Books & Writers Core Lessons Writing Process - Drafting

Ready Player 3: Character Swapping for Fun and Profit

Today we have a guest post from Ellie Di Julio; author of the Forgotten Relics series, about how she picked point of view characters in her latest book. 


I’m going to let you in on a little authorly secret.


When you write a book, and it goes out into the world and becomes a real thing, you secretly pray for fancreations and shipping. Not because it buffs your ego (although it does), but because it means readers are as in love with your characters as you are—maybe more so.

I’ve yet to see anything like that for the Forgotten Relics characters*, but I did get a wee taste of it during Sword of Souls promo. Seriously, I’ll never forget the readers’ squees when I revealed that I’d plucked Sofi Strella from Inkchanger to join the Supernatural Cases Division. My heart nearly exploded from the lovefest that followed, complete with “shut up and take my money” memes.

Which is why it sucks to tell those same readers that Sofi doesn’t appear in Mirror of Ashes after chapter three.


It was a hard call to make. Because I’m an egotistical human, I didn’t want to deprive readers of the darling who’d garnered me so much praise, and because I’m a lazy writer, I didn’t want to swap the easy-to-write character for one I don’t know as well. But it wasn’t the right thing for the story for her to stay, so out she went.

All four beta readers missed her. They were sad. Hell, I was sad. But as much as we love Sofi’s wisecracks and sunshiney face, this story—full of vampires and werewolves in NYC—needed a different cast. And so, while she’s vital to the larger series’ plot arc, 90% of her action in Mirror of Ashes takes place off-camera.

Choosing who’s in and who’s out of a particular book in a series is never easy. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves: I’m no George RR Martin. I’m dealing with a main cast of about a dozen across five books, not a hundred across ten. That’s not huge, but it does require some fancy shuffling to ensure the plot is served before fanservice (which is more fun and easier to write).

So, while Sofi is offscreen during Mirror of Ashes, another character is front and center: Emmanuel “Call Me Manny” Boxer, who emerged from Sword of Souls as a surprise favourite. I already had big plans for Manny, but the outpouring of love for him made it far easier to slide him into Sofi’s vacant slot. He brings [spoilers] and [more spoilers] to the table, rounding out the team’s skills and establishing crucial plot twists for the series’ conclusion. With Sofi out of the picture, he was the obvious choice.

Cora and Jack will always be Players 1 and 2 in the Forgotten Relics series; it’s just a matter of choosing who best fits the Player 3 slot for each new book. Sadly, there’s no magic formula for making that choice. What I do—figuring it out by the seat of my pants as I sketch the book outline—may not work for you. The way second-stringers are chosen is as unique to the writer as their writing process.

What I can tell you, though, and here’s another authorly secret, is that love is the key. Love your story above all else. Love your characters next-best. Those two things together show your readers the most love possible—and they’ll love you back for it.


* If you’ve done FGR fan art/fic, please tell me. I want to share it! And if you haven’t, I hereby commission you. What are you waiting for?


About The AuthorEllie Di Julio - current headshot

Ellie Di Julio currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario with her Robert Downey, Jr. lookalike husband and their two cats. Between nerd activities like playing Final Fantasy or watching Top Gear, she enthusiastically destroys the kitchen and tries to figure out what it’s all about, when you really get down to it. She also writes urban fantasy novels for romantic nerds filled with pop culture references and sexy secret agents.

You can find Ellie’s books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the lady herself on, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads. For bonus good karma, join Team Patreon to support her evil schemes writing adventures.

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