- Me: *playing Tomb Raider*
- Grandmother who is visiting for the weekend: Mind if I sit with you?
- Me: *squirming slightly because there is gore and swearing in this game and my grandmother is a sweet old lady: Um, if you want to.
- Grandmother: *sits* Thank you, dear.
- Me: *continuing to play for about five minutes*
- Grandmother: LOOK OUT THERE ARE THREE COMING DOWN THE HILL
- Grandmother: THAT WAS POINT BLANK HOW ARE THEY ALIVE
- Grandmother: OOOHH YOU MADE THAT EXPLODE
- Grandmother: STOP KILLING MY GRANDDAUGHTER
- Grandmother: KILL THEM KILL THEM ALL
- Grandmother: OHHHHH YOU SHOT HIM IN THE HEAD OHHHHHHHHH
- Grandmother: RUN RUN RUN YOU'RE ABOUT TO DIE RUN
- Grandmother: OKAY NOW KILL THEM ALL
- Me: *slowly turns to look at her* Grandma
- Grandmother: *sweet smile* Hmm?
- Me: Grandma oh my god
- Grandmother: *more smiling* Well, hurry up and kill everyone else, I want to see you save this Sam person.
- Grandmother: Kill them.
October “Toby” Daye was in many ways my first “real” protagonist. She was complicated, she was sad, she was bruised and refusing to break, and she was not afraid to put her duty ahead of her desire to be liked. She bullied her way through the world she was created to inhabit, looking at every complication that stood in her way and saying “No, you move.” After a lifetime spent moving dolls through stories, it was like I finally had a real person to follow and document. I started writing her adventures, and sending them out to people I trusted to read and review. Midway through either the second or the third book—I don’t remember anymore—I got a note from one of my proofers saying “You can’t have Toby do this, she’s always been a little bitchy, but this makes her a total bitch. No one will like her if she does this.”
I panicked. I couldn’t write a series about an unlikeable character! I’d never get published, no one else would ever meet my imaginary friends, and everything I’d worked for my whole life would be over, all because Toby was unlikeable.
Then I took a deep breath, and wrote back to the proofer requesting that they do a find/replace on the .doc, and plug in the name “Harry Dresden” for every instance of “October Daye.” They did, and lo and behold, what had been “bitchy” and “inappropriate” was suddenly “bold” and “assertive.” A male character in the same situation, with the same background, taking the same actions, was completely in the right, justified, and draped with glory. He was a hero. Toby? Toby was an unlikeable bitch.
The proofer withdrew the compliant. I have never forgotten it.