I’ve been thinking about his quite a bit lately. What makes a good character? The reason I’ve been thinking on has to do with my own leading lady, Kira Hilta. Kira is withdrawn, she’s lived most of her seventeen years out with only three people to deal with, (her mother, her grandfather, and her mother’s fiancée.) She doesn’t like outside interference. She’s kind once you stop being an “outsider” to her. She’s observant, smart, but she makes silly decisions sometimes and she is sometimes naive despite what her life’s been like. At the same time, she’s manipulative – once she decides on something, she will go to extraordinary lengths to do that thing. If you anger her enough, break the wall that she puts up around herself with violence, you will find that she has no moral line in her response.
I’ve had different responses to Kira. Some have liked her. I love her (for me, anyone who combines naivety with retribution is interesting.) Some haven’t warmed to her at all.
I finally figured out the reason why. I don’t show any of her good attributes until about a third of the way through the book. It’s still all there, but she never gets a chance to show any of it.
But regardless, all this got me to thinking about what I like in a heroine. I’m a fan of complicated and morally ambiguous heroines, sure. Katniss, Lireal (garth Nix if you’re wondering), Elspeth (Obwernyton by Isobelle Carmody). These characters have their complications, and their faults.
But the characters I love the most are those I wish I could be. Anything written by Tamora Pierce has these sort of characters. Powerful, smart, loved women who will flatten anything that comes in their path.
The thing that makes these books interesting is not the “will they/won’t they” succeed, it’s in watching how they do it. There is never any doubt in my mind on whether they have the competence to overcome their obstacles. Whether they can do it with everything they hold and love intact in another matter.
As always, unless you’re trying to make a point, balance is key. But it makes me wonder if the rounded character does require big faults. Or just small ones.