I found that question in a query form for an agent that I reached out to. For those of you who don’t know querying is like your book applying for a job, save with more rejection. Agents want various degrees of things to query them. The most essential being a query letter…that and a completed, edited, beta-read, edited several more times, novel. But the query letter is the most important because most aren’t going to make it to your novel.
Why are you the person to tell this story?
I stared at that question for a very long time, but not because it was difficult. I knew the answer right away, it escaped me like a gasp, like a laugh, like a god damn growl. “Because it’s mine.”
As writers we all bump into stories that aren’t ours and sometimes tell them anyway. Maybe it’s something that happened to a friend, or anecdote we heard at a party, a footnote in a history book that we found intriguing, or an article we read online that begged to grow a plot and expand off the page, something that needs research and care and that question ‘Why are you the person to tell this story?’ But a novel? But my novel?
The pitch for my novel, The Beast of Domarr Fell, is Beowulf meets Yojimbo. I’m not the person to tell this story because I can read Old English or have a deep understanding of the works of Akira Kurosawa, I can’t and I don’t. The pitch is the pitch, the novel is the characters, and they are made of me.
Fianna’Dale bard to the High King of the Vottr, is filled with my confidence and shaped by my humor, formed from what I think is clever and what I think is brave. Isha, young seer, daughter of warriors and thralls, lost to angst and power and struggle of identity, is shaped by teenage years and battles with insecurities and the constant search for self. Dayur, the Red Druid, reluctant monster hunter, tired old man forged of guilt and fear with a paunch, baldhead and red beard is so very obviously made of me.
Dayur is bond to a familiar, called Whisper. She is a half-formed ghost covered in a cloak made of moth wings and is always hungry. She screams and throws tantrums and rages within him and her needs determine much of Dayur’s life. Dayur and Whisper were bond when Dayur was twelve and forever he has questioned if there is something wrong within him. The other druid children received familiars in the shape of birds and foxes, while he received a banshee that can’t touch or move or live without him.
Much of my childhood felt fragile, made up of responsibility and failure and the constant sense that I had done something wrong, that sense grew and transformed into a fear that I, in fact, was something wrong. And from there, were struggles with phantoms that raged and hated me and called me the worse possible things and yet also needed so much of my attention.
My life is not dramatic. I didn’t team up with my anxiety and depression to slay monsters. I didn’t confront or resolve my phantoms the way Dayur does. My pain was not epic like his. It was born of small days and likewise quiet and small defeats that I eventually overcame. And I have had love and support and second chances that Dayur never got.
He is also quite different from me and not just because he’s a Viking warrior with a battle axe. He’s kinder than me with near infinite patience. He’s quiet and solitary and I’m not. I talk way too much, especially when I get nervous like Fianna. Dayur has trouble talking to people at all. He is of my image, made from parts I wish I had and parts I’m glad I don’t have, but all of them are of me.
Even the characters that feel farthest from me have my philosophy, have my understanding of the world or are shaped in opposition to it, or come from questions of it. At the very least they are born of a world that works by my logic and are funny or stupid or cruel by what I deem to be so.
Now, because it’s my novel, it’s imperfect. Hell, it might even be bad. I don’t think so, but it’s possible. It’s probably too long. I keep wading in and trimming it, but I never can seem to get it down as much as I would like. The plot might be too cliched, it’s certainly not revolutionary, but I’m proud of it. I’m proud of my characters, mined from me, shaped by my words but living their own lives. Me and not me, but certainly all mine. Just as ‘The Beast of Domarr Fell’ is mine.
So why am I the person to tell this story? Because I’m the only one that possibly could.