Now that Champion of Moonlight is over, I thought I’d take a look back at how I got started with all of this. There’s been a lot of changes, both before posting and as I posted the story, and I figured I’d share some of the process as well as just some random facts that I wasn’t able to fit into the story – it’s accompanied by pictures from my first version of the first chapter because that’s the only chapter I re-did. I’m posting because it amuses myself, but also because I know I love reading these kinds of things from other authors, so maybe somebody out there is like me and finds it fun, enlightening, and inspiring to have a look into another writer’s process. Therefore, without further ado – let’s look at the changes that’s happened over the course of writing CoM.
Fair warning: This is long (and probably boring) 😀 Also full of spoilers for the story.
The whole story came about because I wanted a couple of things:
- To write a love story with a perky heroïne and a tall, dark, handsome, mysterious, and brooding hero who was maybe a little bit of a bad boy.
- To write a story wherein the protagonists were smart and hard-working.
The first one is just because I like that kind of story, but at the same time, I wanted to subvert some common traits of the story. I wanted there to be a reason for the two of them to be attracted to each other – way too often, that kind of story has a brooding, moody hero who falls for the heroïne just because the writer said so. When I thought about how to get the two attracted to each other, I figured it had to come down to a respect for each other’s skills. I also ditched the moody and impolite aspect that’s so common for a character like that – after all, why would my heroïne fall for a rude jerk? That’s how the bad boy thing went out the window. Little by little, Nadir changed from the initial idea and became someone who seems cold and brooding, but who’s actually sweet and passionate. The idea for that came from my own social anxiety – I know it makes me come off as arrogant or like I don’t like people, while in reality I don’t believe I am like that. Same goes for Nadir.
The second point came about because I’m so sick of heroes winning the day because of dumb luck. Why is it that in stories, we continually learn that if you just believe in yourself, listen to your damn heart, and follow your dreams, you come out on top? Ugh. I wanted a story where my main characters are talented and successful because they work hard. Genevieve has won so many times because she works for it – every day. Not in a healthy way, really, but she works hard and it pays off. I’m also tired of main characters nearly always being somewhere between dumb and of average intelligence while smart characters are relegated to sidekicks, rivals, and even villains. Hence a story full of bookish nerds. In time I started designing the magic system so that if you want to do advanced stuff like transformations, you pretty much have to study – the magic is just that hard.
Let’s start with Genevieve, because she’s the one that’s changed the least from my early version – in looks, at least. I never could find a hairstyle that suited her better than the one she ended up with – apart from the hairstyles she uses for when her hair is down and her fancy hairstyle (which is pretty much a longer version of her everyday one). The perky ponytail and curly bangs just have so much personality. She’s also always been black, because when I thought up her character, I couldn’t think of a reason not to make her black. She’s always worn purple – she’s a character who’s super into magic and purple is a colour that I associate strongly with magic. Funny enough, it’s also probably my least favourite colour – though I like the shades of it I’ve used for Gen.
Her personality has changed a lot during writing, though. In earlier drafts, she was much more neutral as a character and more pleasant as well. She took losing to Nadir surprisingly well – or at least got over it very quickly – and was also fairly chill about the budding romance. Once I started changing her to being more arrogant and less socially competent, all that changed. The biggest change came when I told my boyfriend that I went for her being confident and he said “well, she’s not.” And she isn’t – she’s arrogant, not confident. Once he noted that, I ramped up some of her insecurities. Boyfriend also helped me to gain a different understanding of Celeste. Speaking of…
Celeste’s looks haven’t changed much either, though she started out with long, straight hair. I changed it because I figured she is the kind of woman who loves styling it in different ways. She’s the one whose style changes the most and she’s the most fun to dress because she’s comfortable with her own body. I also enjoy the her very rich, red outfits. Once I installed body sliders for the first time, she also changed drastically – she’s very skinny and slim in my game.
I gained a new appreciation for her when the whole “Genevieve isn’t confident”-thing happened. When I realised that I didn’t understand confidence (what can I say? I’m not confident myself), I asked my boyfriend for an example of real confidence and he pointed to Celeste. It made me change a lot of her dialogue. In earlier drafts she spoke like someone much younger, kind of a teenage-y, gossip-y kind of person. After Genevieve and Nadir’s kiss she teased Genevieve about it whereas in the version you can read here, she tries to calm her down and to teach Gen that it’s okay. I emphasised her maturity and love of life, and I like her and Genevieve’s dynamic a lot more this way – my favourite scene between the two was them working on Celeste’s potion together. That wasn’t even a scene that was in the story to begin with – initially, Gen got over herself and asked Nadir about the transformation right away but once I started changing her character, I had her learning it from Celeste instead. It just made more sense.
Next up is Nadir and I honestly can’t look at his old design without cringing. Darling, why do you look like you just stepped out of a time machine after a trip to the 1700s? I changed his style when he became more of a shy character and I realised that if you’re shy and anxious you wouldn’t be caught dead in a get-up like that. Hence his later outfit which is darker and less flashy. I changed his hairstyle as well, mostly just because the other one’s not EA and fits better with the others I use – it also looks better. As for his colour scheme, I think I might have dressed him in yellow because Genevieve is dressed in purple and those are contrasting colours – it’s the kind of stuff I do. The yellow of his outfits was toned down a bit later on though, so the contrast isn’t terribly obvious in the final product.
Orion changed in one major way – he used to be a woman. He and Isadora were romantically involved at that stage as well. Initially I just threw in the ghost to the cast for the hell of it. It’s a fantasy story after all, so why not? Then Oceana, as she was called at the time, became the centre of the whole plot. I changed the gender because I came up with the twist of the story: Isadora killed her partner. There’s a common and very bad trope in fiction called Bury Your Gays, and what it’s basically about is that gay characters aren’t allowed to have happy endings in a lot of works – they end up dying while their straight counterparts live happily ever after. It’s an unfortunate trope and once I decided on the Isadora-killed-her-partner story, I couldn’t in good conscience keep the characters as they were. Instead, Celeste became gay and she’s happily married. I regret not mentioning it in-story and not finding a way to write in her wife, but I’ll make up for that in the sequel.
Gabriel and Amin also both changed visually. Both were initially different to look at. I changed them because I felt like my cast was getting a little white, apart from Genevieve, that is. For Amin it just made more sense for him to be from Egypt because he knew Nadir. Gabriel got dark skin because why not. Cloris was initially heavier, but I was afraid that it was unfortunate if the only heavy character was also the least important to the plot – so I ended up just making her curvy. The picture above is after this weight change, though.
You’ll notice in the bottom picture that there’s a kitty as well. I wanted there to be a cat familiar in the manor, but I couldn’t think of anything to do with it. In the end, the only familiar mentioned in the story is Ifrey and he was already difficult enough to work with – you can’t really move birds around how you see fit, after all.
Like I’ve mentioned before, I don’t tend to choose names for their meanings. I pick names that I think sound good or fit the character.
Genevieve was initially called Guinevere, but she would usually be called just Nevere. Once I came up with Nadir’s name, though, and said them together, I felt like it became problematic. Nevere and Nadir – they’re much too easy to mistake for each other. At this stage I was crazy about the name Nadir so Nevere had to go. A little search for a name like Guinevere gave me Genevieve. I couldn’t imagine another name for her at this stage.
Nadir was originally called Nadir Hawk but was still Egyptian. It was probably inspired by the witch name generator that I ended up using for pretty much everyone’s names, though Nadir was a name I found on behindthename.com and I thought it sounded good. I changed Hawk for Hazan when I realised it was silly to have an Egyptian first name and an English surname.
The only character besides the mains to change his name was Amin. He was originally called Zander Wright. I changed it when he became Egyptian. Oceana was Orion’s name when he was still a female. I pretty much just looked for a male name with an O that sounded ‘witchy’ and Orion was perfect. And generally the gist of all other character names are ‘they sound witchy’. I used the formerly mentioned witch name generator, found some names that sounded good, and the rest is history. The only character whose name is sort of meaningful is Cloris’ last name – Autumn. You might have noticed I dress her in autumn colours like orange, gold brown, and orange-red. It’s not symbolically significant or anything – I just liked the association.
The one thing that caused me trouble when it came to naming was the freaking title of the story itself. At first, I called it Hawk and Thorne (referencing Nadir’s old last name… also, it’s the cringiest title; wtf, past me). Then I changed Nadir’s name and the title of the story became Moonlight Manor. An old idea was for the plot to sort of centre around a mystery in the manor, but that didn’t work either, mostly because Genevieve knew the manor so well – she would have no reason to explore it and find secrets. Finally, literally the day before I posted the prologue, I came up with Champion of Moonlight.
- When I created Genevieve I used one of the premades as a base. The premade wore a silver ring with a green stone which I wanted to remove because it didn’t seem like her to wear a ring. I just forgot to remove it over and over again and over time I came to like that stupid ring. She’s worn it in every chapter apart from the prologue (where I remembered to remove it!).
- The Sims all have standard height because I prefer stretched poses to the height slider for the sake of animations, but if I were to assign them heights, Gabriel would be the tallest of the characters at 208 centimetres. Genevieve would be the smallest at 155.
- Nadir and Celeste are the wealthiest characters. Both are part of influential magical families, though Nadir is the last of his and Celeste has a huge family.
- In Thursday: Among the Stars, Genevieve remarks in her narration: “It was hard to say who kissed whom.” This is her being in denial. It was totally her that kissed him first – I can’t even imagine Nadir having the courage.
- I wrote a document with “a few” “notes” about the magic system at one point. Once I was done I realised it was five pages long and only fun for me. I might condense it and post it some day. Until then, a few facts about it:
- There are two types of energy in the world of CoM (well, three, but nobody knows how to access the third): magical energy and life energy. Life energy is stored in all living, organic beings. So e.g.: humans, cats, firs, butterflies, and bees all have life energy. Rocks don’t. Magical energy is unique to humans and is required for casting spells. Not all humans have magical energy and if you don’t have any, you can’t cast spells – you can create potions, though.
- Life energy can be used for indirect magic, such as brewing potions. You can only brew potions with stuff with life energy – so no rocks, minerals, or gems (sorry, EA).
- You can however infuse objects with magic. If you have something non-organic (say, an ice statue) you have to infuse it before you can transform it, as what you’re doing is transforming the energy of an object.
- Witches like to keep familiars – like Genevieve’s Ifrey. In the olden days, they used to think that having a familiar around made your magic stronger but that has been disproven by scholars.
- Likewise, witches used to believe the full moon affected their powers – it has also been disproven. That, however, is how the Moonlight Tournament got its name – it was held on a fullmoon when they believed their powers to be at their highest.
- And finally: Like EA, I call both female and male magic users witches. In my little universe this is because the word ‘wizard’ has a negative connotation. This was caused by the guy who supposedly wrote the Ink Volumes, Wymond Ink.
Aaaand, I’d better stop for now. If you bothered to read this, I can only thank you 🙂 It’s a fact that the one thing us writers like more than writing is talking about writing – especially our own – so I’m very thankful to have a forum to do it here. Of course, I know not everyone is as intrigued with my universe as I am, so I’ll end it here and once again thank you guys for reading Champion of Moonlight. It’s been a super fun experience and I couldn’t have done it without you.
Until the next post, you guys take care.