I first wrote The Genie Whisperer shortly after starting college, when I had very little writing experience and hadn’t studied the craft beyond being a voracious reader. (Back in early junior high, I spent time in between classes and whenever I finished classwork early writing . . . until I realized I could use that time to read, so switched to that. In retrospect, I regret missing out on all that potential writing practice, but it turned out okay in the end!) I didn’t quite finish writing that original version, but I did get through Ali obtaining all the genies except for Shadow, and all the way up to Ethan McMichael taking Ali away. I still have it, and it is one sad attempt at writing.
Since I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time, I started with where I was at in life. It was my first year at college, so I made it Ali’s first year at college. I attended college while living at home (’cause I like being frugal and saving money), but worried how this would affect my ability to understand what it means to live on your own and be responsible for all the bills and such, so I decided to put Ali somewhat in that situation. My degree, at the time, was Communications, though I later switched to Political Science (yes, I have one of those soft science degrees that Ali openly disparages), so I had Ali going to school for Communications.
When I revisited this story nearly a decade later to write it for real (as in with the intent to publish it), I was armed with far more knowledge of how to craft stories and characters, and knew Ali’s backstory needed some serious adjusting. There were three particularly big changes I made to her:
- I changed her degree to Mechanical Engineering. I loved the idea of making her a science nerd (a topic I enjoy, and my dad’s degree is in electrical engineering, my mom’s is in math, and my brother is a computer programmer, so there’s plenty of nerdiness to go around in my family), and I wanted her to utilize her scientific knowledge to help solve problems in this magical world she’s thrown into.
- I made her family controlling to give her a desperate motivator to want to fight for her own independence and do everything herself, which was an essential characteristic with genies who could give her anything she might desire being thrown into her life.
- I made her a genie whisperer. She was just a normal human in the original version, which meant that stealing genies was possible in that version, a feat that’s far more difficult, if not impossible, in the version that exists now. If Ali was going to be at the center of all these genies’ lives, I needed her to be a special snowflake, so the idea of genie whisperers was born.
In the next post, I’ll cover the changes to Ali’s family in more depth.