Brains, Brawns, and Beauty: Creating the “Perfect” Sci-Fi Heroine
By Jessica Brody
“Okay,” Cody says, his voice serious. “First of all, don’t talk to random people in bus stations. It’s sketchy. Especially given your . . . well, celebrity status.”
“She asked me about the bus to San Francisco.”
“And secondly,”he continues, ignoring me, “and probably more important, um, hello? You speak Portuguese?”
“I don’t know.”
“How could you not know? I heard you back there.”
“Heard me what?”
“Speaking Portuguese,” he clarifies, sounding exasperated. “To that woman.”I glance over his shoulder at the young woman in the blue dress. She’s taken the seat I just vacated.
I think back to our conversation, suddenly hearing it differently in my memory.
“Você sabe quando o ônibus para São Francisco chega?”“
Cinco e quarenta e cinco.”
“I speak Portuguese?” I repeat Cody’s question.
“It would appear so.”
Some parents like to live vicariously through their children. I like to live vicariously through my book characters. In 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, I got to be a spoiled heiress, in My Life Undecided, I got to put all the decisions in my life up to a vote on the internet and now in Unremembered, I get to speak foreign languages, solve complex math problems in my head, run faster than a car, look like a supermodel, and read an entire book in less than three minutes.
Who is Seraphina? That is the question of the day.
But in my mind, the answer is easy. She’s Jason Bourne meets Sydney Bristow meets Heidi Klum. The perfect blend of brawns, beauty, and brains. And I had more fun creating her than any of my other characters.
The scene above is when Seraphina first learns that she can speak Portuguese. Other languages will soon follow. As well as other unique skills. Just the idea of writing a story about a girl with superhuman abilities who gets to discover them along the way (because she has lost all memories of who she is) was such an exciting idea for me.
I mean, how many of us have ever fantasized about accidentally stumbling upon some mad skill we didn’t know we had. For me, personally, every time I try out a new sport, I’m convinced that I’m going to turn out to be some hidden prodigy that the U.S. Olympics team has been waiting to find for centuries. I’ll pick up a tennis racket, take one swing and reveal myself as the next Serena Williams. Or I’ll take a single ballet class and the next day a scout from the New York City ballet will be knocking at my door, wondering where I’ve been all his life.
Sadly, however, that has yet to happen. I’m not deterred, though! After all, I haven’t tried every sport. And once I do, I’m fully prepared to start up again with musical instruments.
But I know, I know, enough about me, the boring writer. Back to the book!
When I first sat down to brainstorm Seraphina as a character and what kind of abilities she has hidden, I went nuts. I’m talking total geek out moments complete with squeals and girlish giggles.
My list of “abilities” was like pages long. And each one made me giddier than the last. Of course, not all of these skills made it into the final book. Some of them—like flying and invisibility—were a bit much and sadly had to go. (Perhaps saved for my next trilogy.)
Nonetheless, I had a blast creating Seraphina in my mind. I got to take pieces from all my favorite kick-ass characters and blend them together. I literally set out to create the “perfect” human being.
Then came the hard part.
Going beyond the simple act of cutting and pasting together the perfect heroine and actually placing my amalgamation within a story. Giving her real emotions and real reactions and real conflicts. This was the part of the process when I got to ask the more serious questions. Questions like: “What would your life be like if you were perfect? And “What is perfection?”
Is it having the highest IQ? The prettiest face? The strongest muscles? All of the above? And what if the price for all those perfections was your own freedom? Your own free will? Suddenly life doesn’t seem so perfect anymore, does, it?
And how far can you push perfection before you reach the edge of humanity? Is it possible to modify someone to the point where they fall off that edge?
But yeah, back to the “fun” part. Here’s where we do a nod back to My Life Undecided and poll the audience. Which of Seraphina’s traits would you most like to have? Vote below!
And I hope you enjoy the book!