In saying that, I have had some feedback from a few different sources that I would like to comment on, discussing how they found certain characters unlikable at first. The two characters in question were Arinda and Jahx in the beginning of the book. Some words used to describe them were moody, bratty, arrogant, insufferable, petulant, and rude.
Am I mad about that? Heck no! It's actually really good feedback. First of all, each person who said that also said that by the end of the book, the characters had grown into much more likeable people and they cared what happened to them. It also means that they had an emotional investment in the characters, and for a writer, that's some of the best news you can get.
I designed my characters that way on purpose. And it is interesting to hear different people's perspectives on them. Some didn't like Arinda at first, others identified with her and understood why she was the way she was.
Because here's a fact – people have bad days. Some, like Arinda, have bad lives. Others are hiding secrets they are desperate to protect and will strike out at others if they feel that secret is threatened. Sorry to be the bearer of reality, but not everyone is nice all the time, particularly people who have been bullied. And I would know, because I was a bullied child. That's why I know how Arinda thinks.
For instance, a line in 'The Mage Sister' says: "How she hated them, those horrible kyn kids; how she wanted to be one of them, and have someone to giggle at, too". That is an observation I remember. It doesn't mean that she wants to be mean to someone else. It means that she wants to have the choice.
Quite likely, Arinda would be a champion to someone being bullied if given the opportunity (as she does indeed become in The Children of Fi), but she's never been given the opportunity. She's always been the target, and I can tell you one true thing – a bullied child wishes more than anything to not be a target.
If she had gone blindly along with her transition from being hidden away and terrified of the Circle of Mages to being right in the midst of them, happily accepting everything that happened to her, her character would not have rung true.
And Jahx was under a lot of pressure and having a bad day. His teacher refers to a recent bad experience with his childhood sweetheart, having thrown him over publicly. Actually, they'd been caught in compromising circumstances and her father had hauled him before King Nathan. To keep from getting in trouble, she had told her father that Jahx was the aggressor and had forced her. Fortunately for Jahx, Nathan knew him well enough to know how unlikely it was. But Jahx refused to openly deny it, hoping that somehow taking responsibility would fix the situation and he and his sweetheart would be able to be married as they wanted to. But, of course, it didn't.
Nathan made them tell their stories before a truthsayer and the real story came out. Her father didn’t like Jahx, thought there was no future for his daughter with him and had arranged for her to be married to another man. She didn't want to be married off, so she had instigated the incident, knowing they'd get caught and hoping that her father would make Jahx marry her. In the end, he didn't. She was sent away, and Jahx was utterly humiliated.
That's not in either of the books, because it's back story that is not part of the story. I may put it in a future book, but there's a little tidbit from Jahx's life for you, and the reason he was acting out so horribly. He'd always been a good kid and a gentleman, but after that, he figured, what was the point?
If he had not had his tantrum in front of his teacher, he wouldn’t have run out into the woods that night and become maged. And we find out later in The Children of Fi that Jahx was actually battling a past he could not forget, no matter how hard he tried – a past that haunted him. Those nightmares were real and terrifying.
No, real, true people do not behave nicely all the time. Sometimes they fight against changes that are good for them, because they feel threatened by them. We, as readers, can see that these changes are for the best and they will end up okay, because we have that omniscient view. But they don't. They feel their lives are in peril, and that's what makes a good story.
The fact that Arinda bites back, disagrees, answers back and doesn't always accept what she's been told is one the of characteristics that makes her unique among the mages. She has a mind of her own, and while some of the mages enjoy her spunk, some dislike her for it.
But who, in this world, is well-liked by everybody they know? I know I'm not. I am not Arinda. I cannot be my characters because they wouldn't be unique individuals. But I know her. Yes, I know her well.