The Unlikeable Protagonist

A group of us were discussing characters the other day, and I was gratified to note in some of my reviews that readers really love the HETAERA story–but not necessarily the heroine. At least not at first. Little did they know this was somewhat intentional. *cue evil laughter

There are so many wonderfully complex histories out there, and for some reason the ones that resonated with me were the tales of redemption. Cleopatra, Lucretia Borgia, and Suleyman’s Roxelana aren’t necessarily “nice” girls, but the reader can identify with them after a fashion. Maybe even sympathize, a little.

When I unraveled the tale of Rhodopis, it struck me how young she was when she began a brutal life, and how that life may have shaped her. In the way of egocentric youth, I chose to portray Dori the way many teens strike me–with a vision of the world as it pertains to themselves. Some people called her “selfish”…well, yes! I prefer to think of her as “thoughtless” in the way that only a beautiful young woman can be. It is only in her later years that Dori/Rhodopis gains a woman’s wisdom and is able to see beyond the limits of her own selfish desires. That growth is essential to her story, and it makes the ending far more satisfying, I think, than a saccharine heroine who is too too good from the very beginning.

So, although Dori may not be easily identifiable to readers who expected a more “heroic” heroine, she is exactly as I hoped she would be. Flawed and utterly human. A woman who grows and eventually redeems herself to be the heroic figure we want her to become. A real woman.

In this next novel, I have set my bar even higher, choosing a subject that is admittedly difficult and fraught with controversy. The muse is speaking slowly, so slowly, and I can only hope that I do her justice. I hope I can.