New Versions of Old Characters: More Than the Look

Wolverine

This is another post where I wrote down the topic and wasn’t really sure where I was going with it.  ‘New versions of characters’ can mean so many things, but I knew it had to do with War of Nytefall: Rivalry.  After all, I’m starting the hype up for that.  So, what could this be about?

Well, I can’t say exactly because I have the actual scene set to be a teaser later in the month.  It involves a character from Legends of Windemere making a cameo and I can already sense that I need to clarify something.  The events of War of Nytefall take place a couple hundred years prior to the other series, so now you can get an idea of who might make an appearance.  Either a god or some other kind of immortal, but this did bring up a dilemma.  Do I have this character show up looking the same or different?

Well, there was an easier answer here since this character shares an odd ‘origin’ with Clyde, but I still got to thinking about reusing old characters.  It can be a little nerve-wracking because you don’t want to damage what you’ve already created.  I’ve talked at least once about the challenge and danger of prequels, which this feeds into because you could simply leave the characters alone.  Worlds are big places, so I don’t have to have cameos when I write another Windemere series.  Sure, Mab showed up in The Mercenary Prince, but that was really more of a ‘test run’ for the Dawn Fangs as main characters.  It wasn’t a prequel, so now I’m just establishing how she got to that point.  Only issue here is that I make it clear she survives and go entirely off topic from what I should be writing about.

The physical design of a character is locked into their persona mythos, so you can’t do much if you want to change them.  The core/basics need to be maintained or people will wonder simply why you didn’t make someone new.  You can have them age and maybe change the style in some fashion, but the audience expects certain tells.  For example, Nyx will always need to have black hair, her amethyst necklace, and usually have some fire-like connection.  Changing those around turns her into someone else, which isn’t that different than reality.  All of us have identifiers that make us who we are regardless of how old we get, so it isn’t surprising to find that characters will be the same.  That’s part of what I was thinking when I made the handful of cameos in my series.

Now, I do use the word ‘versions’ in the title and that’s because I did make a younger ‘version’ of the character in question.  Those identifiers are there, but it’s obvious that the personality isn’t what it is when you first meet them. It’s less mature, which makes sense considering the hundreds of years between the series.  Did I put a lot of thought into how this is done?  Probably not as much as I should have, but I considered this cameo for years, so it might have simply been spread out over time.  That doesn’t make me feel any more relaxed about it, especially since I may have marked it happening in 3 books because I kept forgetting where it was supposed to go.  Oops.  Glad I solved that problem before I published any of them.

So, what do you think about introducing new versions of old characters?  I know I didn’t touch on it that clearly, but maybe we’ll get further in the comments.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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17 Responses to New Versions of Old Characters: More Than the Look

  1. This is the year of prequels and sequels for me. The prequel is an interesting exercise, no doubt. They can’t step on the page with all the experience they had in the later story.

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  2. L. Marie says:

    This is an interesting topic. I can’t help thinking of the issues that people are finding with The Crimes of Grindelwald due to inconsistencies with characters who also are in the Harry Potter series. Granted when writing a series, sometimes you don’t know some aspects of a character. I think also of the Ring-wraiths and how the description of them sort of “evolved” over the course of Tolkien writing the LOTR. But issues arise when a character pops up in a story supposedly many years before that character was born (as in the case of the Grindelwald movie).

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  3. I think you have to be real careful with character revisions. There are loyal fans out there who may not take kindly to a favorite character undergoing some sort of change.

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  4. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this post from the Legends of Windemere blog with New Versions of Old Characters: More Than the Look

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  5. I’d think you’ll always run into people who liked the character the way it was. They’ll complain that you messed with their favorite characters. Even when the change takes place right there on the page, there’s still that reaction. For example, I really liked Storm when I first met her with the long hair and flowing robe/costume. When Clairmont put her in the bustier and mohawk, I was less than impressed.

    But with a series like yours, if there’s a character who can be around during prequels, I’d think your longtime fans will be more disappointed if you don’t let them make the cameo appearance.

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    • There probably would be a few questions as to what the immortal characters are doing. It’s already weird that none of the Windemere gods and goddesses are showing up. Good point on there always being someone who will complain. Even if it’s a prequel, people might not like the younger, earlier versions.

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