he is an Oxford don with knowledge of astrology and magic, well-known for his unusual views. As well as being an expert on magic, you could say he’s also slightly insane.

Jake started off as a veteran of the French wars who had fallen on hard times in St. Dunstan’s and become a beggar. In “Bird Talk” he is a character who knows a lot more than one would expect and is actually more intelligent than Roger, in fact he gets them all out of the mess they’re in. We don’t get to know much about what makes him tick though.

What happened to Jake when I expanded the story for the novel? Like Roger he had to come from outside, but I wanted to have one of my main character’s having a real emotional investment in the town and people of St. Brett’s. They have to care about what’s happening there. Jake was my man and this brought about the major change to the lead female character Margery.

Margery became Isabel because the name Margery was much too un-sexy. And she stopped being the spoilt daughter of the town’s leading merchant. Instead she became the one-time lover of Jake and now wife of Jake’s father John, having rejected Jake. So providing lashings of emotional baggage for Jake and her to work through. She’s still into magic though and this time her life will hang in the balance as she’s accused of witchcraft.

UPDATE

“Bird Talk” is also now available to purchase as a separate story via Smashwords and Amazon.

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