Building a Cyborg: How Cinder Changed Throughout Revisions

Cinder

The idea for Cinderella re-envisioned as a teenage cyborg, part-human and part-machine, came to me as I was drifting to sleep one night. Some elements of her cyborgness were there from the start: she always had a robotic hand. She always had a robotic foot that she’d long outgrown. She always had a
keen understanding of mechanics and robotics.

During the writing of the first draft, I also discovered net-connectivity in her brain, which she used to download user manuals and blueprints, but the information she could gather this way was rather limited.

Then, after I finished that first draft and (months later) sat down to read through it, I realized something. For having written a cyborg who had the potential to be awesome in all sorts of ways, I’d somehow managed to make her entirely lacklustre.

I had no intention of writing a superhero into the story, and I didn’t want Cinder to become so high-tech she wasn’t recognizable as a sympathetic human being anymore. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t have some more fun with her abilities. I talked to some sci-fi-geek friends of mine, and asked what skills they would want if they were a cyborg. I watched movies and read books that starred part-machine characters. I read scientific articles on all the cool things that scientists are doing right now that involve cybernetic organisms.

Over the next few drafts, Cinder’s cyborgness developed into something cooler than I’d ever imagined her to be.

I found a hidden compartment in her leg, useful for storing tools and other secret items. I discovered a retina display that could scan the things she was seeing and overlay images across her vision—whether it was connecting a prince’s features to the global database, or laying a blueprint of a car engine across her eyesight so she could figure out how it worked. Her net-connectivity became more complex, allowing her to dig up all sorts of useful information. She surprised me in a late revision of the story by suddenly having the ability to tell when people were lying.
And all the while her skill with mechanics became more impressive, until a girl who had started out doing small jobs around the house for her stepmother, eventually—inevitably—became the most renowned mechanic in the entire city.

As I revised, I felt like I was gradually uncovering Cinder’s character, or maybe that she was slowly letting me in on her secrets. And the weird part is — the less physically human she became, the more human she felt to me. The more real she became.

Marissa Meyer

This blog first appeared on www.thebookrat.com as part of the CINDER Official Blog Tour 2012