Now to be fair, I can’t think of any main characters of mine that are universally hated, but in every novel that’s been in the hands of my betas, someone has inevitably said “I can’t stand ______.” In more than one case, the character whose name filled that blank was someone else’s favorite. The example of this that’s foremost in my mind right now is, of course, Cassidy.
Book 1 of the PRT series is told from Elle’s point-of-view, which means the reader gets to see Cass as Elle sees her. Sometimes that makes Cass look fabulous. Other times…it makes her look like a bitch. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on one half of that than the other, specifically the bitch half. I mean, Cass is beautiful, popular, arrogant and, more often than not, right. It’s easy to hate her.
Which became a big part of the challenge of book 2 since it’s from her point-of-view. She still has to retain all of those traits because they’re part of who she is, but there’s more to her than what’s on the surface. And, considering she’s a much more private person than Elle, those are the parts I had to dig deeper to find. When I was first drafting her novel, I would occasionally stop and write a little bit of her history–partly for readers (eventually) and partly for me to understand her better.
Now, I’m not one of those writers who thinks her characters are alive–at least not anywhere but inside my head–but in there, they are like real people. When I craft stories, I tend to “see” all of it happening inside my head, and one of the key things I saw when writing Pretty Souls was that Cass didn’t trust people. Specifically, Cass didn’t trust me (I know, I know, that seems contradictory to the “not real thing, but remember, we’re inside my skull right now. Nothing makes sense in there.) Even with the peeks into her past that I managed to tease out as I was drafting book 2, I still didn’t really “know” her. Cass isn’t a strong believer in “keep your friends close and you enemies closer”; she’s more of a “keep as far away from everyone as possible, then it doesn’t matter if they’re a friend or not” person.
Book 2 was first drafted a year and a half ago. And since then, I’ve let it sit. Instead of re-writing it, I’ve done interviews as Cass and Elle. I’ve written more flash and short stories about the girls. In short, I’ve gotten to know her better. And you know what?
She is a bitch.
But she’s also insanely loyal. And insecure. And obsessed.
In short, she’s not a horrible person…she’s normal, which is the one thing I never really saw her as when I looked at her through Elle’s eyes.
Book 2 was originally drafted with the title Partly Human. I never liked the title, but I couldn’t figure out quite why. Now that I know Cass better, I understand. The new working title of PRT 2 is Perfectly Human, and it fits both Cass and her story better than I could have hoped. You might still hate her when you’re done reading it, but even if that’s the case, I hope you understand her better. I know I do.