Friday, September 28, 2012
I have to admit that Jackie was probably the hardest character for me to write in this story. It wasn't that she didn't come into my mind as solidly as other characters (in fact, Jackie was the first main character who came into existence for me after Liz). It wasn't that she had something wrong with her or that her voice was difficult for me to put to paper. It wasn't that I had to change her in any way. None of those things were problems with Jackie (but are problems I have had with other characters, both in this story and in others).
The problem with Jackie--what made her so fundamentally difficult for me to write--was that she has two very different personalities.
I know what you're saying. Liz has two different personalities too. She changes in the cult. And, yes, that's true, but I experienced Liz's change along with her. It was a gradual change. Jackie, however, comes into the story already in the cult, already changed, and the only taste you get of her actual personality isn't until much later (or in the "present day" scenes). Other than Liz, Jackie is the only character whose personality is so drastically different throughout the story, but unlike Liz you don't get to really know what Jackie's personality was ever like before she entered the cult.
Which means that I had two versions of Jackie in my head, both battling for page time. But her pre-cult personality so rarely wins out. The best taste you've gotten of it so far is how she relates to Liz in the central story, and in how she behaves in the present day story (although, even that's not 100% accurate, because she's behaving very carefully currently due to Liz's dealing with traumatic memories...which you have yet to learn about).
At the moment that you first meet Jackie, she's been in the cult for about three months--she's already been baptized and promoted once. At the moment you meet her, she is at the point that Liz is right now in the story. However, due to Liz's conflicting memories of Jackie pre-cult, and due to how Jackie relates to Liz, and in order to get the proper shocked response out of her family, I needed to know exactly where Jackie had started. I see her pre-cult personality being very close to Liz's--it's why the two are so close. Jackie is rather easily excitable--as you see in Liz's memory of Jackie shopping for dorm room decorations, and it also comes out when she's first talking Liz into joining the Children. She's fiercely confident in herself and her decisions (which is really part of the problem, in the long run), but before joining the Children she doesn't have quite Liz's annoyance for her family and hometown.
So how did the Children get her? If she was so confident and generally happy? Simple--in much the same way that cults get many young adults. Jackie was in a period of change, living on her own for the first time, out of her element in new surroundings. She was away from home, she had the same uncertainty that so many experience at the start of their college careers, she was away from her family and friends and looking for somewhere to belong in this new place. Cults feed off of that kind of instability and uncertainty. They present a group that feels welcoming and comforting. Jackie, and her roommate Jennifer, fed into that need to feel welcomed in this new place, and the Children gave it to her. By the time she would have realized her mistake, she was already too far gone.
And that's where she is when you meet her back in chapter one...