Sunday, February 24, 2013

Elemental Phases Character bio: Kingu

Kingu wasn’t actually supposed to get a book.  When I introduced him in Guardian of the Earth House, I just conceptualized him like a henchman for Kay.  It wasn’t until later that I realized that, underneath his contempt for Elementals and dragon-like exterior, he was actually a good guy.  He just needed the right heroine to help him see that.  So I wrote Treasure of the Fire Kingdom, where he finally gets his Match.

I gave a draft of the first few chapters of the book to my mom, who is pretty reliable in telling me when she doesn’t think something is working.  (For reference, Cross from Warrior from the Shadowland, is her favorite character.  In the first draft of that book, he wasn’t the hero, but a secondary character.  Mom handed it back to me and simply said, “I like Cross,” which necessitated a total rewrite.)  Anyway, this time she told me she didn’t like Kingu.  Well, no, that’s too harsh.  She told me she didn’t see him as a hero, yet.  So, I reread what I’d written and made some changes.  Next time I gave Mom a draft, she loved Kingu.  She told me he was the most sympathetic character in the series.

The ironic part is I didn’t change Kingu, at all.  Or, at least, it was just very minimal stuff.  I changed Hope.  In the earlier drafts Hope was less decisive and self-confident.  I mean, she was always a Fire Phase, but she wasn’t quite so assured about it.  Lesson I learned:  You can do a Beauty and the Beast style book, but the “Belle” character is the one who holds it all together.  She’s got to be the one who does the saving.

I think this is the key to all romance novels.  When I’m writing, I usually call the unfinished book “Kingu’s Story” or “Gion’s Story” or whatever, which is really kind of silly.  I see all the heroines as equal partners in the book.  Maybe equal and a little bit more.  51/49 women.  I can’t stand it when heroines are just cardboard cutouts there to make the men look good.  As much as I love the heroes, I like it much better when the women are the ones driving the action.

As soon as Hope took over and Kingu was swept along in her schemes, their relationship made sense to me.  The “Beast” was actually the sane one.  The “Beauty” character was a kooky, violent nut who was determined to take over his life.  With that paradigm in mind, the whole book became more balanced and, in my opinion, more fun.  Kingu, quite frankly, didn’t give a damn about the Phases or their problems.  He just cared about her.  So he wasn’t going to drive the larger story arc.  If anything was going to get done in the Cloud Kingdom, Hope was going to have to be the one who instigated it.  And, once she had full reign to cause havoc, the plot progressed nicely.

When I was a teen addicted to romances, I read one where there heroine was kidnapped/captured/held prisoner thirteen times in three hundred pages.  Thirteen!  She spent the whole book waiting to get rescued.  No way am I writing that story.  When my heroines get kidnapped/captured/held captive, they usually find a way to escape on their own or turn the whole situation to their advantage.

In no way do I make any pretense about my books having social relevance, but I don’t want any younger readers scarred for life over heroines who faint at the word “gunshot” or passively endure jackass heroes who hit them in the name of love.  I’ve actually dealt with those situations as a romance fan and we’re moving beyond it as a genre.  So, I take a lot of pride in the positive feedback I get about my heroines being smart and strong.  I find that my heroes like it better, too.

- Cassandra Gannon


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