Into the Flames: Origins

I think Rahab might have looked something like this at age eight or nine:

Into the Flames has come a long way from the very small idea that began in my brain as a teenager. In all actuality, Into the Flames was supposed to be a sequel to another book I had written, Born to Fly. After a while I realized that I loved Rahab more than Scout, and I felt she deserved to be the main character and the character through which readers should be introduced into their world.  It’s amazing how ideas warp and change with time. In a way it’s kind of sad to see all those all notebook pages full of scenes that will never see the light of day, but then again it’s so exciting to see how much better my writing has gotten over the years.

My friend and colleague Aaron Pogue has created pre-writing guides for people who plan to compete in NaNoWriMo. These pre-writing guides are to give you a sense of your character and the plot and where you want your story to go before you actually dive in. Long before I met Aaron, I was doing something slightly similar. I had written out pages of character descriptions and short scenes that illustarted by characters’, well, character. And they have helped me immensley. They have made my characters deep and multi-dimensional and able to pull their own weight and the weight of their stories forward. But what’s really strange is that even after all that pre-writing and exploring of my characters’ little quicks and habits, they can still change who they are. Not who they are essentially, but little things about them. Last night I was reading back on the very first scenes I had written that introduced Rahab, and it amazes me how different she was. For example, one of her most prominent traits in the beginning was that she would talk a lot, especially when she was nervous, but everybody in her family had learned to tune her out. Now she’s quiet unless she’s around friends, and often can’t find the proper words to say. Most amusingly, the thing that my readers like to complain the most about is the change in Rahab’s hair color. She began as a brunette, but as time went on I began to see her as a blond, with her hair turned even lighter from constant sun exposure. Some people *coughMomcough* are angry over this change, stating that Rahab is not like the other blonds in the story, so she should have brown hair. And it’s true; she is different.  And yes, I do call all the other blonds bimbos and write them as shallow. But I don’t have a problem with Rahab’s hair color because it proves that appereances can be deceiving. Maybe she does look the same as the Cheeries. But if you get to know her, you’ll know that she’s unique.

Change is always good, right? Do you have a hard changing your characters’ looks or personalities when working on your story? Do the changes come naturally, or do they force themselves upon you?

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5 Responses to Into the Flames: Origins

  1. Bailey says:

    I always find that when my characters have a sudden change in appearance, it isn’t a change that says, “Oh, I wish she had still been this, but I guess she can be this” – it’s more of a “Oh, well obviously I was wrong – he or she should be this way for 2384230 reasons and it couldn’t be any other way.” So yes, haha, I have changed my characters’ appearances several times, but I’ve never regretted it.

    PS I’d love to see what Aaron’s put together! I got that NaNo email the other day and realized it’s only about six months away! So excited.

    • jessie says:

      I don’t regret my changes either, I just sometimes wonder how they came to be. You can scrounge through Aaron’s old blogposts for the pre-writing guides at unstressedsyllables.com. Meanwhile I’ll see if he has a more direct link for you. Thanks for commenting!

    • Aaron’s prewriting exercises are here. I refer back to them often, so I keep the link handy. : )

  2. Jessie, now that I’ve started rewriting my Monster Epic Fantasy Novel, I’m discovering that the main character’s personality is changing quite a bit. He’s darker, deeper, more intelligent, and more sensitive than I ever let him be when I was writing him 12-17 years ago. He interacts with others in a way that’s less sociable but more realistic. I’m getting to know him in many more ways than I thought I could; he’s a more multi-faceted personality than I ever suspected.

    His appearance has remained the same, but his name has changed. That was a shocker. ; )