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Sunday, April 10, 2005


I ended up spending a great deal of time on Saturday either meditating or reflecting on things. The meditation time was nice since I hadn't done it for so long, but it also cut a huge swath out of my schedule and I didn't get any writing done. :-( The time spent on reflection (not meditating, but thinking) brought a different insight than I'd had before and I found it very interesting. I'm going to share one of the things that occurred to me.

For some reason, I started thinking about Cai and Jake yesterday. I'm not quite sure why, but it was to the point that they were interfering both with thoughts about the new book I'm working on and Crimson Veil, which I wanted to spend a little time thinking about.

One of the things that has bothered me--not daily, but just kind of like a little buzz way, way in the background--was the criticism that Cai was supposed to be kick ass yet she had issues with her appearance. I'd always maintained that there isn't a woman in this society who 100% loves her appearance--even super models have expressed displeasure over some aspect of their looks--so I've never considered this a valid criticism of Cai and whether or not she's a strong woman. I think it's stupid to expect a kick ass heroine to be perfect and assured in every way. No human being is, and we can't be. It's not how we're made.

But the insight I had yesterday was that it took more strength, more courage, for Cai to face her belief about her appearance, and overcome it, than it took for her to fight off the pirates on the Raft Cities. Physical risk is easy. Emotional risk is not and Cai risked everything emotionally.

Someone referred to Cai's skewed view of herself as a "gimmick." That really bothered the hell out of me because it isn't true. I don't do gimmicks--ever. I write my characters the way they present themselves to me, period. I don't change them to make it easy for me, I don't pick and choose which aspect of them I'm going to highlight. They tell me what's important to them. I knew I was going to take hits for Cai having image issues--and I did get slammed for it--but to not mention it or to downplay it would be to betray Cai. My characters come first, last and always.

Cai's self-view was not a gimmick. First of all, no one--absolutely, positively no one--sees themselves clearly on all levels. How many times have you thought someone was, say extra confident, only to one day find out they felt unsure of themselves and thought others viewed them that way too? Or the guy who thinks he works hard all day every day, yet his co-workers know how much time he spends on the phone and writing emails and bullshitting with others? Not a gimmick--human nature.

The other thing is that Cai was hammered from the time she started school until she went into the UCE Academy for the Gifted about her appearance. When someone hears the same message over and over--especially from the time they're a small child--it becomes part of them. And it really did have more to do with how smart she was than her actual appearance, but the older kids found where she was vulnerable and attacked.

Last point I'm going to make about this--and I really didn't mean to go on for so long, but this must be bothering me more than I realized--is that I only had two points of view to work with and it was hard to show the truth within this framework. Cai did believe she was unattractive. Jake was in love with her before they ever met and he believes she's gorgeous, stunning. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Cai is pretty, but not nearly as beautiful as Jake believes.

The scene where I tried to show this was when they were aboard the transport on their way to the staging facility. Jake is jealous and he believes that all his men are making a play for Cai. It's Gnat who tells Jake that no, it's only Mango and Inch and not even really Inch because he's only competing with Mango. Jake, of course, doesn't believe this and his chief warrant officer was not going to convince him otherwise.

Anyway, to return to my point and wrap this up, it took incredible courage for Cai to overcome a lifetime of ridicule and risk herself emotionally. It wasn't something she was able to do in one fell swoop--she had to edge forward until she'd gained enough strength to make that leap and trust the net would be there.

Not kick ass? Cai is the most kick ass heroine ever! She did more than fight the bad guys, she fought her internal image, she fought her own fears, overcame years of hurt, and she triumphed. Now that's kick ass.

MN Weather Report: 64 degrees.