Character Study 2

To pick up where I left off…

Grasta

Grasta is the Alpha of Gron’s tribe. In the books, you only have Gryla to compare her to, but among Gandry Queens, Grasta is exceptional, almost freakishly so. Even by Gandry standards, she is massive at around eight feet tall. She has more fur than any other Gandry, covering nearly her whole body. If they didn’t live in a world where females were celebrated for their strength and size, Grasta would have been ridiculed and outcast.

As it was, she was able to usurp Gryla as Alpha without a fight, stepping into leadership of a fully-formed tribe with very little effort. This would have happened when she was in her late teens, by our standards of age. She was very young to be leading a tribe that size; normally a teenage Queen leaving her family would have to gather a new tribe from wandering males or tempt them away from their tribes to settle a new territory. Because of her age, she needed a lot of guidance, as she had no experience of ruling a tribe. While it was never explicitly stated between them, Gryla helped her out a lot with this, as she had around twenty years of experience of ruling that very tribe.

Another benefit of her size is that it prevented Grasta from ever feeling insecure, and instead taught her to be careful and sparing in her violence. As a result, she has made quite a wise adult. She is implacable in her decisions once she makes them and her word is law, but she listens to her people and is fair in her physical punishments. She doesn’t play favourites and always puts the good of the tribe first, like when she had to exile Troii despite knowing he was a good male and had no ill intentions. He just wasn’t cohering to the tribe anymore.

I imagine Grasta to be in her late-twenties to mid-thirties now. She’s got three kids, including a little princess, and five males in her court: her Prime Father, her stud, her toyboy who will become her stud when he’s old enough, and her two guards.

Her relationship with each of these males says something about her, I think. Her Prime Father I think of as her husband. She loves him, and in a lot of ways, he is enough for her, but they do not live in a monogamous society. I wanted their relationship to be relatably monogamous. She is infatuated with him, and he is long-suffering but patient and modest, because as far as she is concerned, she has to take other males. With the female-male ratio being what it is, a monogamous Queen wouldn’t be able to hold her tribe, the males want a fair chance of being Bonded/mated/chosen. So the Prime Father busies himself with his children as much as he can, and Grasta divides her attention between her males, but at the end of the day, he is the one she holds at night and the one she wants to go all the way with whenever they have sex.

The stud is her side-piece, her boyfriend, her tease. Her mistress, if there was a word for a male in that role. He is there just for her sexual pleasure, except for the times she lets him finish inside her to redress the imbalance of having all her children belong to one male. She makes this token effort to recognise that more than one male is supposed to have a chance to have procreate, but her heart isn’t that much in it. It’s enough to keep the tribe happy, however. He represents the greed that these reverse-harems allow, and the power imbalance in Gandry society where a Queen can Bond any male to her in any role for life, perhaps even against his wishes.

The toyboy one is meant to be problematic, as he was Bonded from outside the tribe, so he has no family with him, and is closest in age to Mruin more than anyone else. He is described as quiet, but he is shy and nervous, scared and insecure. He has been with Grasta for a while, but her other males are a fair bit older than him, and outside of the court are intimidated by a Bonded male. He has no one to talk to really. Grasta will only pay him real attention when he is old enough to perform sexually for her. It could be, of course, that he wandered into Grasta’s territory alone because he had nowhere else to go, so Grasta Bonded him in order to look after him and give him a home. Either way, there’s still a few years before it becomes clear what direction Grasta will take with him.

And then she’s got the guards. A big Queen needs a big court, especially since it’s a big tribe of roughly 30 members. The guards act as a trouble deterrent. They have the authority to step into disagreements that don’t warrant Grasta’s attention and keep the peace. They allow her to have some free time and live a life of her own, instead of patrolling and hearing grievances all the time. But they do also demonstrate that Grasta is capable of Bonding males in lesser roles that suit her, but which might not be enough for the males. That said, I imagine she would have picked males who would be honoured to serve like that. Kind of like Griss, just being trusted by their Queen is enough.

Gryla

Gryla is not as wise or level-headed as Grasta. She definitely likes to use her clout to get her own way, but she isn’t cruel or selfish either. Her way of doing things is the more common in the Gandry, the “Queen’s way or the high way” way, and it works fine in smaller tribes than the one Grasta is currently ruling.

Gryla stepped down as Alpha when Grasta challenged her because she was getting on a bit, she’d had her family, and Grasta was huge. If she went peacefully, she would still be able to enjoy the comfort and security of a large tribe. She was also allowed to stay because her family was a sizeable chunk of the tribe. Gryla, Griss, Brur, Kranu, Gron, Mruin, and their sister, would have all left together. A tribe of 30 would have survived that just fine, going down to 23, but if you take away Grasta’s five males and three children, assuming the tribe was smaller 15 years ago, Grasta would have found herself in charge of a tribe that was smaller than the one she’d challenged for, with no experience and no one to help.

Gryla is very different from Grasta. She throws her weight around and uses the threat of violence to get what she wants. She likes to be flattered and adored, but she will allow herself to be corrected on serious issues, like when Gron stands up to her regarding Ruth. She is always ready to fight, and had to do it a lot in her role as Alpha. All this comes from the fact that she is just more emotional than Grasta, her emotions control her more. She fights when she’s angry, grieves when she’s sad, swaggers when she’s happy. She can be a pain in some situations, but she’s not a bad person.

Griss is her protecting force, keeping everyone else away from her, while Brur keeps her level. Griss creates the space, Brur is inside the space with her, and together they keep everyone happy. Gryla is not controlled or manipulated by them though, as they defer to her in all things, worship and adore and need her. She might punish them sometimes to assert her dominance, but it never hurts and they know she doesn’t mean it.

Griss

Griss was Gryla’s guard first of all, and as such, I wrote him to be noble, that kind of warrior stereotype, stoic, always looking for danger on the horizon, one hand ready to push Gryla to safety. He would have hovered over his kids and protected them like a hawk. I imagine he is older than Gryla, as he would have been in his prime when she was in her late teens and looking for a tribe of her own. He’s a physical guy. He worries, though he doesn’t let anyone know.

I imagine at first, he had a confusing relationship with Gryla. Her only male for a while, assigned to protect her, but she would have been young compared to him and struggling to find her place in the world and figure out how to be an Alpha, and she would have been scared and had insecurities and worries, but he wouldn’t have been allowed to take her in his arms to comfort her, just swear over and over again that he would protect her and provide for her. According to their society, Gryla outranked him, and while she would have had the size and strength, she wouldn’t have had much skill, so Griss would have had to struggle with helping her as he wanted to do without overstepping his boundaries. He’s so serious and emotionally closed-off as well, he would have struggled to communicate his desire to help through action alone.

Becoming a consort and mating with Gryla and becoming a Prime Father would have blown his young mind. I think Griss sees/saw his value as a fighter only. Being seen as more was probably what made him fall in love with Gryla outside of the Bond.

His relationship with Brur is a close one. They live the same life after all, and so much of what they do and what happens to them is tied up in one another. They have grieved for lost brother-mates and lost children together, and luxuriated in their Bond with Gryla together. They sleep in a sandwich with her, and have done for decades. But Brur is not a good fighter, not a physically strong male, so Griss may have been confused about his value at first. He was almost certainly jealous too, that Gryla chose a male so different from Griss, as if Griss had failed to provide something essential, as if she really preferred Brur’s type to Griss’. It wouldn’t have taken long for Griss to see that Brur filled Gryla’s emotional needs where Griss couldn’t, and Griss would have been grateful for that, and thrown himself into his protective, physical role all the more now that Gryla didn’t need him to be everything to her.

His relationships with his kids would have been as the teacher, since Gryla would have been the disciplinarian, and Brur the nurturer. Griss might have been emotionally distant at times, but he would have worried over preparing his children for adulthood, whatever their roles might be. Gron is emotional enough to understand what’s going on under the shell, Kranu only sees Griss as a restrictive, interfering force, and Mruin is too young to see him as anything other than a parent. But he loves them all anyway, even Kranu, because he can see Kranu repeatedly hurting only himself and his own actions, and all Griss ever wanted for his first born was to protect him. Griss probably sees a lot of himself in Kranu, and expected his eldest son to grow up to be a similarly noble and stoic protector, and after twenty-odd years can’t change that image in his mind, and so keeps trying to change Kranu.

Brur

Brur is the emotional caretaker of Gryla’s mates. In many ways, he and Griss mirror Troii and Kranu, except Griss is withdrawn where Kranu is aggressive.

He explained in the books that Gryla Bonded him to lighten her heart. I imagine she had been Bonded to Griss for a few years, was more or less established as an Alpha, and was settled into a governing routine that left her wondering what she was meant to do in her spare time, what she had for herself, and exactly what about this arrangement was meant to make her happy. Griss kept her safe of course, but she wasn’t happy very often. It all seemed like a bit of a boring grind. So she mated the tribe joker, a light-hearted, free-spirited charmer. It was probably a bit of a gamble on her part, as he was so different from both Griss and herself, but she wanted that levity for herself. In the beginning, Brur would have taken the task of cheering Gryla very seriously, and it wasn’t long before Kranu was born, and everything got better and felt complete.

Now that he’s older, Brur isn’t the joker so much as a pleasant, nurturing, soothing presence. He doesn’t get upset very often. He’s an optimist and that alone bolsters the mood of their little family.

At first, he was probably intimidated by Griss, a larger, stern, protective male who he would have known as a guard and disciplinarian. It would have taken a long time for the two of them to warm up to each other and grow close. But now they are as close as brothers, or husbands.

Brur would have been the shoulder to cry on to his kids, always encouraging them to tell him what was wrong, then getting either Griss or Gryla to sort it out. He would have been the homemaker. He is a talker, not a doer, and is rather ineffectual, but still vital to the family as he is the heart and safety of it.

Mruin

Last but not least, Gron’s little brother.

Mruin is still young, which defines most of his interactions. He is about 16 or 17 in human age, I’d say. He wonders about things a lot. He wonders about Ruth and where she came from and what she is, he wonders about Gron and how he feels about her, and how it feels to be Bonded, and the nature of Bonding itself. He’s trying to figure stuff out before he becomes an adult, or so that he can become one. He wonders what his role will be and what he will do with his life.

He’s just at the age when he’s starting to break away from his parents. He wants a platform of his own to sleep on, he spends most of his days by himself as there’s no one his own age to accompany him. He feeds himself, though not as well as his parents would have him eat. In that respect, he’s just like a human teenage boy.

He’s curious but he has no answers and answers are not forecoming. He hasn’t been at it long enough to be frustrated and bitter like Kranu, nor has he settled like Gron and Troii before the series started. He is watching closely to see how these strange new Queens change things, and what that means for him, and about his society, and about right and wrong in his culture. Unlike any of the others, he has been introduced to humans during his formative years.

He is not stupid, nor violent. He is smarter than he is perhaps given credit for, and is poised to come to some interesting conclusions depending on how things play out with Ruth as his sister-in-law. He has not quite accepted her as a normal part of his life yet. He is still watching her, and he still has questions. He hasn’t accepted the role his society has given him yet either, he wants the reason for it first. He’s still several years from adulthood, but he has the potential to be another troublemaker, who breaks the mold of Gandry culture.

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Character Study

Tomorrow, it will be a week since I published Gron’s Fated, but I was living with those characters for five months, and with Ruth and Gron for longer. I’m intrigued to see what people think of my Gandry tribe, and so far, most people hate Kranu. Well, he is the villain, but gosh, you just don’t know him like I do. Overall, responses to the book have been enthusiastically positive, and I’m blown away almost every day by new comments or new personal records being broken.

For example, Gron’s Fated sold more in two days than Ruth’s Bonded did in a month. Before Gron’s Fated came out, my personal record for most copies sold in a day was 32; now it’s 78. That same day, over 40,000 pages of my work were read. A Google search led me to discover that Gron’s Fated made it to at least 4th place (out of 20) on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Science Fiction Romance. If I had found that list sooner, it might have been higher up.

Thank you, everyone, for buying, reading, reviewing, commenting, and recommending my work. You have made this experience what it has been for me.

Anyway, below is a character study of the named cast. It might be a bit spoilery? I’ll be talking about Kranu and Troii, who will have bigger roles to play in the next book. This post is really just so I don’t disappear a week after I publish a book, since it’s going to be months before the next book comes out. I want to say something to reward everyone who has helped me sell Gron’s Fated beyond my wildest expectations. People have questions, and while I’m not ready to answer everything just yet, this might help keep debates informed.

Let’s start with our hero and heroine:

Ruth

I wanted to make Ruth an audience-identifier character. She doesn’t get too much physical description. She was originally called Sue, as I’ve already said, and I wanted to give her a bit of a grandma, Plain Jane name, rather than some Kindle Romance heroines. She’s a temp because I had just got out of being a temp myself.

I’ve heard her called practical, but I wasn’t aware of that when I was writing. I think I just didn’t want her to get overwhelmed, and figuring out the next step is her coping mechanism. She thinks ahead to avoid thinking of the present. This means that sometimes she breaks down, but once she’s all cried out, she can get back to what she was doing.

Every now and then she’ll fight if she has to. She’s scrappy but she’s not aggressive. That being said, she will throw down for Gron. My thinking behind this is mostly, what else is she going to do? She’s under a lot of stress, Gron is her only friend, and I like the idea that the two of them are receiving social traits from the other through the Bond. I haven’t explored this in the books, so it’s not cannon, but I like to think Ruth is being made possessive and quick to violence because that’s what a Gandry Queen would be. Similarly, I like to think Gron’s monogamous feelings are because that is what a human man would be.

She misses home. She likes to have an exit strategy and think about how she could survive without Gron, because she’s really not thinking about how awful that would be. She greets every situation with “Okay, I can do this,” because everything is new and scary and dangerous. But she is not particularly delicate. She’s tough, but it would take a heavy toll to have to make the hard decisions. She’s ready to face anything, but having Gron to hold onto means that she’ll still be the same person on the other side. He’s her crutch, her shelter.

At this point, all she wants is to understand her surroundings, so she enjoys the peaceful domestic routine they enjoy when they split to form their own tribe. This allows her to start to slowly expand out from Gron’s protective shadow. She sits with his family and joins in with their tasks and learns what they know. Eventually, there’s no reason she won’t be a valued and equal member of the tribe, one of the family, instead of a stranger. Once she’s safe, she wants to knuckle down and get involved.

Gron

I’ve already explained why I designed Gron the way I did. The word I hear associated with him the most is definitely “sweet”, by a mile. I’ve also heard kind, thoughtful, and recently, submissive. A lot of that comes from his society; he’s been raised to do what a Queen tells him, to cherish her, to provide for and protect her if that’s what she needs, and to be honoured to be chosen to join her court. And that’s what he tries to do.

The fact that Ruth is human complicates this of course, because he can’t understand what she wants, and she expects a different dynamic than he does. He realises that she is not going to dominate him the way a Queen would, and that she can’t survive on her own, so he shoulders the responsibility of feeding her and protecting her. That in itself is not enough to make him possessive of her the way he is. As I said above, I like to think he’s receiving some human vibes through the Bond that they share, which, incidentally, may not be a real thing.

It might just be how the Gandry think of love. I don’t know. I kind of like the idea that the Gandry think of “The Bond” as this great, mythical, unbreakable, invincible force of destiny, when really, it’s just plain old love, same as what we human have, they just assign it much greater importance.

Either way, Ruth has become Gron’s whole world. It’s not like he has a job, or has to work hard at surviving. Without her, he would just be sitting around. Personal relationships are the closest the Gandry have to careers. By being chosen by a Queen, Gron is already successful, but his success is not assured, which is why he works so hard at it. The hard truth is, if it goes wrong with Ruth, it would be like being stuck in a job you hate or an unhappy marriage for the rest of his life, but he would be healthy at least. As you see in Gron’s Fated, a male without his Queen is a mess. Ruth has made Gron’s life worth living, and he adores her, more because of her differences than in spite of them, and he is very aware of how easy it would be to lose her and what would happen to him if he did. It makes him a little crazy, and it only really gets resolved when he throws off what his society taught him.

Kranu

Aahhhh, Kranu.

Kranu, Kranu, Kranu.

The main point of contention.

I wrote him to be a villain. In Ruth’s Bonded, the villains were the aliens who had taken them, rarely seen and usually covered up. They were nebulous and unknown and undefined. They were violent and malicious and obscure. No one had any idea what they were doing or why, or what their motivations were. With Kranu, the villain became personal, close to home. Gron’s brother.

He’s bigger than Gron. He’s older. He holds more sway in the tribe, because he’s intimidating and focused and vocal. He’s ambitious and clear-sighted and determined. He knows what he wants and boy, does he want it. His desire, envy, ambition, whatever, absolutely consumes him. This is typical villain stuff. This is threatening. A reined-in, targeted emotional force.

Before he was abducted, Gron was more aloof. He didn’t amount to much. He was loyal to Grasta, and was nice to people. He didn’t try very hard because there was nothing to try for. Kranu is a tryer.

Kranu is a male with more potential and drive than his society allows for. He wants to expend effort, he wants to achieve, and he wants recognition too. He wants to strain and be rewarded. He wants to be looked at. But he has no avenues to release this energy. He was not chosen by Grasta, so he has no role in the tribe, he is just spare. My editor called him a Slytherin, and that’s basically exactly what it is. He is bigger than the space he has been given. He could accomplish a lot of good if someone pointed him in that direction, but as it stands, he’s hit the glass ceiling, and the doors have been shut in his face, and that frustrates him to the point of rage.

All his swaggering, trying to do something, has made him unpopular. He does not act like he should, he is bad at being just another male tribe member. He is interfering and meddlesome and dominating. He uses his size to get what he wants and he is not afraid to fight – he likes to fight because it is strenuous and he is good at it and he wants to show off. He knows the others don’t like him and he thinks that’s unfair. In his eyes, the others are just reading him wrong. They are ignorant and slow and lazy. So he doesn’t mind fighting them if they don’t like him anyway. Kranu is a male without any friends in the tribe. Even his own parents think the worst of him, even though he doesn’t think he has done anything wrong. He thinks he is being treated unjustly.

And his relationship with Gron. Gron is not like him. Gron was like all the others, content. And Gron was popular. Everyone likes Gron and they let Kranu know it. Kranu has been jealous of Gron since the day he was born, because he had the undivided attention of three parents and then suddenly had to share it. As children, Gron was the good one, well-behaved, polite, calm, well-liked. Whenever Kranu tried to take a step out of bounds to see what was out there, he was told “Why can’t you be more like Gron?” So he picked on Gron, bullied him, started fights, ignored him, anything to bring his brother low and reassure himself that he was better. Kranu did what he did best to prove to himself at least that he was strong and skilled, and Gron was weak, a coward, out of control. But it only made things worse and this cycle dug deep trenches of hate between the brothers that they couldn’t overcome as adults. The pattern remained, Kranu starting fights, Gron losing, Kranu coming out the bad guy. Until Ruth gave Gron a reason to fight, and win.

And doesn’t that just take the biscuit. Gron, his little brother, who never tried at anything and yet everyone preferred, disappears, is assumed to be a wandering, lustful traitor, and then comes back. With a Queen. A strange one, yes, but one who clings to him in front of the whole tribe and looks at him like he is the strongest male in the universe. Kranu has wanted to be chosen for years, to finally attain some rank and have something to dedicate himself too, but there was no way, no Queen he could offer himself to. Grasta did not want him. To admit that he wanted another Queen to Bond him was foul treachery, leaving the tribe to look for one would have blackened his name.

But here is another Queen. Possibly his only opportunity. Yes, his odious brother would be his brother-mate, but he could live with that. They are brothers anyway, and he can best him in a fight to get his own way. All he knows is that the churning ocean of loneliness and frustrated potential that has been building over the years has taken his choice away from him. So he says things he shouldn’t say and doesn’t really mean, but he is hit with such longing when he sees Gron with Ruth that he can’t stop himself. All he wants is to touch someone like that, be touched like that, be loved like that, and not derided or turned away.

It’s just his bad luck that Ruth is monogamous. Gron struck gold with that one. It’s an unworkable situation and Kranu finally is forced to leave the tribe, to seek his own happiness. He has a very slim chance of finding it, but having the personality he does, he will face forward and run it down.

Troii

Where Kranu is physical, Troii is emotional. Kranu’s defining characteristic is ambition. Troii can be summed up by emotional intelligence. He is called wise in the book, but really, he is just especially adept at understanding other people’s points of view. It is the reason he is one of the few people who can get on with Kranu. He grew up in the same tribe as Kranu, and understands him very well. Both Kranu and Gron are totally immersed in their own desires that they can’t see out of them, but Troii can. He can see that Gron is being hurtful as much as he is trying to do good, and he can see that Kranu is not evil as much as he is doing harm.

Troii was like Gron, content to be just another tribe male. He doesn’t need very much to be happy. He loves Grasta in his own way, and is faithful to her, and his life was idyllic before Ruth came. his life was simple and calm. Then Gron offered him more and suddenly he wondered. He had always been a tribe male and so he never let himself think very much about what he wanted, what he should have. Thinking about becoming Bonded was the first dark little worm of self-interest and curiosity that had really penetrated his mind in his adult life and he couldn’t get it out again. Who knows what starts the Bonding process? Maybe just thinking about it is enough, and Troii and Kranu both have incomplete, unfulfilled Bonds torturing them, something Kranu has been struggling with for years.

Now that he is wandering with Kranu, he’s a mess. Everything he knows about himself has changed. He’s a traitor to the tribe now. A criminal. He doesn’t have the tribe anymore, and it’s because of his best friend, a kind and gentle male. He feels betrayed by Gron and scared of the future and desperate to find a place to belong. His need for a social group is stronger than average. He also has to temper Kranu while not getting under the other male’s feet. Troii is like Kranu’s Jimminy Cricket, if Jimminy Cricket needed Pinocchio to survive.

When they stumble upon another Queen, Troii sees an opportunity, just like Kranu does, but he also sees a threat. If Kranu Bonds with this Queen, he might chase Troii off. Troii can’t let that happen. He will have to navigate this situation very carefully.

 

 

I think that’s enough for now, this post grew longer than expected. I’ll do another one soon for Grasta, Gryla, Griss, Brur and Mruin.