I was thirteen years old when I started writing Shadow Dawn and Tara was the sort of girl I wanted to be. She didn’t need anyone to look after her, she was clever, a good fighter, fierce and independent. She had all the confidence that thirteen year old me didn’t have. This is back when Gabriel was the main character of the story, it was still called Obscurite, and it never got past more than about 5,000 words.
Since then the title has changed, Gabriel has been lost, new characters have been added, the plotline has shifted dramatically and there have been more than a few revamp of character design. What has stayed the same is Tara and her awesomeness.
I’ve talked about writing Shadow Dawn on this blog before. The book one of those things that I’ve tried to do over and over but have never managed to get to the end of. In the last couple of years I’ve managed to get my head down and most of the book written. Right now I’m working on draft four [of the most recent set of drafts] and this one looks like it might stick
What I wanted to talk about, is why I wrote Tara like she is and why she was the only character in the story to stay pretty much the same throughout all the reworkings.
Growing up, I didn’t really read comics, so my first example of a female superhero [of sorts] were characters such a Max from Dark Angel and Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Megara from Hercules. These were the characters that Tara grew out of. Strong, independent females who weren’t perfect. They had their issues and sometimes they made mistakes, but when it counted, they could pull it together and make the choices that mattered. Tara as she is now is deadly, but she’s also uncomfortable with her own position, the tasks she carries out, and what her father wants from her. She’s trying to do the right thing but she’s surrounded by a lot of darkness. In short, she’s putting a brave face on a bad situation.
I always knew that I didn’t want the book to be about Tara being saved by someone, or falling in love with the first guy to show her any sort of kindness. I wanted her to be tough and aloof, her own person. So to begin with, I locked her up in a tower.
Thinking about that now I want to kick myself, but to be honest, thinking about a lot of my older writing makes me want to kick myself. Unless we’re talking about some of that fanfiction I wrote, because there may be spelling and grammar mistakes everywhere, but in places I was hilarious.
However, returning to the topic of Tara, I was trying to write a book with a unique female protagonist and in trying so hard I ended up falling into black holes of clichés and character tropes. I wasn’t being original and I wasn’t doing Tara justice.
What did I do? I stopped caring. I just started writing Tara as Tara. Like I said, she was the
girl I wanted to be at thirteen. The thing is, as I’ve grown up I’ve learnt that the woman I want to be, is the woman I actually became.
Yeah, I’m still not as good at art as I want to be, in a fight I’d be wallpaper paste on the floor, there’s a lot of things I’m not very good at that I really wish I could do well, but you know what?
I’m happy. I’m a lot happier than thirteen year old me was and I can join a judo club and learn how to defend myself, I can practice drawing and get better, I buy whatever clothes I want to and look pretty flipping good in most of what I put on. I found out that being me can be a good thing and I didn’t need to be someone else to fight the battles that needed fighting in my life.
I didn’t become Tara, I became me, and Tara grew up into her own sort of woman alongside me.
Really Tara has changed a lot, but in that slow way that children somehow become adults before you realise what’s happening. One moment they’re shoving spoons up their noses and the next their packing the car for university. It’s an insidious growth.
Even if Tara isn’t a superhero in the book, she is to me. She gave me courage and hope when I needed it, and at twenty-two she’s still driving my hopes and dreams forward, poking me when I’m too lazy to write.
She deserves a book after all the rewrites that I put her through and I hope that like the characters who inspired me to write her, she can inspire someone else to realise that we’re all imperfect screw ups trying to make the best of things. It’s okay to get it wrong sometimes. Getting it wrong now and again doesn’t make us failures, it makes us human.
After all, there wouldn’t be any story without a little conflict.
Discovery Challenge: Superheros