My reader said the same thing my editor said, which was the same thing past readers have alluded to: (paraphrasing here) "Jinna* isn't a very good friend. You draw her as if she is, she presents as if she is, but then she does things a good friend wouldn't do."
(*Jinna is a secondary, yet major character.)
Well, there's a good reason for that--Jinna isn't very nice. She's jealous and petty and vindictive and selfish. Her best friend, Linhare, is exactly the opposite; and when Jinna is less than noble, Linhare makes excuses for her. She always sees the good in her. Linhare tends to see the good in everyone.
To make it simple: Linhare is Melanie Wilkes, Jinna is Scarlet O'Hara. And like Melanie and Scarlet, when it comes down to the very, very quick, they are there for one another. Melanie might be MORE there, but that's just who she is. Melanie/Linhare are givers; Scarlet/Jinna are takers.
Why did all my readers say the same thing about Jinna? Because I didn't do my job. I didn't commit to her being a not-so-nice girl. When I got the note: Jinna isn't very likeable, I tried to add something to make her more so. Instead of cementing her character, I confused it even more. As I go through the manuscript, she seems to have a split personality. I'm committed now, and I SEE clearly. Don't expect nice things of Jinna.
I don't want to make Jinna a nice girl. I don't want to redeem her. A big theme in Beyond the Gate is accepting who we are, what we are, and being ok with it. Would Jinna throw Linhare to the wolves? Nope. I said she's jealous, petty, vindictive and selfish; I didn't say she is evil. She loves Linhare, a noble emotion! But you can be sure if Jinna does something noble, there's something in it for her.
She has redeeming qualities, and I will work with those; But Jinna is Jinna is Jinna, and I love her the way she is in my head. Now it's time to get her right on the page.
What do you think of not-so-nice characters? Do you love to hate them? Hate to love them? Do they make for a more interesting read, or is trying to figure out why anyone would even like them in the first place distracting?