Today Kat and I have the pleasure of being hostesses with the mostest, serving virtual tea and biscuits for the Crewel Blog Tour! If you are a regular at Cuddlebuggery you’ll know that we are hard on female characters. On GoodReads alone I have quite a few special shelves dedicated to female heroines from “heroines-I’d-like-to-shake” to “ass-kicking-heroines.” And Kat will frequently tell you sometimes your love for a story can boil down to the likability of the heroine. Because she’s profound that way.
Crewel features a society that has strict gender rules, especially for females. So we asked Gennifer to talk about how she goes about crafting a female character. Check out her guest post and enter for a chance to win a finished copy of her debut YA novel, Crewel, and bracelet!
Stephanie has asked me to write a post about creating female characters in YA, so, of course, I am sitting here staring at my screen, trying to think of something witty or insightful to say about the topic.
I am failing.
Here’s the thing about writing any character in a novel — you sort of discover them as you go. I think the whole art of creating characters falls squarely into what Norman Mailer calls “the spooky art.” Yes, I have to sit around somedays and consider backstories and personal tastes and quirks of my characters, but these traits tend to just appear as though I’m merely learning about a real person.
Super insightful, right?
Now all that said, gender is certainly very important in Crewel. Primarily because the structure of Arras is set up around controlling the uniquely female skill of weaving. So naturally gender became a really important tool for creating the world. So I had a world full of women, stuck in a tower, controlling the world. Naturally in-fighting ensued. Power, or rather the illusion of it, is dangled in front of each Spinster’s nose like a proverbial carrot, and each character learns quickly that the glamorous life they’re promised as young girls at testing is only available to a select few, those with true skill and those who fight for it.
So I wrote a main character with true skill who fights against having power, and then provided a host of other female characters who would tempt her, challenge her, and torture her. I happen to like all of my characters. They all have backstories, reasons for the way they are, purpose for the things they do. But I don’t expect that everyone feels the same way. In fact, while editing Crewel, my copy editor sent me a note asking if it was necessary to make Pryana so mean.
The funny thing is that I don’t see Pryana as mean. Ambitious? Yes. Flawed? Certainly. But she has reasons for her actions that stem not only from being cultivated into the ideal Eligible, but from her reaction to certain events early in the book (sorry for the vagueness, avoiding spoilers!). She’s not just angry, she’s trying to survive and thrive in her new world. She has a small role in this novel, but, I hope, an impact. In many ways, she provides a foil for Adelice and will continue to throughout the trilogy.
And it’s fun to write her dialogue.
Other characters surprised me as I wrote them. Enora, for instance, hides a big secret the first half of the novel, which I didn’t realize until I was writing it and then so much of who she was as a character made sense to me. I recently had a bookseller ask me to write an entire prequel devoted to Loricel, because as she said, “she’s got some stories to tell.”
But I suppose the character that matters the most is Adelice. When I set out to write Crewel, I knew I didn’t want a Mary Sue as my protagonist, but a Katniss really didn’t fit either. I wanted a character that was deeply flawed in many respects, but one who was strong and smart. It wouldn’t make much sense for her to run around beating people up in this book, because this had to be the story of how she comes to grips with her power. I tried to imbue her with the things that best befit her — a sharp tongue and a head on her shoulders. And then I threw her into situations where those things would be a liability.
Because I’m cruel like that.
Most of my time spent crafting Adelice was about deciding what she wasn’t going to be. I didn’t want a girl who denigrated herself all the time or wondered why she received attention from the boys. I didn’t want a protagonist who spent all her time thinking about boys either, but I did want one who might, in the right moonlight, get lost in kissing one for a few minutes. And yes, there are boyS (with a capitol S) as in the dreaded love triangle. I went there. No apologies. I couldn’t choose between the two. Hopefully Adelice kicks one to the curb swiftly, but I promise nothing!
Ultimately, I wanted Adelice to be strong with lots of room for growth just like nearly every female I’ve ever known.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://cuddlebuggery.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Gennifer-Albin-small.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]I like coffee. A lot. Writing gives me time to go get a cup without my kids. I like books as much as I like coffee, but it is easier to read with children hanging on you than drink coffee due to the threat of third degree burns. That’s why coffee gets top billing in my intro: its unattainability. I hold a Masters in English with a specialization in 18th century women’s studies. While this is a highly marketable area of expertise, I stay home with my kids, which means my 3 year-old son uses correct grammar and doesn’t burn down the house. I have a ridiculously supportive husband who dreams of being included on a book jacket: “The author lives in Kansas with her husband, two children, and a Tuesday cat.”
Visit the other tour stops:
Monday 10/15 http://www.
Tuesday 10/16 http://birthofanewwitch.
Wednesday 10/17 http://hobbitsies.net/
Thursday 10/18 http://cuddlebuggery.com/
Friday 10/19 http://www.
Saturday 10/20 http://www.bookswithbite.net/
Sunday 10/21 http://www.
Monday 10/22 http://fireandicephoto.
Tuesday 10/23 http://bookalicious.org/
Wednesday 10/24 http://www.emilysreadingroom.
Thursday 10/25 http://bewitchedbookworms.com/
Friday 10/26 http://christinareadsya.
Saturday 10/27 http://www.twochicksonbooks.
Sunday 10/28 http://www.ibbookblogging.com/
Don’t forget to check out Crewel, available now!
Incapable. Awkward. Artless.
That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.
Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.
Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.
Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.
Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.
We are giving away a finished copy of Crewel and bracelet courtesy of Macmillan! This giveaway is only open to those in the US and Canada, but check back next week for an international giveaway where you’ll have another chance to win this fantastic book!
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