There’s no easy way for me to explain the process for constructing the entire universe of my first book. I had the foolish aspirations of thinking, “Well, the Statue of Liberty was no easy feat to make. So why not go back to basics and make a smaller one, but this time out of blueberry muffins and creamers!” It’s silly, foolish, and in no way was going to require much work. Boy was I wrong about that last part.
This story initially had the intent to be more in line of a Douglas Adams book. Early stages of the draft were mostly set up for gags and ridiculous set pieces. Although I became aware early on that the story had no sense of progression and just seemed more like a roller-coaster of action sequences (totally the opposite of what I had wanted). Once I realized what I was doing I then trashed what I had worked on. Having a basis is important, however if that basis is what’s preventing you from evolving as a writer then it’s time to destroy that blueberry muffin made Statue of Liberty!
Don’t do that, because you never want to waste a good blueberry muffin.
My ideas became less aligned to what I adored as a fan, and more in line with my own vision. I let my imagination run wild as I spent time jotting down what I personally wanted to see. That is why one of the first characters that Joanna runs into is a talking Catfish living inside a glass man’s body. A good portion of my characters and world building were a result of my desire to see something ‘weird’ or ‘different’ than what you normally read in a traditional fantasy book. Not just their design, behavior and mannerisms had to be on point as well.
I only necessarily held back when it came to the plot and character motivations. Balancing a character like Joanna was tricky since she could easily be more of an exaggerated caricature than an actual fleshed out character. My rule was that if the reader cannot relate to Joanna to a certain extent then she falls apart completely. The events of ‘Brother Death’ transpire through Joanna’s thoughts as she is recounting this story. So I had to build this fine line between Joanna’s lively personality and her sarcastic quippy side.
The length of the book was a big determining factor to how comedic it should be versus how much it should emphasize on character drama. I still made a focus on trying to inject humor and lighthearted antics into the story because…well, death. The dark undertones were still there, but with a good dose of humor it was at least something easier to swallow than just making the characters wallow every page.
There was obviously more to the process than what was listed. However the important steps were that the characters were expressive in both design/character, the main character was captivating but not too annoying, and that there wasn’t a stark divide between the humor and character development. Ultimately this culminated into me internally saying, “Just make the characters good.” That astoundingly simple point became an important aspect of my overall plan for rebuilding the book from the ground up. I’d say that beats my original blueberry muffin disaster, but it would never sadly be just as delectably edible.