Never Alone - The Dani and Esme Stories

This is an impossible picture. A child is never alone on the journey into life. Somewhere - not far away there is a mother, just possibly a father, but definitely a mother hovering in the background. And if the mother is not there physically, then her spirit is - to be alone without the child, she's had to tear off a bit of herself or bury it somewhere.

This is the point of The Dani Stories. Originally they were the Esme stories but in reality they are the Esme and Dani stories. Together Forever in the most awful sense.

I'm going to consider each of the novels in turn.

1 - Talking, can you hear me?

This story originally started at Dani's conception - from that point on, Esme is no longer alone. She has no choice - the child is there forever. And in my final version, the child is talking right from the beginning.

After extracting a small part of it and rewriting it into  a short story, I read it to  my writing circle and got the comments that it would be misconstrued and used for political ends i.e. against mothers in the anti-abortion campaign. It was a dialogue between the unborn child and the mother who was contemplating abortion. (see Writing is Dangerous and Be Fearless). I sympathise with mothers wanting abortions but it was not possible to write the dialogue and make the unborn child express any emotion other than wanting to live.

That first dilemma remains the dilemma throughout. Whose rights take precedence? The mother's or the child's?

This dilemma makes choosing the main point of view problematic. I wrote this story first of all from Esme's point of view (the mother) and then changed it and rewrote it from Dani's point of view (the child). The result was that my readers sympathised either with the Esme, the mother or with Dani, the child, but I found it impossible to make readers sympathise with both at the same time. I experimented with both tense and voice and I couldn't weave the stories together to make readers like both Dani and Esme at the same time.

The only way to make readers like both the mother and the child would be for there to be no conflict between them and in my experience, that is impossible (and it means there is no story to tell).

(In the first draft of these stories, I got as far as the 4th book before Dani shouted that she had been sidelined so I went back to the beginning and rewrote the lot to include Dani's voice.)

2. Daniela Hoffman is not stupid & 3. The Third Father

These books now appear to be Dani's stories because they are told from her point of view, but in the first place, these two were just one book called Man from another country and it was Esme's story.

When I discussed Daniela Hoffman is not stupid with the literary agent, she could not understand why I thought this book might be for adults. She thought it was clearly for young adults - but she had only read the first chapter which was Dani speaking in the first person. The book switches between Dani first person and Esme third person to tell the story.

My beta-readers tell me that these two books work like that.

relating to all the Esme and Dani stories
What I wanted to do was to have two main characters with equal voices but this seems to be impossible. I've got to choose one or the other. When I choose one or the other, the problem of target readership disappears - it's clearly either YA or adult, but somehow I want it to be for an adult audience whether it's Dani talking or not.

Solution - Since I want both points of view to be heard - or put more simply - since I want both Esme and Dani to be loved (and forgiven for all their sins), then I will have to give them a story each.

It looks like this project still has some way to run.

Part 2 - considering the context

I accept (and value) the information that stories set in the '60s to '80s are unfashionable to the extent that they won't sell, but if I rewrite these stories in a contemporary setting they will become different stories. How different and whether or not it's worth trying is something I need to think about for much longer.






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