Lyra Minuet Nightsong
When I started to write Rhapsody, I really only knew a few things:
1. I wanted my main character to go from being completely lost to a genuine badass at the end. I did not want to skip the flailing and struggling stage of this. I needed to see growth happen, little by little, within her character arc.
2. My main character was going to be a siren, but a siren who hated attention. I knew this would be more interesting and bring more conflict than someone who jumped confidently into the role of their magic.
3. I was going to write a dreaded love triangle, so I needed someone open to the possibility of love even when she was taken. I was also determined that the love triangle needed to make sense and advance the plot, not just be added for the sake of additional tension.
4. She’d be fighting to save the world from something that her species caused.
5. She needed at least one major, dumb screw up per book that helped drive the plot forward.
From there, I began to get a sense of who Lyra needed to be, but she still surprised me when I started writing.
Lyra’s Character Arc
Lyra starts off as the reader’s avatar: new to the magical world, a good introduction to the strange/otherness of the Realm, magic, and all its creatures. She begins shy– painfully so– and even willfully shuns her siren powers. Over time she learns who she is, how to stop being the damsel in distress, and (this one takes the longest) what she wants.
Despite being warned by Marin about her siren song “dooming” humans, Lyra performs her first song in front of her foster parents. This leaves her with not only evidence that she is a siren, but a bigger need to seek Marin’s assistance, and a huge stigma about using her powers. In a lot of ways, Lyra’s poor transition is the crux of many of her later choices– often pulling too far in the opposite direction in an attempt to play it safe (often with additional consequences).
By the end, she’s determined to more actively seek information and do whatever she can to help the people she’s grown to care about, but she isn’t experienced enough to really get anywhere.
In the first half of this book, she completely underestimates Score’s intelligence and instincts. In the second half, she completely underestimates her own instincts by pushing him away. She also trusts too quickly, which is how we end up with the mixed additions to her group– LaRue and Birkita.
She does begin to take control of her own destiny more in this book, and it’s the first time we see her really determined to proactively fight back. We also get a glimpse of her stubbornness working in her favor when Daray interrogates her by breaking her leg.
She is very take charge in this book, but her emotions often get the better of her. She has a stronger idea of what she wants, but still hasn’t completely grown into her responsibilities.
By the time Score returns from Atlantis, she is happy to put him in charge of her mission and step into less of a leadership role (which isn’t where she belongs, even if it is more comfortable). She very often defers totally to Score’s decisions, ignoring her own instincts– with very dire consequences.
She’s mostly grown up with a lot of hard lessons under her. She still tends to give people more benefit of the doubt than they deserve, and is quick to forgive even the most egregious sins (see: Daray). She is more comfortable taking a firm leadership role. Seeking counsel from her friends and loved ones, but ultimately having the final say.
She gets all the epiphanies of how she feels about everyone in this book. She’s willing to make hard sacrifices for the greater good, and does. She also finally finds the limit of her forgiveness.
Lyra’s awkward beginning is miles away from her strong ending.
Lyra is heavily influenced by Usagi/Serena from Sailormoon (mostly the enthusiastic acceptance of just about everyone she meets), Buffy (normal teen adjusting with destiny despite having very little desire), and a tiny, tiny bit (like >5%) from my own experiences (I’m introverted, and in high school I wished that I were invisible).
The rest of her personality arose fairly organically as the story unfolded. It became pretty clear what she was comfortable doing and what she didn’t like, which both limited and drove the plot.
Not-so-subtle character traits:
Lyra is what Marin would call a “goody two shoes”, and what Finn would correct as “lawful good”. The idea of even using her siren powers to get something dishonestly from a human is distasteful to her (especially in the beginning).
Lyra cares more about others than herself. It’s this altruism that drives many of the less intuitive decisions she makes. She only stops fearing her powers when it seems to visibly affect Score. She wants to train to be self-sufficient, but more so that Glenn won’t keep putting himself in harm’s way for her. She will not hesitate to throw herself in front of an army or jump headfirst into danger for the ones she loves. She cannot ignore suffering (rushing to investigate a child’s cries, relieving both the minotaur and harpies from their servitude, sparing a traitor’s life).
In the beginning, she would rather run from a challenge than face it head on. She has to grow into her courage as the series progresses.
She has a malleable mind, even if her moral compass is strong. She’s easily persuaded at times, and often taken advantage of. She’s wishy-washy. One minute she knows she feels something for Score, the next for Glenn. It’s only late in the series that she realizes that yes, she can love them both.
Additionally, sometimes her good qualities get her in trouble. What is the kindest decision isn’t always the wisest.
Subtle character traits:
Lyra is diplomatic. And while I know this is illustrated over and over again in the series (and even pointed out on a few occasions), I feel like it ends up being subtle because we’re in her head. Lyra doesn’t know that her words are careful and neutral most of the time, and her inner dialogue isn’t nearly as charitable as her outer presentation.
Which I guess brings me to point two: she can be pretty damn oblivious. Cute boy doesn’t seem to respond to her compulsions and doesn’t seem to like human music? Totally normal, sure. Hot elf just about breaks his neck trying to save her while giving her the eyes? Well, he’s just doing his duty. She plumb forgets that Marin gave her a means of communication before she gets to Atlantis because she’s too emotionally derailed. In fact, she misses the obvious so much that Score calls her out on it (though he’s maybe a bit unfair) when he breaks up with her in Nocturne.
She follows her feelings more than facts. Even though she’s a flexible person overall, she ends up stubbornly rejecting things that just don’t feel right. She rejects her match with Score because she feels that limits her freedom. It takes a long time for her to warm up to Forte because she’s angry, first, and embarrassed, too. She trusts LaRue because he feels like a friend. She warms up to Daray only after he begins to feel like an ally.
She speaks with a specific dialect. She says “towards” and “backwards” and “forwards” rather than “toward”, “backward”, and “forward”.
She bites and chews her lips and cheeks a lot.
She folds herself up into a tight ball when she’s really uncomfortable, trying to feel smaller.
She tends to go barefoot if she’s able.
She usually takes a bath over a shower.
She isn’t high maintenance and would rather throw something on than get dressed up.
Zodiac, blood type, shoe size…
Virgo, O, and 8. I think two of those things actually made it into the quartet. Which kind of tells you something about writing: what makes it to the page is about 10% of what’s in your head, but having that other 90% lurking below the surface really makes a difference in keeping characters vibrant and alive.
I’ve had readers tell me that they empathized with Lyra right off the bat, and others who said they were frustrated by how trusting, blind, and dumb she acted. For my part, I have a lot of affection for Lyra. She was someone who I grew with, and I was happy to see her go from awkward 15-year-old to badass Siren Bard in the span of 4 books.
I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever write anything else from her perspective, but I get a strong sense that her story is finished. Maybe someday down the road she’ll have something more to say, but for now she’s tired and deserves a rest.
In the end, awkward as she is at times… I wouldn’t change a thing.