I think one of my favorite aspects of the Six of Crows duology is the fact that Kaz and Inej do not end up together.
And that’s not because I don’t ship them.
It’s because Inej, unlike so many YA heroines, isn’t what “heals” Kaz. Her love doesn’t magically fix him or make him a better person. He wants to change for her– he wants to get over his phobia of human touch. He wants her to love him. But it isn’t some overnight happening. He doesn’t suddenly overcome his affliction because of his love for her.
In the end, Kaz is still morally ambiguous, sometimes outright corrupt, and still has severe PTSD trauma.
And while Inej might love Kaz despite those things, she is not willing to lower her worth to accept them in a relationship. “I will have you without your armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.”
That was one of the most powerful YA heroine lines to her love interest that I’ve ever read. So many fictional girls (and real girls, for that matter) stay in the hopes of fixing a man, of healing his brokenness. Inej wants to heal him, but she understands that she cannot. Only Kaz can heal himself. Only he can want it enough to change. And it won’t be some overnight affair. Wanting to change and actually changing are two entirely different things. Kaz will have to go through agonizing changes if he ever wants to grow.
So far, he has accepted that he is the “demon of the barrel”. He still wants to burn the world down. He is still angry and hurting. He talks about wondering why over the years, with every violent turn his life takes, why his phobia has only gotten worse. It’s because he’s let himself rot in it. He’s stripped any and all goodness in the world down to the barest threads.
That’s why he is not ready for Inej. Inej, who might have her own issues and flaws, but who still has hope for a better world. Who is still willing to fight for it.
It’s not Kaz’s inability to touch her that she wants him to work on. It’s his mindset. His finality in the evil in his heart and his acceptance of it. He will never get over his phobia until he can understand goodness, the goodness of touch, the goodness of man.
And Inej will not accept him while he still holds on to that armor of hatred. And I think that is beautiful. It is healthy. It shows a level of self-respect that is often sadly absent from our fiction today.
Everyone is afraid of something. We fear things because we value them. We fear losing people because we love them. We fear dying because we value being alive. Don’t wish you didn’t fear anything. All that would mean is that you didn’t feel anything.
every time you
tell your daughter
you yell at her
out of love
you teach her to confuse
anger with kindness
which seems like a good idea
till she grows up to
trust men who hurt her
cause they look so much
(to fathers with daughters) milk and honey, rupi kaur
Let’s get this out straight away: You cannot disregard character arcs. The
way you can think of character arcs is that readers usually come for the plot
but stay for the character because you can have a kick ass plot but if the
characters don’t have depth and don’t grow or change throughout, then the
readers can’t connect to the story. Readers need to care about the character to
care about what they are going through and the best way to do this is through
their arc. Now, though attention to character is always important, certain
genres demand more than others just like certain genres demand more plot than
others. For example, literary, contemporary YA, and romance put more emphasis
of character than more plot-driven genres like thriller, adventure, fantasy and
sci fi. In any case, character arc enhances the story but it can be tricky to
understand how create this arc and how to use it to better the story, so here
are some tips:
Really, think of it as a curve. Okay, so
maybe not a nice smooth curve, more like one with a bunch of bumps and squiggles
in it. Also, the direction of this curve depends on who you want your character
to become. Usually, a protagonist will arc up, starting at point where they
have some personal obstacles to overcome, whether this is just a few things or
a major attitude adjustment. You can also have characters that arc down and progressively
get worse, like a villain or a tragic hero. The point is that as the time goes
on, your characters should move on the Y axis (sorry for the math). You can
actually plot it out if it helps you understand the rises and falls of your
Find what each character really needs to change. What is holding them back from achieving their goal? Why is it so
important that they change? What would happen or who would they be if they don’t
change? Alternatively, what can go wrong if they change or change for the worse?
Remember that not every character arc is a positive one and sometimes readers
need to see the characters fall to understand what is at stake and cheer for
them more when they get back up.
Don’t make it sudden or pointless. Like
anything else in your story you want to make the character’s advancement (or
deterioration) have a cause and effect relationship. Something that happens in
the story causes the character to have to change or at least consider how their
actions are impacting others and their own life. A drunk who gets into a car
accident and nearly kills their kid. A hero whose selfishness nearly causes the
destruction of a village. Typically, the biggest shifts happen near the climax
where the stakes are highest and the character has to make the biggest
Don’t make the character passive.
Passive characters, in particular passive protagonists are unbearable. These
are the ones that have the plot happen to them rather than contributing to the
direction and outcome of the events. A character needs to take charge of their own
destiny even if it’s a story where destiny is literally coming after them. Like
I said before, some genres have more room for this than others. A high-stakes
thriller that’s more plot driven has moments where the characters have to
struggle to keep up with the events happening to them, but they should still be
making the major decisions that ultimately lead to the conclusion. When the
characters aren’t being decisive they can’t grow or change and their personal story
stays flat and boring.