Good news: Ren is as much of an unlikable twit at the start of the book as I had intended for them to be. Jesus, they’re a certified prick. Bad news: I now have to write Ren as a huge assmunch again for the second draft. Not looking forward to that.
Okay, I might have lied a little bit. I didn’t really intend for Ren to be a huge, unlikable prick at first. I had actually intended for Ren to be more aware of how shitty things are. Fortunately, this gave me the chance to make Ren actually grow as a person and stop being such a prick. Honestly, I’m super glad that happened.
Even more, I’m glad that I figured out that I couldn’t just write this story once and say “Ah, good. Perfect. This story is now complete and perfect and will never need me to look at it and revise it again.” That would have been a huge mistake. Seriously, this version of If By Fire was a mess up until the last 3rd. I absolutely did not have this planned out as well as I should have, and that last third was when I really figured out what I was doing. Hell, the two prologue sections weren’t even intended to be prologues. They were two connected short stories I wrote two years ago, and I was just kind of writing chapter one without ANY idea of what the story should be when I thought “Oh! I know! Just jam this on top of those two other stories!”
That created issues, for sure. First things first, those two short stories were try-hard versions of a dystopia. I was barely beginning to find my political footings, and I was frustrated about a lot of things. So, of course, I wrote about it. Unfortunately, I realised later that I wasn’t a very good authority to be writing about these topics in a fictional setting.
If By Fire still has something important that it wants to say. The core theme of the story is that “You have to care about things. If you don’t, nothing ever changes or gets better. If you don’t care, you are part of the problem.” This is the main theme that is prevalent throughout the whole story, and the main trait that changes for Ren as they progress through the story. This is going to remain consistent in the next draft of the story.
However, the second draft is going to see HUGE shifts. For one, I highly doubt the genre will still be dystopia. For two, I’ll be changing Ren’s perceived gender fluidity to just a consistent nonbinary. All the love in the world to my fluid babies, but I want Ren to use they/them pronouns exclusively.
Oh. Right. Um. While I’m talking about gender, I want to get this out of the way: the way that I introduce Claire as being trans is REALLY BAD. Like, there are a million better ways I could have done it, but little 16 year old Kay who didn’t even know they hated their name yet thought “Oh, yeah, this is perfect! Just imply that Ren, a genderfluid individual, just clocked the fuck out of Claire. Perfect, lovely, my readers will ADORE that!” It’s rough.
Oh, Claire will still be in the second draft. Don’t you worry your precious little nose about that. She’s sticking around. So will Shelby. And, obviously, So will Ren. However, in what might be a surprising turn of events, Jade will become a more prevalent character! And she won’t be killed shortly after she’s introduced! In fact, there will be a lot less death in the second draft!
I don’t think I’m going to totally cut the political tones out from the story, though. Just the ones involving many of the characters being police officers. It’ll also make it so that my race commentaries that were included in the story aren’t so… off base. Like, they were not very good in this draft. All of them were pretty heavy handed, and abandoned halfway through. So, you know, look forward to a better story.
One more wild thing you might like to find out about: I actually had intentions to merge the universe of If By Fire with that of my Horror Stories. You remember those chapters where the mother character, Asilynn, was mercy killed by Ren? Well, canonically, she was possessed by the same entity that possessed Luke in Night Terrors. Subtle, right? As in, you probably just assumed she was mentally ill? Nope. Turns out it was an actual demon. Wild, right?
That specific section in the story served three purposes: One was to show Ren begin to grow something of a conscious in what they were doing. The second was to tie If By Fire in with the horror stories. The third? Well, while I don’t remember the specific details, but this section of the story was somewhat of a joke at my actual friend Asilynn. For her bogus Child Development class she took in 11th grade, she made some book about a mother and her children. I don’t remember exactly what the story was about (this was over a year ago), but I remember vehemently making fun of it because there were some themes that made it easy to imply that the mother was murdering her children. I told Asilynn that I was going to write her as a mother and make her kill her kid in a story. Well, I committed to the bit. I don’t think she ever actually read it, funny enough.
So, here’s where the tie to the horror stories was going to become especially apparent: There was going to be a seperate story, posted in the Horror Stories page, starring Claire. Claire was going to have some supernatural experiences, where she would be harassed by some entity, before she eventually confronted the entity, and it revealed itself. This entity was to be known as the Keeper, and he was responsible for ensuring that the various monsters out in the world remained able to hunt people. Claire was to inherent that role from him, and become the new Keeper. Of course, I eventually decided against linking any of my stories with one another wouldn’t be worth my time. Although, I still really want to link some of my horror stories with one another. Seriously, imagine a kaiju-esque fight between the doll from A Porcelain Lover and the chest monster from Matters of the Heart. I have dreams. But that’ll stay tucked away until another day, if I ever choose to act upon it.
If By Fire’s ending was hard for me to write. As in: forcing Ren to learn something was difficult for me. Ren seemed so confident in themself that forcing them to actually move on with their life and become better felt like a monumental task. It felt like something that I would never be able to achieve. Yet, I did make it happen. It was kind of wild to me that the one thing that kept me from finishing this story for a while was googling “how do i make characters change.”
Just kidding! I didn’t google that! I actually was given a couple of lectures by Brendan Reichs, a Young Adult author, at a writing camp. He basically helped pull me out of my stutter and figure out how to write some more. So shout out to Brendan Reichs for being a cool human being!
Anyway, that’s all I want to say in this afterword. If you want to see the entire google document where I keep all of my plans for the first draft of If By Fire, then go hit up my Patreon! For just three dollars a month, you gain access to a special document detailing the creation of all of the stories that I put out, which will include If By Fire.
Anyway, thanks for reading! I love you!