I’ve been looking forward to doing this since well before Resistance came out. I always thought it would be fun to spotlight the characters from Ilyon Chronicles, and the first spotlight, of course, goes to Jace since he is the heart of Ilyon Chronicles for me. After all, if not him, the series wouldn’t even exist. If you haven’t read Resistance yet, you might not want to read further if you don’t want any spoilers.
The first thing I’d like to share in this spotlight is a digital painting of Jace I’ve worked on here and there for the past couple of years. Before today, only a small handful of people have ever seen it. I’m no artist, but it’s my first (and probably only) painting I’ve ever been satisfied with. I guess if I’m only ever going to succeed at painting any of my characters, I’m glad it was Jace. What do you think? Does he match any of your imaginings?
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Now for the information. We'll start with some quick facts about Jace.
Appearance: Chin length black hair, bright sea-blue eyes, well-built but fit, 6'3" tall.
Age: 20-ish (about 17 at the beginning of Resistance)
Race: Half human/half ryrik
History: The first seventeen years of Jace's life he spent as a slave. He has no knowledge of where he came from. For the last three years of his slavery he was forced to be a gladiator until Rayad came across him and paid for his freedom.
Now how did Jace's character come to be? This is very important, because, as I said, there would be no Ilyon Chronicles if not for Jace. It was his story that started it all. Basically, he was inspired by my favorite character in the DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul, or at least by an aspect of that character. It was June 27, 2011 that I was reading through the series. I was reading DragonQuest specifically and came to a scene where my favorite character was discovered to be half-blooded. No big deal about that, right? I mean, if you've read my Makilien Trilogy, you'll remember that I've written about half-bloods before (half-elves to be exact). But what I hadn't done was written about half-bloods who were looked down on society as the half-bloods in DragonKeeper Chronicles are. That got me thinking. Here are some of the very first notes I wrote down the day after I started thinking about this.
So I was reading DragonQuest last night and it sparked a very interesting idea. I have sort of a basic plot, but mainly I have two great character ideas. I guess I'll start there.
First there's the main guy because that is where these ideas started. What I'm thinking is in this new fantasy world there is a race of people who are really evil. They can pass as humans if they want to, but have non-human attributes like pointed ears, able to see in the dark, etc. They are cunning, devious, and easily enraged. I'm thinking that even though they appear human, they almost have some animal-like tendencies. Everyone fears and hates them because they are always raiding villages and out for blood. Now, what if my main guy is half human, half one of these people? Think of the inner turmoil that would cause. He would constantly struggle with his mixed blood. Plus, I'm thinking that most people don't believe this race has souls, so my guy will always have this doubt gnawing at him, wondering if God truly can love and save him.
That right there is where is the very beginning of Ilyon Chronicles and the character of Jace. As you can see, I hadn't even got to naming him or ryriks yet .
One interesting thing about Jace's character is that, originally, he was not a gladiator. Imagine that. I can't anymore. No, he was just an abused slave when Rayad rescued him. Here are my notes from when that all changed. Notice the date and how long it was after I first started Resistance in June 2011.
-March 29, 2012-
Okay, wow, my imagination is really running wild. I just watched a show on gladiators and my mind was working the entire time. I'm not even sure what to do with all my ideas. The thing is, I always considered having gladiator type games in the story so seeing this was good for that. But here's where my ideas went a little crazy. Suddenly I thought, what if Jace's master intended for him to be a gladiator? What if he did fight in some games? Oh my, would that past haunt him. The biggest problem is, how do I add in something that big?
Yeah, I was a little overwhelmed with the overload of new ideas. ;) Needless to say, it all came together perfectly. This was one of those amazing moments I know God put thoughts in my head that made the story more than it could ever be if I tried to do it all on my own. All it took was watching this random documentary on the History Channel with my brother to completely change a huge aspect of the series. That's pretty awesome. Jace would not be the same character I know and love so much if his gladiator past wasn't a part of him. It affects so much of who he is.
Now some of you might be wondering about this weakness ryriks have with their lungs that transferred over to Jace with his ryrik blood. Perhaps you're asking, where did that idea come from? Here's the answer: I have no idea. Yeah, that's just one of those little details you just can't remember how it ever popped into your head. Again, I believe this was God because this actually ends up to be a big part of Jace's character development (sorry, can't say more than that). All I have about this idea is my original notes about it from July 23, 2011.
I had a fascinating idea for a weakness for ryriks. I have no idea how my thoughts got around to this, but here it is. Ryrik senses are very sensitive. They can be very affected by harsh air conditions such as pollution, smoke, thin air, etcs. Turns out their lungs are rather fragile. They aren't very susceptible to illnesses, but colds can be deadly. Breathing in pollutants causes them to have bad coughing fits and their lungs start to bleed. This itself isn't life-threatening, but prolonged exposure makes it worse, and basically, if it's too long or severe, a ryrik can suffocate.
Another thing I'm not sure about is how Jace ended up with Tyra. I don't think I have any notes from when I first thought of adding her. I do know she was originally a gray wolf and not black. But, of course, a black wolf, who happens to be an object of fear and superstition in Ilyon, is absolutely perfect for Jace. I don't think it took me too long to figure that out. And, of course, giving him a black horse was a no brainer. Blue and black have always been Jace's colors.
If you've been following my posts at all, you already know Jace is a very special character to me. I understand and know him better than any of my other characters. I think God gave me inspiration for him specifically because of some of the things I’ve been going through. For almost five years, I have dealt with one health issue after another, and in the midst of that, have had a lot of difficult experiences with other people. I’ve been depressed, suffered severe anxiety, and reached some of my lowest points in the last few years. Times where I just don’t understand what God is doing. I know what it’s like to feel broken and lonely and mistrustful of others. It’s because of all that I can write and relate so well to Jace. I think God gave me his story to help me deal with my own. Jace makes a lot of progress in Resistance, but his troubles aren’t yet over. There is still a lot he has to face and overcome. There are still low points and things he can’t understand. But, as a writer, I see where his story is going. I see that all the low points serve a purpose and that they all work together perfectly. And because I can see that, I can understand the same is true about God and my story. Bringing Jace through his trials to an ultimately better place helps me better understand and cope with my trials. That, I think is the ultimate message I hope to share in Ilyon Chronicles, particularly with Jace’s character. God has already written our stories and knows how each difficulty we face shapes our characters and can lead us to a much closer relationship with Him if we trust Him with our stories.