Writers cannot live by fiction alone, and I need some mental breaks from working on Book 3, so it occurred to me that folks might be interested in learning more about the thought processes involved in creating and writing the characters from the Inheritance Trilogy. This will be a series; you’ll be able to find all of them under the category header “character study”. And naturally I figured I’d start with our girl Yeine. Cutting for spoilers!
I’ve seen some readers speculate that Yeine is me. I suppose all of my characters are me to some degree, so in that sense she is — but beyond that, no. She’s half my age, has a vastly different personality (she’s solemn and thoughtful; I’m silly and tend to speak without thinking), an entirely different racial makeup, and completely alien sociodynamics. She looks nothing like me, doesn’t talk like me, doesn’t think like me. And she has entirely different taste in men. (I go for the safe, sane types.)
Frankly, Yeine is the sort of person I would find scary if I met her. She has the soul of the goddess of death, and I was very, very aware of this while I wrote her. While I try to depict her as an ordinary young woman in extraordinary circumstances for the most part, she’s not very ordinary. She’s been raised with some distinctly Machiavellian values, and she has a hefty streak of something I’d call sociopathy if I couldn’t look inside her head and know better. Readers get to see this too: she has perfectly ordinary emotions and insecurities. But from the outside, her behavior probably looks a bit creepy. She kills people with no apparent remorse, both before 100K and during the book. She’s impulsive, often making irrational decisions and riding them into the ground (e.g., obsessing over the mystery of her mother’s murder when she’s really got other things to worry about). She’s manipulative as hell, even toward her friends, and she’s not above hurting herself or others to get what she wants. It’s no surprise to me that she bonds closely to the most unabashedly violent of the Enefadeh, Nahadoth and Sieh. To be honest, if Yeine had been raised in Sky with a typical Arameri upbringing, she could’ve been a fine contender for the position of family head. Which is not really a compliment.
Pretty much the only way I could make her identifiable and sympathetic was to show her from the inside out (first person), so that people would see her thoughts and feelings, not just her behavior. I think this worked for most readers, but I’ve heard more than one person say that they simply found Yeine unlikeable. I wonder how those people would feel if I said to them, “Y’know, I would too, if I met her.”
But since I was writing her, not trying to become her BFF, I loved her. It’s much more challenging to write characters like her than it is to write characters who fit the societal mould, and — well, I can’t speak for most writers here, but for me, “challenging” = “fun”. Yeine is probably my favorite of all the protagonists I’ve written.
Those of you who’ve read the book — what’d you think of her?