One of the difficult things about writing this chapter was trying to convey what was happening from an alpaca point of view, but still being sure that the human readers would understand what was happening, as well. Basically, Buttersby and Meander go through a series of take offs and landings–as well as their fair share of turbulence–before they come to a stop in Peru. Think about it–no small plane could make it that far (from Virginia to Peru) without having to stop for refueling. Some of this should give hints as to who is transporting the two alpacas from American to Peru. For example, it’s clearly someone who has a fair amount of money and influence. (But that’s the only clue I’m giving for now.) Another thing I’d like to point out is that Buttersby and Meander have only a very vague idea of how far they really are from their home. All they know is that they got on the plane (silver goose), and got off it quite a while later. I don’t think they can really conceive of going as fast as a plane goes. This is something that will come in to play later on in the series.
One other element that came up in this chapter was the foreign tongue: Tralpacish, as it came to be called. I knew that the likelihood of the animals in Peru speaking the same language as the animals in America was slight. Remember, I’m a linguist as well as a writer–one of my undergraduate degrees was in linguistics. At first, I called the foreign tongue Spalpacish, which I really liked. It made sense to me that alpacas would call their own tongue after themselves: alpacish. And it being in Peru, where they speak Spanish, I thought it’d be funny to use Spalpacish. However, this caused a couple of problems. First of all was the fact that my readers who spoke Spanish kept on wanting to think of Spalpacish as Spanish, which it wasn’t in my mind. Secondly, it didn’t make sense to me that these alpacas would think of their language as some derivative of a different tongue. It didn’t fit with their world view. So they would probably call what they spoke Alpacish, and what Buttersby spoke something else. But that would make things too complicated. I finally settled on Tralpacish, as a form of true-alpacish. That just goes to show the amount of thinking I put in to something that ended up not really being that big a part of the book. Still, language problems as a whole come into play a lot, so it was important to get the details down.
This was also a chapter where I had my first really cool experience with Shawn as an illustrator. Up until here, he had always drawn characters that were close to how I had pictured them. With the drawing of Don Cimarron, he really went above and beyond the call of duty. It was the first time I’d looked at a drawing of something I’d written and realized I’d done a poor job of describing it, because that drawing captured everything so much more clearly than my words had done. That’s one of the reasons I like adaptation so much. You take something from one form and put it into a second different form, with its own strengths and weaknesses. I’m good at describing spunky characters and the messes they get themselves into (and out of), but I know that physical description isn’t one of my strong points. With Shawn, he deals exclusively with description when he illustrates–he can focus on depicting something in great detail. In this case, he did such a great job that I went back to the text and rewrote my description of the alpaca leader to match his picture better.
I know I need to improve my descriptions, and I’m trying to do that. It’s just not something I naturally focus on in my first drafts. I like to get down what happened and what was said–getting caught up in where people were standing, what the room looked and sounded like and such normally just derails me. When I write my second draft of Lesana, I think I’m going to go through each chapter and work on those kinds of details. When I watch movies sometimes, I try and pay attention to how the actors are conveying emotion through their movements–not just through what they’re saying. Ideally, I’d like to be able to describe my characters well enough that the readers get the same feeling as viewers get when they watch a good actor. Everything feels natural and right. But I know I’m a ways away from being able to pull that off right now. Still, it’s a goal I’m shooting for.