Monday, June 21, 2010

The many evolutions of Magic Under Glass: Erris

So, in the original Magic Under Glass, there was a clockwork man named Roman. He looked like an ordinary sort of dude on the outside, but there was a big reveal where you find out GASP! HE'S CLOCKWORK.

Still, it was just my luck. I couldn’t even fall in love with some sensitive gentleman in the crowd, no, I had to fall for the clockwork man whose very life seemed to be in the hands of the enemy. This wasn’t even like me. I didn’t fall in love; I always supposed I would enter into it, in a slow, practical fashion. Famous last words.
I didn’t want to like Roman. I didn’t want to like anyone associated with Hollin Perris. But I couldn’t help it.
Roman stopped in the middle of the room, and bowed in my direction. When he stood, he raked his fingers back through his disheveled brown hair, and then looked at me, with eyes dark and strange in a way I couldn’t quite place, but compelling. His features, though not traditionally handsome, made a harmonious blend of intelligence, kindness, and a touch of intriguing sadness.

Nimira falls in love with Roman, and has to rescue him from Hollin, who was a complete and utter jerk. (Note, Hollin's name used to be Hollin Perris! I changed it when I realized I couldn't have an Erris and a Perris!) At the end there is a big confrontation wherein Roman punches someone, and then gets taken down by magic. Roman had all the things a hero should have--a tragic past, hobbies (he played piano and painted too!), a sense of humor, a heroic nature...

And yet, I was pretty blase about him, I must admit. Meanwhile, Nimira had a ghost friend, who had lived a decadent life in the late 18th-century equivalent amongst a large family abroad, come to Lorinar for school, fallen in love with a chambermaid or something, and been shot in some duel or something. He was a dandy who smoked and talked about girls a lot, and was quite a bit funnier than Roman. He had become a ghost because he was too scared to pass to the next world, but it helping Nimira, he became more courageous, and at the end he goes, finally, to his true death.

“You don’t seem like the others,” the ghost said.
“Clearly. I’m from Tiansher, in the Shai Mountains, and before I came here, I was a dancer.”
“Exotic and lovely. You remind me of my youth back in Drussa. Such parties we had, with all sorts of foreigners and eccentrics. My uncle once hosted the entourage of a princess of Tajeneer. You’ve never seen such flexible women.”
I blushed, and realized this conversation was getting far more comfortable than it ought to. “Sir, you really should go.”
“I’m sorry—how rude. Ghosts have no manners whatsoever. Let me introduce myself. My name is Erris Tarschirbe, so you need not call me sir.”

This was not a popular decision with beta readers. I had glorious plans for the Queen of the Dead to offer Erris another chance at life in a sequel, but (wisely) beta readers pointed out, what if there WAS no sequel? You can't have the most charming guy DIE! Why doesn't Nimira end up with him anyway?

I didn't see how Nimira could end up with Erris, though. Roman was such a big part of the plot, and Erris was a GHOST. How could I--? But--? *sputter*

Well, obviously, with the final version, I had a revelation that I could combine them. Some of Roman's heroic nature and his situation was given to Erris. And it wasn't until revisions with my editor that Erris became a fairy prince (and got a last name change)! I also killed his smoking habit, cause, you know, it's one thing for the ghost friend to smoke, but for the love interest, ick.

I also learned an important revision lesson--where two characters aren't quite working, one might work just fine.

Next: How Hollin Perris, moustache-twirling villain sans moustache, became Byronic almost-hero Hollin Parry.


  1. The idea of having to combine multiple characters into one is something I find utterly terrifying! But I can see how it really worked well for MAGIC UNDER GLASS. Thanks for this glimpse into the revision process!

  2. This is such a cool blog series, Jackie. LOVE IT!

  3. Lol RE: the moustache-less moustache-twirling Hollin~~ XD That would’ve been fun to see (though infinitely less interesting than the Hollin we know and love today). Wow… two entirely different charas combined into one, huh? Erris the Ghost sounded like a lot of fun (you should’ve made him a gay fop ghost! Who wants a straight one floating through the walls of one’s bedroom for a before-bed chat? Lol, j/k~~). Actually, the bit about Erris the Ghost sounds vaguely familiar to me… did you tell me about that plot back in the day? Wait, you weren’t writing MUG back then, right? Hmm… I wonder why I’m having this weird flash of déjà vu. @_@;

    In any case, I’m both aghast and impressed that you were able to essentially “cut” 2 main charas (one of whom was Mr. Second Billing, no less! 0__0) so late in the game. I think everyone starts to suspect a certain “early-cast” character is no longer pulling their weight in the story as it develops, but to have the guts to actually cut him/her… Hmm… You are strong, Jackie-chan…! It’s very much like the advice you gave me about cutting out a scene that you find boring to write—you probably don’t need it. But I guess my n00b-ness is showing since the thought of cutting major charas who’ve been “with you” since the beginning (and scenes that you always thought had to happen) kind of really scares me. ^^;;; Mehh… guess I should try to find a bold and unrelenting beta reader who’ll do the chopping for me. ^^;;;

  4. I absolutely fell in love with the Erris that you ended up with. The scene where he discovers the fate of his family is so touching, and he's so real...despite being a fairy prince. It's fascinating to find out how the character evolved. Thanks for this!

  5. Oh, wow, this was thoroughly amazing! I certainly never expected THIS revelation! Oh my goodness, as a reader, this definitely makes me appreciate the final version of Erris even more! :D

    The writer part of me, though, would have a LOT of trouble trying such a thing with her own characters. I mean, it worked WONDERFULLY for you, and I agree that -- when something just isn't working, even if it is a character you love -- you need to try everything you can until you fix it (even if it means combining characters). If the story doesn't flow well for you as the writer, then how will it ever flow well for the readers themselves? I don't think I have the guts to do this myself (as of yet), and I haven't reached the point where I've felt I needed to combine characters to get the "true and final version" of a character my plot needed. (My characters' roles, however, switch all the time -- such as love interests. I intend the heroine for ONE GUY, but then she falls for the OTHER ONE. There are some things you only learn once you start writing, I've found.) But, goodness, this made me think, "Wow, I shouldn't feel bad about it if I *do* have to do that someday!" Thanks for the indirect encouragement (and also again for the glimpse into the revisioning process!). :)

  6. a. fortis: It is a bit terrifying! This is the only time I've really done it, far as I can recall...

    Larissa: thanks!

    Redcrest: Well, I know what you mean about it being difficult to cut characters that have been with you awhile. Combining Roman and Erris was no easy decision! And I resisted it for a time. But the thing is, if a character needs that kind of treatment, they aren't a strong character anyway, so it's amazing how quickly you stop missing them. Now, if I'd cut Erris, I would have been sad!

    Keren David: I'm glad you like Erris. I shall pass the comment along, as he is an attention whore. ;)

    JSavant: Luckily, I don't think most stories do require the combining of characters. But I'm glad it might help you in the future if a story ever requires it!

  7. What, Erris is an attention whore? Will the revelations never cease? XD (Ah, that made my day.)