All our characters have gone through drastic changes from creation to publication. And we think that all good characters should go through tweaks and adjustments as you figure out what their story is and who they really are.
But some changes are bigger than others.
It wasn’t until relatively late in the first draft of Ancients that we decided the northern barbarians were an entirely different species than humans, basically making them tall beardless dwarves.
And it wasn’t until we started working on Beginnings (which you can get for free by signing up for our mailing list!) that we really settled into what business Athala’s family was in. We always knew she was part of some mafia-esque background, but the specifics just weren't there originally.
But the character who went through the most changes over the course of writing Ancients was Elise.
And most of the problems with her were our own fault.
It had been no secret between us that we had entirely different plans for these characters when we first started on Ancients.
It was originally planned for Heroes by Necessity to be an endless series, and it wasn’t until we started working on what the following books would be that we eventually ended up with an overarching plot that would, eventually, have an ending.
But when working on the first draft, our plans for Elise were basically unchanged. Her personality and interactions were mostly based around being “the responsible one” who looked out for and protected everyone. She was, for lack of a better term, the “mom friend” and once the trio ends up in Auernheim, her self-appointed job is to get everyone out of it in one piece.
But in the first draft, we fell victim to one of the biggest pitfalls for authors who love their characters: we thought everyone else would love her, too.
Both through writing and editing, we thought that Elise was captured pretty well, and only made changes to her where it served the new overarching plotline. It wasn’t until our beta readers got their hands on the book that we realized our mistake.
The problem was that we knew that Elise’s actions and behavior was out of concern for her friends, but our readers didn’t. When she was harsh on them, we knew it was because she cared; to the beta readers, she came across as callous. When she took charge and made decisions, we knew it was because she wanted everyone to get out alive; to the beta readers, she was just being bossy and bullheaded.
At the end of the book, she was the character everyone hated.
And as one of the major protagonists, we couldn’t just write her out of the story.
A major part of the problem was that the pacing of the story focused on the “hard choices” moments. While Elise cared about her friends, during the course of the story, the only way she could express what was to be overbearing. There weren’t any moments where she was attending to her friends’ needs with care and affection, and that’s what was needed to make her bossier moments come across as motherly instead of mean. We needed to show the readers that she was likable so that the harsher moments would come across to them the way they did to us. And to make the readers like her, we needed softer moments to show her more caring side.
So we focused on adding those softer moments throughout Ancients, and when we couldn’t, we found those harsher moments and gave the context we had in our heads, but was not given in the text.
Ultimately, I feel like it made Elise a more likable character. It didn’t really change anything about her in our minds. And so in the final draft of the book, we worked to make sure that who she was to us was communicated to you. This shift in mentality is something we then proceeded to carry forward, and hopefully in the future we won’t need to reconcile what’s going on in our heads with what’s going on in the book.
Hopefully she's more likable now!
With that, Heroes, we end the third edition of Inside View! Check by on the 15th of every month for new posts that give a glance into the hows, whys, and whats of whys of Riley's Heroes by Necessity series!
Until next month!