Many moons ago (lol), I was talking to my friend Trade about Rivener, and they asked me a fantastic question. I'm paraphrasing here because I don't have my old blog with the record of it, but essentially they asked me what the worst versions of my characters would look like. And I said with Wren, she'd be something like Cormac (my main antagonist). Brutal, unafraid of her own power or using it, and utterly devoid of empathy. I said she'd become like that in an alternate universe where she met Cormac while young and was raised by him and his ideals.
But then...as much as I like angst, I couldn't just leave it at that. I love happy endings! No matter how hard it is to get there! (Sometimes the harder, the better, you know?) Anyway, we ended up talking through what would happen if that version of Wren met Kai, how they'd meet, if he would help her change, and what their story would look like. Ultimately, the world would still be the same—post-apocalyptic, though leaning more towards sci-fi than urban fantasy—but certain events would change, impacting the characters and their development.
Several months passed where I stopped writing almost entirely but didn't stop thinking about this, and after some more recent chats with Trade and Hyba, I decided to scrap my first rewrite of Rivener (which, if you don't know, I'd been sort of attempting to do) and properly pick up this AU.
And now it's an actual thing! I've written 6k for it so far over the past couple days, planned a good chunk of it out, and have the writing bug again (such a good feeling, when you just wanna write and write and write, like an itch). It's going fantastically, if I do say so myself. However...
I was (am still? sorta?) a little nervous to share this version of my story (creatively titled Rivener 2.0) because...this Wren is awful. She does awful things and is complicit in awful things. Internet purity culture has me worried about what the response will be to this character who can lightly be described as ~problematic~. She changes, of course. This story is still about two very damaged people healing, the journey they go through together and because of each other. But it's also a lot darker. Or I delve into the darker aspects more.
Wren is not exactly a villain, but she's not a hero either, not for a long while. She is, in fact, closely aligned with the main villain. Not entirely of her own free will, but...well. Some may think she's irredeemable, which is valid. But I think it's rare that people are truly irredeemable. I do believe everyone has the capacity to change, if they want to, if they decided to, if they commit to it and keep trying and learning and unlearning, if they work hard to not repeat their mistakes or the way they've hurt people, if they apologize by word and action.
I don't think anyone is owed forgiveness, but I believe everyone can earn some sort of...grace? I don't know if that's the word I'm looking for, maybe redemption is closer to the mark. So yeah. Wren will have a pretty significant redemption arc. I hope I can do a good job conveying the complicated person she is, with pretty severe faults but equally admirable qualities and depth to her. Her journey is not easy. She can never erase the things she's done. But I hope you cheer her on as she grows to be a better person, even if she can never fully make up for who she was. I hope you understand where she's coming from, even if it doesn't excuse her actions or beliefs.
Now this AU is not all about Wren, and Kai too is changed from the original story. Firstly. we're meeting him in vastly different circumstances, when he's arguably a much rawer character? In the original, he'd been enslaved to Cormac for a while by the time he met Wren, and a few years before that he was "stock" on a "farm" (for spoiler reasons, I won't explain what that means).
In this AU, he meets Wren having just been removed from the farm. He's less docile, but at heart, still the same sweet, gentle, traumatized Kai of the original. They have a long way to go before they like each other, given who Wren is and how they meet in this AU. She treats him pretty terribly. Not as terribly as she could've, and not as terribly as others, but...oof. They have an uphill battle ahead of them.
Still! I'm really excited to write this story, difficult (in topics and tone) as it is! I get to explore the world a little bit more, flesh out Cormac a lot more, and write some scenes I always wanted to, which didn't end up having a place in the original! I hope you guys will come along with me on this journey!
Have you ever written or read a character who starts out as awful and slowly transforms for the better (or the reverse)? How did it go? Do you think they managed to become sympathetic or appealing to the reader, despite their faults? Do comment below, or drop me an email, and let me know! I'd love to talk about this!
In the meantime, have an excerpt:
Cormac listened quietly to this report, and the only indication of his rage was the wreaths of fog coiling around his feet like cats, which swelled and billowed behind him like a cloud before he hissed out a breath and it quieted to nothing more but tendrils of mist, cold and spreading across the floor. Wren braced herself against the reach and touch of it, felt a grim sort of perverse pleasure at the way Threader flinched, the way the others fidgeted, discomfited.
Stay tuned for P.3 of my writing updates, where I will talk about my Glitch wip! Happy reading and writing!
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