As I’ve been going through the second version of Socialpunk and preparing for the third version of Socialpunk, which will hopefully come out very soon (fingers crossed) I’ve had a chance to go back and reevaluate some… decisions I made about the characters in the original conception. It’s true, as a lot of the reviews have said, that I focused more on world and plot than characters in my first few iterations, not because I didn’t want to focus on character, but because I wasn’t very good at focusing on character.
At the onset, I simply tried to make Ima the best character I could make her—I gave her a backstory, I gave her something she wants, I put a ton of obstacles in her way to get that something. She’s a fully-formed person in my mind, but I won’t lie—a lot of the other characters aren’t.
The most auspiciously confusing character among the group, even though she gets a surprising amount of screen time, is Ember, the other girl in the Socialpunks when Ima and Nahum find them. I made her an immediate hater of Ima, and therefore, a nemesis, but didn’t really provide a reason for her immediate hatred that I could explain.
I always figured I’d be able to give her more characterization when I got around to Nahum’s perspective, and I think I will; but in my re-writing, I’ve added a couple parts that reveal her backstory a bit more. Here’s a raw (unedited) snippet of one of the scenes I rewrote. This takes place during the second book in the serial version (spoiler warning if you’ve never read the original):
She ran her fingers down her necklace, slipping them over the shoelaces Dash had given to her, and finally landing on the medallion Nahum had given her. “You have nothing to worry about from me. I don’t know why you think you do. You’re beautiful, you’re brave, and more importantly, you’re already his girlfriend.” She emphasized the last part, because it seemed like the most obviously important one.
Ember eyed the necklace, scoffing again. “Vaughn isn’t my boyfriend.”
“Vaughn isn’t my boyfriend,” she repeated. “What makes you think he’s my boyfriend?”
“Ugh, don’t give me the speech about how sex means nothing in this world. Vaughn already made it clear that he thinks sex is just for pleasure.”
“So, you know about that.” Ember seemed surprised, though she didn’t really understand why. It wasn’t like they had kept it hidden that they were sleeping together.
“I didn’t mean any offense,” she said, realizing how rude she was. She had basically just implied that Vaughn was using her…
“He’s helping me,” she said. “My boyfriend is… gone.”
“Not dead,” she clarified. “But it ended badly.”
“I know the feeling,” Cinder mumbled, thinking of Dash… then, Nahum. Who was she to judge Ember’s coping mechanisms? She wasn’t exactly the queen of healthy relationships.
She gave Ember a small smile and the girl returned it. She wondered if there wasn’t hope for them yet, if one day they might actually be friends.
“Look,” Ember said. “Vaughn’s a good guy, and he clearly has feelings for you. And you clearly have your hands and heart full right now.”
She rolled her eyes, but nodded. “He’s all yours.”
“He wants you,” she said insistently. “And if there’s no chance… you need to tell him.”
She rolled her eyes again. Why did she need to tell Vaughn that nothing was happening between them? Had she led him on thus far? She didn’t really think so.
“I’m serious,” Ember said. “Otherwise, he’s going to follow you back into that dome and die there with you when your crazy scheme goes belly up.”
“Thanks,” she said sarcastically. “I appreciate that.”
Ember shrugged. “I don’t want to lose him. He’s like a brother to me.”
Eww, she thought to herself, until Dash popped into her mind. She really couldn’t judge when she could have easily said the same thing about him.
Instead, she tried to take advantage of Ember’s white flag to settle something that had been bothering her.
“What happened to Smolder?”
Ember suddenly looked uncomfortable. “Nothing that didn’t happen to me, too.”
“But you’re still with the Socialpunks,” she pointed out, not understanding. “Smolder isn’t.”
Ember looked up. “Not now,” she whispered. Then louder, she said, “Want some of my smoothie? I can’t finish it.” She batted her eyes at Vaughn as he settled into their booth.
She shook her head, wondering what Ember was playing at. Why keep faking it, if she still had feelings for someone else?
Or maybe that was the point, she realized, pulling up Ember’s profile in her mind. The page was covered with the two of them kissing, sharing smoothies, kissing some more…
Was it all an act for someone else?
Vaughn’s face twisted as he grabbed her smoothie and sucked it down. From the look on his face, he was trying not to smile. “So, the two of you managed not to kill each other…”
So, obviously there was a big drama in the past with the Socialpunks that left them so low in numbers, and that revolves heavily around the Carver hash and Smolder. A lot of that will be revealed when Nahum gets a turn at a viewpoint… and I think it will be interesting and fun and provide a better picture of who each of the Socialpunks were before Ima entered the picture.