Characters With a Mind of Their Own
When I wrote Never Let Me Sleep, I didn’t plan on a sequel or a trilogy. It was supposed to be a one-off. I was going to leave things in a nebulous did-she-or-didn’t-she state. Fortunately, my protagonist, Melissa Allen, had other ideas.
I spent weeks thinking about the end of Never Let Me Sleep and Melissa yelled at me the whole time. She insisted that the end I’d written wasn’t the end of her story. That it wasn’t right or fair to have her learn to take responsibility for herself, only to yank it away again. To undercut her message and her power like that.
After a couple of weeks not sleeping very well, I wrote the new ending. The ending that is in the final version of the book. Everyone is much happier for it.
Then I realized that I needed to continue with her story. Where do you go after you kill off 860,000 people in the first book of a series? What’s the next story to tell?
Sequels are hard sometimes, but once I decided to keep writing, the next story presented itself in a single brilliant flash of insight: what is Melissa most afraid of?
Being locked away, never to be seen or heard from again. She found her voice and her confidence… and her freedom. To take that away would be terrible.
Yeah. I never want to meet any of my protagonists in a dark alley. I would not come out unscathed.
In Never Let Me Sleep, Melissa had the whole state of South Dakota to herself. In Never Let Me Leave, I trapped her in an underground lab with strangers, doctors who wanted to study her, and a murderous alien. To add insult to injury, I had Melissa discover that she wasn’t the only teenager to have saved the world. She wasn’t quite as special as she thought.
But, as I mwhaha’d over this, Melissa rolled up her sleeves and said, “Right. How do we get out of here? How do we do it while saving everyone else, too?? Also, why on earth do you keep a pissed off alien in your basement? What’s really going on here anyway”
The more I got into Melissa’s head, the more she surprised me. Yes, the novel was outlined. I knew what the basic story was, but Mel’s care and concern, her stubbornness and strength, added nuances I hadn’t thought about. She acted as much as reacted. She took responsibility for herself and for others.
I loved it.
Every single time I paused and thought, “Now what?” Melissa would answer. If I didn’t agree with what she thought because it didn’t work into my plotline, she let me know that was stupid and she didn’t do stupid things. Horror movie rules. And she was right. She saved me from lazy writing more than once because she was as invested in the story as I was. I’d never had that happen before this trilogy.
Yes, I knew what Never Let Me Leave was supposed to be about. But I didn’t really know the story until it was written. Melissa had a mind of her own and used it.
Jennifer Brozek is an award-winning editor, game designer, and author.
Hugo Award nominated and winner of the Australian Shadows Award for best edited publication, Jennifer has edited fifteen anthologies with more on the way. Author of In a Gilded Light, The Lady of Seeking in the City of Waiting, Industry Talk,and the Karen Wilson Chronicles, she has more than sixty published short stories, and is the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions.
Jennifer also is a freelance author for numerous RPG companies. Winner of both the Origins and the ENnie awards, her contributions to RPG sourcebooks include Dragonlance, Colonial Gothic, Shadowrun, Serenity,Savage Worlds, and White Wolf SAS. Jennifer is also the author of the YA Battletech novel, The Nellus Academy Incident.
When she is not writing her heart out, she is gallivanting around the Pacific Northwest in its wonderfully mercurial weather. Jennifer is an active member of SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. Read more about her at www.jenniferbrozek.com or follow her on Twitter at @JenniferBrozek.
“Never Let Me Sleep is a disturbing glimpse into an unfolding apocalypse. This is genuine nightmare territory.” –Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and Fall Of Night
What would you do if you discovered everyone in your house, on your street, and in your town dead? Then discovered you weren’t alone and what was out there was hunting you? Melissa Allen knows exactly how it feels. With only a voice on the phone for help, she must stop what is happening before the monsters find her.
The sequel, Never Let Me Leave, comes out on November 10, 2015.