5 Major Changes made to Branagar the Knave
While writing my first sequel to a Nanowrimo book and recording the audio book version of the original, I’m reminded of a number of changes I had to make for Branagar the Knave while writing it. Some of these changes were quite subtle and nothing was noticeably changed from the original structure of the story as it was innitially conceived. However, as the writing process went on, I kept adding minor scenes and elements in order to strengthen the characters or just to beef up the narrative in some way.
Here however are 5 major changes that I recall making to the story before it took its current form…
1. Several characters had different names
Naming characters has always been incredibly difficult for me, so for Branagar I took on the principle of giving characters either incredibly easy to remember or incredibly bizarre names so that I would be forced to remember them. I picked the name John for the main character simply because it’s the most basic English name that pops into my head.
Uncle Al and Uncle Ben were both named after notable figures. Albert in his original concept art bares a striking resemblance to Dr. Albert Wily who of course was based on Albert Einstein, and I channelled a bit of Benjamin Franklin into the look of kindly Uncle Ben (and yes, the name similarity to the brand of rice was entirely unintentional). His Right Honourable Judge Carlson was conceived as a long run-along name in order to keep this relatively inconsequential character from being forgotten,
However, the biggest changes were made to the full and middle-names of the characters. Albert was original Alberto Visenius but became Alberto Vesalius and Benjamin Frankeus was changed to Benjamin Francis. Vivian was also originally a Countess, but this idea didn’t quite translate itself into the finished story. Branagar’s full name was Branagar son of Bran, which is to say his last-name would have been Bran. I dropped this from the final novel, probably because it sounded so stupid. The most noted difference was that Lady Esha was originally called Isha, which of course became her mother’s name (more on that in a bit).
2. Goldie and Alis were originally sisters
Alis too, was originally a Lady of Hawn in the novel. I never commented on their parentage, but its clear I originally conceived Alis to wear a fancier version of her sister’s dress and be a bit more lady-like, whereas Goldie was always the Cinderella of the pair. In this sense, Goldie and Alis were originally a lot more close as characters and Lady Esha was a quite a bit more mean (for some reason I had a running theme with pompous and rude character in this novel).
In the end though, in order to diversify the cast, I decided to change it so that Alis and Duke Monterey were siblings and that all of the three young women were friends. Because I had planned from the start that Branagar would get intimate with Madam Vivian by the end of the novel, I decided that she would serve as Goldie’s step-mother, because I wanted to keep some distance with the characters as far as how the courting of them would transpire. Originally – John, Branagar and Monty were intended as obvious pair-ups for Goldie, Alis and Esha – but this idea was dropped as I wanted to keep the story focused only on the romance between John and Goldie as well as Branagar courting all three women.
Probably the most disturbing aspect of this character switch was that I had obviously intended Duke Monterey as a potential love interest for Alis, but ended up dumping this possibility by making them siblings instead and turning Monty into a bit of a comic relief character.
3. John and Branagar dueled
Originally, I had conceived John and Branagar dueling after Branagar tries to hit on Goldie and John would get upset over it. This idea was in the book for a long time and I remember changing it relatively late for a number of reasons.
- Firstly, it gave the game away too soon. Although in Chapter 16, through Branagar, I sort of made fun of myself for pretty much letting the cat out of the bag during the opening chapters of Act II.
- Secondly, John getting accused of his uncle’s murder was always the original idea but suggesting John would challenge someone to a duel on the drop of a hat would have actually incriminated him beyond all hope. Even if the readers knew who the mastermind was the whole time, I needed to look at the story from the characters’ point of view. Especially considering my extremely convoluted way of tying up the plot by the end.
- Thirdly, having Monty be Branagar’s opponent instead just opened up much better comical opportunities for the exchange.
- Fourthly, Branagar was always going to win the fight – originally to humiliate John, later to make Monty the most pissed he ever got during the story.
So in the end, I simply chose John to get humiliated when he attempts to act as mediator when Branagar unconventionally wins the fight.
4. Isha and Esha: like mother, like daughter
When I started planning out Branagar the knave, Madam Isha had not been fleshed out very much. Notably, the concept art I drew of her looked practically identical to her daughter Esha. Originally, Esha was much more of a horrible person, she was mean and openly tried to seduce John (this is still technically in the novel). Her mother was only really necessary since I needed to justify her presence at the Manor somehow.
However, I felt that making Esha’s presence at the Manor seem purely self-serving also made her quite a despicable character, as she was either looking to grab herself a man and/or a part of the inheritance. Also, when my original idea to turn Branagar, John and Monterey into a heroic trio failed (because it was more fun to make them hate each other), I decided it would be the three young women who would pull together. Goldie was weighed down by her feelings, Alis was the happy-go-lucky bimbo and Esha became the “real” woman of the group – not as emotional as Goldie but also not entirely cool with the society she was living in (hence her constant yelling of “Mama!”).
At any rate, Isha’s character didn’t really crystallise until I wrote her introduction and this is how I was able to justify Esha. She was there against her will, dragged along by her mother and just trying to make the best out of the situation. So yes, Madam Isha is as two-dimensional of a character as she is for a reason.
5. Other minor story details
In Branagar, I was forced to beef up the start of the story considerably with family history and this was a bit of a pain. I was able to at least tie all the family histories together nicely with the Sombre family tragedy, but it was definitely not a fun thing to write and took up a lot more space than I really would have wanted to devote to it.
I added a lot more interaction between characters than had been intended for the novel originally. I for instance, didn’t plan for Sheriff Clemens to become as big of a character as he was. I also am a little amused by the conversation between him and Judge Carlson which I must have added on a whim (or to beef up the word count). I also forgot about the scene where Goldie confronts Albert about John’s prison break. However, I think I did this in order to add a seed of doubt to Goldie about Al’s intentions because previously, she had a very minimal role in the final parts of the book. Also, Alis wanting to go see her man-friend was a last-minute addition, because after John’s arrest she no longer had any reason to be at the Manor.
Also, Branagar’s story about the Lord of Snakes was a last-minute spark of inspiration in my convoluted plan to get John out of jail. However, the idea behind it is something I may actually explore further in a later Nanowrimo novel.