I rewrote my first book, Heed the Wind, and republished it as a 3rd edition! Let this article serve as a notice for what has changed from the previous edition.
If you were one of the many that felt something wasn’t quite right about the story, well, you were right.
Here are the three major changes that I made and I will go into more detail below:
- Heightened the symbolism of the scarecrow and crows (because symbolism is important!)
- Made the bad guy badder (made the novel better and enhanced Cynthia’s character in both Heed the Wind and Fear the Wind)
- Changed the relationship dynamics between Staletta and Daniel (because I hated how they interacted in the first edition!)
These three changes did change the story quite a bit, but the basic outline and structure of the story stayed the same. For instance, I didn’t have to change the back blurb that is on the back of the book because the foundation of the story stayed the same. The main idea is still the exact same. The ending is pretty much the same, except for where I changed Staletta and Daniel’s relationship.
One of my favorite parts of any novel is the symbolism. That’s why Never Let Me Go is one of my favorite novels – it is rich with symbolism. In the first edition of Heed the Wind, I only hinted at the symbolism of Staletta being a scarecrow as a child in Ireland. But when I started writing Fear the Wind, I immediately realized that Heed didn’t set Fear up for success like it should have.
The “crows” needed to be affecting Staletta on a much deeper level than I had originally planned. They needed to be haunting her so that by the end of Book 3 she had come full circle – gained the courage that she needed to be the scarecrow rather than the one scared by the crows.
MAKE THE BAD GUY BADDER
This change was small, but so huge. As I was re-reading Heed the Wind, I realized that Smitherton Bobs wasn’t that bad at all – I mean, he was absent from his factory for a long time so that he wasn’t even interacting with Staletta at all. What?? I know! It was ridiculous!
As I was writing Cynthia’s character in Fear the Wind, I wrote this: “Sure, I know God.” Her voice dripped with scorn. “Growing up, my father was God. He was my maker. The one that reigned over me and despised me with every fiber of his being. Where does grace fit into that? Where forgiveness?”
That’s when it struck me. The missing element from Heed the Wind, the element that was missing from Bobs’ character: a god complex. I immediately knew that Bobs needed to act as a cruel god that reigns over the workers in the factory. The story needed an anti-Christ. It makes his character stronger, it makes Cynthia’s character stronger, it makes every character that worked in his factory a stronger character. It makes his fall that much better and his redemption that much more joyous.
STALETTA AND DANIEL
The other thing I had to change was the relationship dynamics between Staletta and Daniel. I’ll be honest, Daniel’s character was the hardest for me to write in the first drafts of Heed the Wind. He didn’t seem to have much of a purpose other than he rescued Staletta from prison and became the love interest. That’s pretty basic, surface-level stuff, nothing too fantastic.
My beta readers also told me that they didn’t like Staletta – they thought she was too perfect. At the time, I didn’t know what that meant and no one gave me concrete advice on how to fix it. I mean, I made her an immigrant, killed off her family, took away all of her friends, made her a vagrant on the street and you think she’s perfect?? What? How? Haven’t I fulfilled the authorial obligation to “do bad things to your characters?”
I had a very short time to edit the book before the publication date (the book was already up for preorder at this point). So I scrapped most of the book and rewrote it – FAST. What I decided to do in an effort to make Daniel’s character more interesting and Staletta’s less perfect, was make them fight. A lover’s spat, a break-up, if you will…
…And I never felt good about it. It felt wrong from the beginning because it was wrong.
Daniel’s character turned sour and manipulative and Staletta still came out seeming too perfect because he came out worse than she did!
What a nightmare.
Fast forward three years and I FINALLY get it. The reason I didn’t love Daniel like I wanted to was because he wasn’t doing the job of a good side character. What is the job of a good side character? A good side character must attack the protagonist’s weaknesses.
That easily solved both of my problems: a useless side character became a supporting character (notice the emphasis on the word supporting, please) and a too-perfect protagonist became a protagonist with weaknesses.
When someone says a character is too perfect what they actually mean is: This character is not a sinner like I am. I can’t relate to this character on a psychological or a moral level. There is no lesson to be learned from this character. Why am I even reading this? Sure she’s a homeless violinist with no family or friends, but why should I care?
When your English Professors say “do bad things to your characters” what they actually mean is: give your character inherent behavioral flaws (aka sin) that 1) hurt the other characters and 2) give the side characters an opportunity to attack them, thus bringing forth a lesson to be learned.
When I say, “an opportunity to attack them”, I don’t mean a lover’s spat as I did in the first edition of Heed the Wind. Ugh! It’s the worst. The attack should be an act of support from the supporting characters. It is loving to point out when someone is in sin. It doesn’t have to be a violent physical attack or even a violent verbal attack. It could be as simple as a quick, “Dude, chill out!” comment or a “stop lying!” comment. But if you want to have your supporting character slap the protagonist upside the head, that’s fine too! You won’t hear any complaints from me. We all need a slap upside the head sometimes and that’s what makes it relatable.
Do you see where I am going with this? I did not come by this revelation myself, mind you. I mean, I knew my characters and the scenes were a major problem, but it wasn’t until I picked up John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller that the pieces fell into place for me. If my ramblings aren’t doing it for you, definitely get his book!
So, I rewrote Staletta and Daniel’s relationship and interactions. Now, I love Daniel like I always wanted to and if anybody, anybody at all, tells me that Staletta is too perfect…ooohh, bring it on! I’ve got a moral and a psychological reason for why she is NOT perfect! So there!