Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ask O Wednesday: How Flawed is Too Flawed?

Happy Wednesday my writing friends!

This morning while “putting my face on” (as my mom used to say), I had a conversation with the writers of Lost and Once Upon a Time (same guys). I told them they better not make the characters in Once Upon a Time as messed up as the ones in Lost, or well, I’ll quit watching. I really will, boy. Just try me…

Even in my imagination, they didn’t seem too worried. Go figure.

What riled me? That tendency writers have of making our heroes so flawed that nobody likes them. That’s what happened with me and Lost (ER too, actually). I finally, for the last time, gave up Lost when the one character I liked turned evil—killed his father! Seriously? (I’d actually given up before that, but every so often I’d check back, only to find a main character perpetrating yet another awful act.)

I know a lot of people liked Lost, but for me, I couldn’t get behind such losers (see what I did there?). I can handle misguided behavior from a hero, but my interest dwindles if his core values lack a good measure of … goodness.

Enter Trenton Hayward—the hero from my historical romance work-in-progress. When I first created him, I modeled him after a certain person I once knew. Not the most godly fellow. Some called him a lady-slayer. He drank too much and used disrespectful language. His one skill: he knew how to have fun. You know the type.

Well, I planned for Trenton to be redeemed, of course, but starting him off at such a low moral spot alienated my McCritters (critique group). They didn’t like him and weren’t going to put up with him long enough to experience the transformation. Even worse, they rooted for the other guy to get the girl, when they were supposed to be rooting for Trenton. Bummer.

I learned that, especially in a romance, the hero must be likable from the get-go. So, I shoved Trenton’s misbehavin’ to his past, and showed a transformed (yet still flawed) man—one my McCritters love (as does my heroine).

Since then, I start with a very likeable hero or heroine. I paint her with those fruits of the Spirit I most admire, as well as the spunk and independence I love. Once I get her looking fairly perfect, I mess her up—throw in a secret sin, or an ugly weakness. That way she’s still likeable, but relatable…and real.

How do you keep your characters from sparkling too perfectly? I’d love to hear!

God bless and happy writing!


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