The Kyla Question
When I developed Kyla as a character I wanted to focus on growth. So I started with someone who was innocent, naive, and energetic, even to the point of annoying those around her. I knew I was going to run Kyla through some trials in the story that would force her to grow and mature, and I wanted to show that she had the ability to face dark times and still come out the other side as a happy, optimistic individual, only wiser.
In beta reading, for the most part, Kyla did well. There were a few people that really didn't like her at the beginning, though most seemed to have warmed up to her at the end. She comes across as a bit stupid in parts, though it was intended to show her lack of worldly exposure. Most people seemed to like her by the end of the story, but I had a hard time because I knew if I couldn't sell her at the beginning agents and readers might be turned off by the book. Yet if I changed her, that was like me saying 'There's something wrong with you because you aren't educated in the ways of the world.' This book is supposed to show her education in life, and having her start off more street-wise would have ruined her development.
This is a large reason I decided to self-publish. I wasn't confident I could get Kyla past an agent as they usually only read the first couple chapters before deciding if they want to see the whole manuscript. And I like her in the beginning. I love it when people can smile and see the bright side of life. I like positive energy. Not everyone does. Some people want their main characters to be dark and edgy. I knew it was a risk.
This contrast of approaches to people like Kyla is illustrated at the student orientation in Victory Hall. Lili sees Kyla and immediately pegs her as a coddled hick. Uneducated, unseasoned, and immature. She hones in on that and targets Kyla as someone who needs to toughen up. Lili was loosely based on a friend I used to have, who was a bully back in school and legitimately thought she was doing other girls a favor by bullying them to get them ready for the real world. Even as an adult she held to this philosophy.
Eunoe saw Kyla from a different point-of-view. She saw the part of Kyla who was pure, happy, and compassionate. The value she placed on Kyla's strength was stronger than any contempt she might have for her weaknesses.
In the end I decided not to change Kyla. I think she's a fine type of person to be. It's not a person's fault if they have never been educated. It's only their fault with how they use what they know. Kyla is ignorant of many things. She is not a perfect character. But she takes what she does know and applies it in the most productive and positive way she can.
I'm a bit tired, so this may be a bit of a ramble, but in the end I'm happy with how Kyla turned out, and I think most people who don't like her in the beginning of the story will like her by the end.
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Bryant Reil currently resides in Kelowna, BC. Recent accomplishments include completing a Master's degree, and having finished two books, Elf Mastery and Elf Doubt. The third book, Elf Righteous, is underway.